Festivals in Peru: A Guide to Peru’s Cultural Calendar

Apus Peru > Culture & Festivals > Festivals in Peru: A Guide to Peru’s Cultural Calendar

Did you know that festivals in Peru are ranked among the best cultural celebrations in the world? Not only are they colourful and energetic, but many also welcome tourists with open arms, so attending one is a great way to immerse yourself in the real Peru. Of course, you’ve come here to lay eyes on Machu Picchu, explore the cobbled streets of Cusco, and maybe even test your stamina with an Andean trek. Yet once you’ve ticked off the icons, why not check the calendar and see if there’s a traditional Peruvian festival taking place during your stay?

A staggering number of celebrations are held throughout the year here, so we’re often asked why are festivals important in Peru? The simple answer is that culture and tradition run through the veins of rural communities; the intoxicating blend of Catholic and Andean spiritual beliefs has played an integral part of society for centuries. Holidays and traditions in Peru are at the core of life in this vibrant South American country. Attending one of these popular Peru events during your trip will be an experience that resonates long after you’ve returned home.

Here’s the low-down on the most important festivals of Peru, so you can start planning your visit.

For a complete month-by-month calendar of Peru’s most important festivals, check out our Calendar of Peru Cultural Events.

 

qeswachaka-festival-dances

JANUARY Festivals in Peru

Bajada de los Reyes (Epiphany)

What: Celebrated across the Sacred Valley, the Bajada de los Reyes is one of the main traditional holidays in Peru. Festivities are at their most compelling in Ollantaytambo, and a stop here to witness the event ties in perfectly with a trip to Machu Picchu.

Communities from the local area convene in Ollantaytambo to celebrate the biblical coming of the Three Wise Men. The pilgrims dress in their finest traditional attire and are accompanied by dancers and singers as they make their way to the plaza. It’s one of the liveliest holidays and festivals in Peru. You’ll see plenty of traditional Andean dances and can watch the procession weaving its way through town behind the images of Christ and San Isidro, the patron saint of farmers.

Trujillo Marinera Festival

  • When: 20th – 30th January
  • Where: Trujillo

What: If you’re searching for traditional festivals in Peru along the northern coast, then Trujillo’s Marinera celebrations won’t disappoint. The focus here is the captivating marinera dance, where couples come together using handkerchiefs to add a few flourishes to their elegant movements.

You’ll see dance competitions, processions, and Peruvian Paso horse displays which are an important part of Trujillo’s cultural heritage. It’s an action-packed Peru festival, with enough visual excitement to have you grabbing for that camera.

FEBRUARY Festivals of Peru

puno-style-dancers-festivals-in-peru

Virgen de la Candelaria

  • When: 2nd – 18th February
  • Where: Puno

What: The Virgen de la Candelaria is one of the most renowned music festivals in Peru, and indeed all of South America. A whirlwind of dancing and performance, this Catholic religious extravaganza and feast in Puno is well worth a diversion, even if you hadn’t planned on visiting Lake Titicaca!

Around 50 groups of musicians from around the region make spirits soar with their melodies in honour of the Virgen de la Candelaria, the patron saint of Puno. Traditional costumes and ornate masks add more than just a pop of colour too. It’s the sort of Peruvian festival that will have your feet tapping in no time, and you’re sure to come away having learnt a few new dance moves!

Of all the holidays celebrated in Peru, this ticks all the boxes for cultural immersion. There’s a carnival atmosphere in the streets, with thousands of performers processing through Puno in a never-ending parade. Expect dancing competitions, fireworks, and days-long parties.

Want to go? Check out our Lake Titicaca tours.

Carnaval – Carnival in Peru

  • When: Begins 40 days before Easter; the 8th day is also a principal date
  • Where: Nationwide

We may mostly associate carnaval with Brazil, but the carnival in Peru is also an important festivity. In Cusco, Carnival begins with the “Day of Compadres” when you might see scarecrow-like figures of men and women affixed to telephone poles and elsewhere. You’re also likely to witness pucllay in the city, in which people display their joy with flowers, paint, and water. As locals get into the spirit of things…expect to get wet! This ritual of kids playing with foam or water is repeated on the octavo, the 8th day after carnival begins.

MARCH/APRIL Peru Festivals

Easter Festival in Peru

Easter

  • When: varies each year – March or April
  • Where: Cusco

What: Easter is one of the most anticipated festivals in Peru, and while it’s celebrated across the country, one of the grandest spectacles takes place in Cusco. Holidays in Holy Week centre on Catholic traditions, as large processions travel through the ancient streets of the old Inca Empire capital. These parades pay homage to the Señor de los Temblores, the Lord of the Earthquakes, as well as Death and Resurrection.

Parades aside, the Easter festivals of Cusco are more subtle than some of Peru’s other annual events. If you want to truly feel the religious fervour and get swept along with the drama, then head to the provincial city of Ayacucho where the celebrations are at their most spiritually significant.

Read more about the Easter festival in Peru here.

MAY Peru Celebrations

Virgen de Chapi

  • When: 29th April – 1st May
  • Where: Arequipa

What: If you’re visiting Arequipa towards the end of April, linger a little longer and take in the Fiesta of the Virgen de Chapi. As with most Peruvian festivals, there’s a religious procession, and this one ends at the sanctuary of one of the region’s most prominent Catholic virgins.

You’ll be joined at the sacred site, which is 45km (28 mi) from Arequipa, by travellers from across the district, as well as a few other intrepid tourists. The most dedicated pilgrims hike 15 hours through the night, bearing huge candles as a sign of their devotion. The final parade sees the Virgin herself being carried aloft, followed by fireworks and dancing until dawn. Peruvians certainly know how to party!

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Cruz Velacuy

  • When: 3rd May
  • Where: Cusco and the Andes

What: Introduced by the Spanish all those centuries ago, the Festival of the Crosses is widely celebrated across the Andean region, but perhaps most memorably in Cusco. If you’re looking for visually appealing Peru celebrations and festivals, this is one of the best!

The focus of this event is crosses, which are lovingly decked out with ribbons and flowers. Dancers and musicians escort the crosses as they’re taken to be blessed at local churches during this colourful carnival in Peru. There will be plenty of singing and twirling to get you in the party mood.

Read more: Cruz Velacuy festival in Peru

JUNE Festivals in Peru

June is the most important month for festivals in Cusco, and it seems like the party never stops! Here are some of the most important religious and cultural events that take place in June around the Incan capital.

Festivals in Peru qoylloriti

Qoyllur Rit’i

  • When: Varies (May or June), starts the Sunday before Corpus Christi
  • Where: Cusco

What: The Qoyllur Rit’i pilgrimage is a centuries-old religious pilgrimage that is practiced by those who live in the high Andes. Every year, days before the celebration of Corpus Christi, the local villages send a delegation of colourful dancers and pablitos to the Sanctuary of the Señor de Qoylloriti (the Lord of Qoylloriti, or Taytacha Qoylloriti in Quechua). This Sanctuary is situated spectacularly at the base of the Sinakara mountain, about 3-4 hours’ walk above the village of Mahuayany, at 4600m (15,092 ft).

It’s an absolutely breathtaking spectacle with days of non-stop dancing, intermixed with Catholic masses. There is truly nothing like it, and if you only experience a single traditional celebration, make it this one!

And if you have the time, stay on a few days longer and check out the Corpus Christi Festival in Peru where saintly processions bring the Plaza de Armas to life.

Read more about Qoyllur Rit’i, Peru’s spectacular Snow Star Festival.

Qeswachaka

Q’eswachaka

  • When: Principal day is the second Sunday in June
  • Where: Cusco

What: The Festival of Q’eswachaka celebrates the rebuilding of the Q’eswachaka bridge, one of Peru’s last-remaining Inca rope bridges. Each year, the local villages come together to re-weave the famous bridge using local grasses, completely by hand. The four-day celebration culminates in a day of dances, drinking and all-around merriment. It’s a truly unique Peruvian festival, and worth a visit!

Read more about the bridge-building festival here.

Festival of the Sun

Inti Raymi

  • When: 24th June
  • Where: Cusco

What: So, what do you think, are festivals important in Peru? We’re only halfway through the year and there is still plenty more to tell you about!

The Inti Raymi Festival in Peru is one of the big hitters of Cusco’s event calendar. There are lots of Cusco festivals throughout the year, but no events in Peru are as famous as Inti Raymi. This Inca celebration pays tribute to the Sun God, with the action kicking off at Q’oricancha (Temple of the Sun) in Cusco, before moving on to the Sacsayhuaman archaeological site overlooking the city.

This event attracts tourists from around the world, so it’s a good idea to book your hotel well in advance. Inti Raymi is one of the best traditional Peru celebrations and holidays that visitors can freely enjoy, without feeling like outsiders! Of all the annual Cusco events, this is the one to experience.

Read more here about how to attend the Inti Raymi festival in Peru.

JULY Peru Cultural Events

Virgen del Carmen Paucartambo festivals in Peru

Virgen del Carmen

  • When: 28th and 29th July
  • Where:

What: Onne of the 5 best festivals in Peru, the celebration of the Virgen del Carmen in the Paucartambo province of Cusco is a raucous good time. Fabulous costumed dancers portray events of Peruvian history and a spectacular procession of the Virgin unfolds to bless those present and scare away demos, represented by saqra dancers positioned on the rooftops.

The celebrations become more and more animated, with the dancers performing daring gymnastics and spectacular fireworks are lit. At the end of the procession, war is waged on the demons, from which the faithful emerge in triumph. Finally, the gathering ends in the cemetery to pay homage to the souls of the dead.

It’s one of the top festivals in Cusco. Peru sure knows how to put on a good party!

Want to go? It’s been described as the Mardi Gras of Peru and is an amazing experience! Read more here about the Virgen del Carmen festival, and also the spectacular sunrise at Tres Cruces that you can witness nearby.

fiestas-patrias-peru-flag

Fiestas Patrias

  • When: 28th and 29th July
  • Where: Nationwide

What: Fiestas Patrias is the national holiday, celebrating the country’s independence from Spain on the 28th of July 1821. Similar to the 4th of July celebrations in the United States, Fiestas Patrias is awash with processions, musical parades, and the all-important fireworks. It’s one of the most joyful Peru festivals you can witness!

You’ll be able to attend concerts in Cusco’s atmospheric squares and watch the locals marching through the streets wearing red and white, which are the national colours of Peru. Restaurants and bars in the city turn the party vibe up to the max, and it’s a great time to get stuck into the local food and drink scene while rubbing shoulders with the friendly residents.

For a more visceral representation of Peru’s independence, head to Cotabambas in the Apurimac department for the Yawar Festival, a traditional ritual bullfight that represents the fight between the Incas (represented by the condor) and the Spanish conquistadors (represented by the bull).

AUGUST Festivals in Peru

New Years Peru yellow confetti

Andean New Year

  • When: 1st August
  • Where: The Andes

What: Andean New Year is one of the most important Peruvian celebrations and festivals in the events calendar. It honours Pachamama – Mother Earth – and families present gifts like incense, coca leaves, and wine during a moving ceremony conducted by a paq’o, or shaman. A cigarette is usually left to smoke, as an offering to the apus, or mountain gods. Businesses and homes will also often decorate their doorsteps with yellow confetti.

This is one of those celebrations of Peru that will stay with you for a long time, and it’s a true privilege to be able to see it for yourself. Festivals take place throughout the Andes, so just ask your guide where the nearest festival is being held if you’re travelling in the region during August.

SEPTEMBER Festivals and Celebrations in Peru

Virgen de Natividad

  • When: 8th September
  • Where: Chinchero

What: There are plenty of Peru celebrations and traditions to choose from, but the Virgen de Natividad is a must for anyone visiting Chinchero on the 8th of September. While the festival is observed throughout the smaller towns and rural villages in the Cusco area, Chinchero wins the prize for the most colourful party! It’s the top date in the Chinchero calendar!

The festivities begin with a mass being held for the Virgen de Natividad, before locals take her image on a parade through the town, accompanied by dancers and musicians. The day continues with the usual traditional performances and fireworks, but it’s the beautiful backdrop of the Andes and the Chinchero archaeological ruins that really make this festival sing!

OCTOBER Peru Festivals

Mes Morado festivals in Peru

El Señor de los Milagros/Mes Morado

  • When: all month, mainly the 18th, 19th, and 28th
  • Where: Lima

What: El Señor de los Milagros (Lord of the Miracles) might just be the most intriguing Peruvian festival. 2022 dates focus on the 18th, 19th, and 28th of October and promise to be one of the most significant annual festivals in Lima. Peru celebrations often combine religious beliefs, but this one brings together Indigenous, Catholic, and African traditions, which makes it stand out from the crowd. It’s one of the most hotly anticipated cultural celebrations in Peru, with what might be the biggest parade in the Americas.

Thousands of devotees clad in purple tunics process through the capital, escorting the image of El Señor de los Milagros while praying and singing. The festival originated during the colonial occupation when an Angolan slave drew a picture of a black Christ, which remained in place despite attempts to get rid of it. Even an earthquake couldn’t destroy it! The miraculous image began to be worshipped, and it ended up being the most hallowed icon in Lima. Peru festivals don’t get much more poignant than this!

NOVEMBER Peru Events

All Saints Day (Todos Santos)

  • When: 1st and 2nd November
  • Where: Nationwide

What: Todos Santos is one of the most prominent festivals and holidays in Peru. Celebrating the dead was a hugely important part of Inca culture, and this tradition continues to this day, albeit with a few Christian characteristics thrown in for good measure.

Today, families and friends gather on the 1st of November to celebrate those who have passed on, by feasting on lechon (roast pork) and tamales. Candlelit vigils are held through the night until dawn the following day when a mass is performed. Next, everyone congregates in the cemeteries with food and flowers to symbolically share with the deceased. It’s one of the most moving festivals in Peru, whether you’re a believer or not.

DECEMBER Festivals in Peru

christmas-chocolatada-cusco

Christmas and New Year

  • When: 25th December and 1st January
  • Where: Nationwide, particularly in Cusco

What: As the year draws to a close, you’d think that most communities would have had their fill of festivities in Peru. Celebrations have come thick and fast over the last 12 months, but they’re not finished yet! Christmas and New Year are special in Peru and focus on time with family and friends.

In Cusco, the main event takes place on the 23rd and the 24th of December, the Santurantikuy. The city transforms into an enormous open-air market, where is common to buy and sell icons of Catholic saints to celebrate the holiday. Families come here to buy figurines, sculptures, or even whole nativity scenes to decorate their homes. It’s a great atmosphere, and even if religion isn’t your thing, wandering around the stalls and soaking up the vibe is a thrilling experience.

Apus Peru also hosts a special Christmas Chocolatada trek, where you can partake in another of Cusco’s Christmas traditions, the chocolatada, in a remote Andean community. Find all the details here about joining a the Chocolotada Trek.

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It’s Time to Get Festive!

So, there you have it. Our complete guide to the most famous festivals in Peru, packed with as much dancing and firework action as you can handle. Whether you want to join lively pilgrim processions in Cusco, or get into the carnival spirit in Puno, Peru has something for everyone.

Dates of Peru festivals in 2022/2023 are not always set in stone, so do check the schedule if you want to include one on your holiday. Taking part, or even just watching one of the many Peru festivals and celebrations held throughout the year adds that perfect finishing touch to your adventures, and you never know, it might just end up being your favourite part!

If you want to incorporate one of these Peru festivals into your itinerary, scroll through the list of festival tours below, then get in touch with our expert team who will help make the magic happen.

 

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