If the world’s continents were to attend a ball, we all know who’d rule the dance floor. From world-famous carnivals to fiestas in tiny mountain towns, Latin America knows how to let down its hair and kick up its heels. Reggaeton pumps out from speakers, rum flows freely and colour explodes whichever way you look. Grounded in Catholicism and Andean folklore, Latin festivals honour everything from Aztec Sun Gods to the spirits of the dead. Perhaps it’s this mix of pious faith and hedonism that is so compelling; whatever it is, it’s best not to overthink it. So grab a michelada, loosen those hips and get ready to fiesta with the best(a). Sitting out is not an option.
Tours for festivals in South America & Central America
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Popular festivals in South America & Central America
While we don't have trips that centre around each of the festivals below, we do offer trips that run through these cultural celebrations so you'll still get a chance to experience some of the best festivals in South & Central America.
Inti Raymi, Peru
These days, Inti Raymi (the Festival of the Sun) isn’t so much a celebration as a full-scale re-enactment of what once was. Initially organised to thank Inti - the Aztec Sun God - and invoke his return, this highly elaborate festival is purportedly the second biggest in South America with polished dance performances and grand processions, occurring on the 24th of June every year. No ifs, no buts.
- Book the accommodation for your trip well in advance
- Do the same for seats to the festival as they are likely to sell out (unless you'd like to stand)
- Come prepared (bring water and sunscreen - the festival can last for 6 hours)
- Some streets will be closed so don't hop in a car to get to the festival
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Semana Santa, Peru
Forget scavenging for chocolate eggs planted by some mysterious rabbit of the night; Peru is the place to see in some Easter celebrations. Running for ten days over… well, Easter… Semana Santa is the biggest festival on the country’s religious calendar and features processions dedicated to spiritual devotion, plenty of traditional feasts, and jubilant celebrations.
- Part of the procession of Our Lady of Sorrows includes ‘Sorrow Sharing’; a rather poetic name for ‘shooting people with pebbles from slingshots’. Be aware of this when you're moving through the procession/crowds.
- In the cities of Cusco, Ayacucho, Arequipa and downtown Lima, accommodation can book up fast. Make your reservation early if you’d like to stay local during the festivities.
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Festival de La Virgen de la Candelaria, Bolivia/Peru
Each February, deep in the folkloric heart of South America, a festival comes to (two) towns. Depending on which side of Lake Titicaca you’re on – Peru’s or Bolivia’s – the Festival of the Virgin of Candelaria can be different. In Peru, dancers and musicians are dressed in colourful costumes to make offerings to an Inca earth goddess. While, over in Bolivia, the Dark Virgin of the Lake takes centre stage with a focus on praying and partying. Take your pick.
- Immerse yourself in the processions - you'll get more out of the festival that way
- Join in the dancing (we promise no one's looking at you)
- Try and do a kind deed for others in the spirit of the celebrations
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Rio Carnaval, Brazil
It’s probably the world’s most famous party, a sequined, feather-filled fiesta that pulses to a fiery Brazilian beat - Carnaval! Every February in the lead-up to Lent, Rio’s streets erupt with colourful floats, exposed flesh, thumping samba rhythms and up to two million revellers. The epicentre of festivities is, of course, the Sambadrome, but smaller street parades break out all over the city, swinging and sweltering in the Brazilian summer sun.
- Get in the swing with a funky dress-up outfit
- Prepare for the heat. Bring good quality sunscreen and lots of water
- Don’t be shy, mingle with the locals as much as you can
- Plan your return journey - you don't want to be stuck with no transportation back to your accommodation once the party is over
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Quema del Diablo, Guatemala
One of the more spookier celebrations to sink your teeth into, the Quema del Diablo is a way for Guametalans to leave the trials and tribulations (or evils) of the past year behind by building large paper mache effigies of the devil - and then setting those same effigies on fire. Held in December every year, this macabre but cultural festival is said to burn away sin and usher in a state of grace.
- There are likely to be crowds everywhere so just be aware of your belongings when moving through the celebrations
- Snack on some Guatemalan food to keep your energy levels high (think deep-fried doughnuts and spiced eggnog)
- Stay a good distance away from the main bonfire as sparks and embers can travel on the wind
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The Garifuna celebrations in Honduras are a mix of cultural and community-based festivities held on the anniversary of the arrival of Garifuna each April. There’s plenty of fun to be had and numerous things to do like taking part in traditional dances, enjoying local feasts, listening to local legends and stories, watching historical reenactments, and partying long into the night with your fellow travellers.
- Temperatures are warm in Honduras in March so keep your hydration up throughout the day’s festivities
- Make sure to taste ‘guifiti’ – a local island drink comprised of root, herbs, and rum – but do so in moderation as it can be quite potent
- Get into the spirit of the festival by joining dances and talking to locals
View all trips to Honduras
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