In this post, past Apus Peru team member Amanda Zenick describes her experience of the Qoyllur Rit’i Festival, an extremely special and increasingly famous Andean festival in the mountains of Peru.
What is the Qoyllur Rit’i Festival?
“Imagine tens of thousands of Peruvians, the majority indigenous, dressed in a range of amazing costumes, all converging on a mountain top sanctuary. They gather for three days of non stop dancing, singing, praying, the letting off of rockets and fireworks in an endless cacophony. Then, when exhaustion should have felled them, they walk all night with just the full moon for light. On their pilgrimage, they carry heavy wooden crosses up glaciers and across high passes (over 5000m) to the final procession on the mountain top.”
That’s how one Apus Peru client described his experience of the Qoyllur Rit’i Festival, a colourful celebration that blends Catholic and Andean religious belief. Qoyllur Rit’i is usually translated from the Quechua as “Snow Star.” However, qoyllur actually refers to the first rising star, which is Venus.
In June, 2011 I attended the Snow Star Festival, which takes place at the base of Sinakara mountain, near the majestic Apu Ausangate. It is a religious pilgrimage to the Chapel of Señor de Qoyllur Rit’i for three days of dancing, worship and prayer.
Read more about the Qoyllur Rit’i Pilgrimage
Local villages send costumed delegations, known as comparsas, to the Qoyllur Rit’i Festival where they dance and pray for the health of their animals. They are accompanied by the special shaggy protectors of the Señor de Qoyllur Rit’i, known alternately as the pabluchas, pablitos or ukukus. Along with them, thousands of others come to observe, attend mass and ask for luck in life, business and love.
Attending the Qoyllur Rit’i Festival with Apus Peru
When the Apus Peru group and I arrived, the narrow valley below Sinakara and its glaciers was filled with tents and vendors. People waited in line for hours to enter the church, while pabluchas danced in several different areas. This continued all through the (freezing cold!) night, and into the following day.
You Can Go Too!
If you are interested in joining the Qoyllur Rit’i pilgrimage next year, check out our options to trek to Qoyllur Rit’i:
The Qoylloriti festival takes place every May or June, depending on when Easter and Corpus Christi falls.
This post was written by Amanda Zenick and first published on June 30th, 2011. Amanda has written many blogs for Apus Peru about her travel experiences, Andean trekking, Cusco travel tips and more. Updated on 22 July 2019.