15th - 17th July.
Principal day: 16th July
Paucartambo is small town about 4 hours east from Cusco on the road to Manu National Park. It most famous for one massive festival: Virgen del Carmen, which takes place over four days, with the principal days from July 15th to 17th. The Virgen is known locally as Mamacha Carmen and is a patron saint of the mestizo population.
The festival itself consists of lots of traditional and significant dances by people in awesome costumes. Many of these dances have ingenious choreographies that portray events in Peruvian history. On the central day, (July 16th) the Virgin Carmen is carried around the town in a spectacular procession to bless those present and scare away demons (represented by the Sa'qra dancers, who position themselves on rooftops and balconies).
The dancers become more and more animated as the festival progresses performing daring gymnastics, showing off their colorful Inca and colonial garb. At the end of the procession, war is waged on the demons, from which the faithful emerge in triumph. Finally, the gathering ends up in the cemetery to pay homage to the souls of the dead.
About 40km north of Paucartambo is a site called Tres Cruces (3 crosses), which is situated on the very edge of the Andes mountains at an altitude of 3900m. From Tres Cruces, there is a steep drop into the Amazon basin, which means the view is incredible. Tres Cruces is most famous for the sunrise in the months of June and July because special climatic conditions mean that there are optical illusions.
Apus Peru offers a unique tour to this festival, as well as the chance to visit Tres Cruces. Please check out our Fiesta de Virgen de Carmen tour