Peru has a rich and colourful culture. Cultural festivals offer fascinating insights into the ancient customs of Peru that have been passed through the generations since the Inca times, with centuries-old food, clothing, song and dance all playing an integral role in these celebrations. Like many other South American nations, contemporary Peru is a rich mix of modern and old, with many Quechua and Aymara people (descendants of the Incas) in the Highlands, and European, Mestizo (mix of Spanish and indigenous), Afro-Peruvian, Japanese and Chinese immigrants along the coast. What unites the country is a reverence for religion and family, as well as a love for soccer, or futbol, as it’s called here.
With a jam-packed festival calendar, you might find that your Peru adventure coincides with one of the country's lively fiestas. From the mouthwatering scenes at Mistura Culinary Festival to the dazzling sights of the Cusco Inti Raymi (Festival of the Sun), here are some of the most popular festivals and events in Peru.
1. La Fiesta Candelaria
Every November, the city of Puno in southeastern Peru throws an epic two-week party known as La Fiesta Candelaria. It's held in honour of the Virgin of Candelaria, the patron saint of Puno, who represents fertility and shares similarities to the Incan goddess, Pachamama. It’s Peru’s largest festival and people travel from all over the country and beyond to join in the revelry. Watch dizzying dances, marvel at dazzling costumes and masks, and shimmy to the sounds of Peruvian folk music. La Fiesta Candelaria brings the Catholic and Indigenous communities of Peru together and has been named by UNESCO as part of Peru’s Intangible Cultural Heritage.
2. Mistura Culinary Festival
There’s a lot of noise about Peruvian cuisine, and for good reason. The capital city of Lima is home to some of the world’s best restaurants that are prized for using unique ingredients native to Peru. In case you needed any more convincing, check out the Mistura Culinary Festival in Lima. Held every September, this 10-day festival is a foodie mecca where you can experience an explosion of sensory delights and sample as many Peruvian dishes as your stomach can handle.
3. Cusco Inti Raymi
Every year on the winter solstice, the city of Cusco in southeastern Peru celebrates Inti Raym, or the Festival of the Sun. It was the biggest and most important festival in the ancient Inca Empire as it marked the end of the winter and was a chance to worship Inti, the Sun God, and give thanks to Pachamama (Mother Earth). Tens of thousands of people would gather in Cusco to take part in elaborate ceremonies, rituals and feasts, including animal sacrifices and a parade of ancestral mummies brought from temples. Things are a bit different these days, and while there are no mummies, you can watch a spectacular reenactment of the ancient traditions performed by local actors dressed in traditional costumes at the Sacsayhuamán ruins.
4. Carnaval de Cajamarca
Each year before Lent, colourful Carnaval celebrations pop up across Peru. But the festivities in Cajamarca in the northern Highlands are known for being the wildest – and wettest! More than 60,000 visitors from all over the world flock to the city for nine days of dancing, partying, parades and water fights. Most of the fun takes place around the Plaza de Armas and the surrounding streets.
5. Pisco Sour Day
Pisco sour is Peru’s national drink. Peruvians love it that much, it even has its own national holiday known as National Pisco Sour Day on the first Saturday of February. This creamy, zesty drink is made by mixing pisco (a type of brandy made from fermented grape juice), lime juice, egg whites and sugar. If there was ever a day to enjoy a cocktail (or two), this is it.
6. Peru Independence Day
Every year on 28 July, Peruvians across the country gather to celebrate when Peru gained independence from Spain in 1821. Festivities usually kick off on the evening of the 27th with revellers flooding into the streets to enjoy street parties, traditional folk music, dancing and fireworks. The biggest celebrations are in major cities like Lima, but you’re almost guaranteed there’ll be something going on no matter where you are. The celebrations on 28 July are more patriotic with military parades and flag-raising ceremonies.
Q’eswachaka takes place in Cusco every second Sunday in June and is one of the country’s most unique festivals. Local villagers gather to repair and celebrate one of Peru’s final remaining Inca rope suspension bridges which crosses the Apurimac River in Canas Province. This ancient weaving technique involves twisting harvested grass into cords and then making larger cables. After the bridge has been repaired, the party starts with plenty of singing, dancing, eating and drinking.
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