Peru is a country full of traditions, a rich culture, and an extensive list of attractions to explore. And it’s no surprise that in the midst of all of that, there are a host of festivities throughout the year. The Andean country celebrates around 3,000 festivals, most of which are in honor of a patron saint’s day. Being a Catholic country, many holidays in Peru have religious overtones. These saints were introduced as part of the Christian calendar sold in Peru by the Spanish. Even, most of these have been integrated with the native traditions of Peru and add color and flavor to the daily life of the Peruvian people.
Holidays in Peru go from Andean festivities like Chiaraje (January 28), Lord of the Earthquakes (May 31), Inti Raymi (June 24), passing by Catholic days like Holy Week (April 2-8), Corpus Christy (June 16), finalizing in National holidays, like the Independence Day (July 28 -29). These celebrations along with the typical dances are acts of religious and national devotion that fill people with joy. Therefore, together with Machu Travel Peru, we have prepared a small article. Meet some of the best festivals and holidays in Peru!
All of the festivals and holidays in Peru month by month
End year’s party – January 1st
In the world, the festivities of the End Year’s party begin the night of the previous year, December 31, and continue in the early morning of January 1st. Music, dances, fireworks, and much alcohol flood the streets of the main cities of Peru! And Cusco not is the exception. Go around the main square at 12 midnight, with a champagne glass at hand with a crowd of different nationalities (Don’t forget that Cusco is a cosmopolitan city hosting Machu Picchu and being the tourist capital of Peru) is something unforgettable!
Chiaraje – January 20
On January 20 in Cusco, the “Chearaje en Canas” is celebrated. Among all holidays in Peru, this festivity can be considered the most particular. Canas is a highland district of Cusco where is celebrated a communal brawl (in the same style as “The fight club” movie) between local communities was carried out in Inca times. If a person has a problem with another one, they can resolve their problems with a bare fist! Also, there are group fights where slingshots called “Waracas” and “Liwias” are used, in addition to other weapons as well. All in an effort to resolve problems and flirt with the young girls of the town.
Lima’s foundation – January 28
The anniversary of the Foundation of Lima is on the 28 of January with celebrations usually taking place in the historical center of the capital, gastronomic fairs, dances, and parades. These go along with other tourist and cultural activities in surrounding districts like Miraflores, San Isidro, and Barranco.
Virgen de la Candelaria – February 2
The Festival of the Virgen de la Candelaria is considered one of the main holidays in Peru and all of South America. February 2 is the most important day of the party. It is when the Virgin leaves its church to go round and round the streets of Puno, one of the three most important south Peruvian cities, among Cusco and Arequipa. The party lasts all month, and It is one of the most celebrated processions with organized “Diablada” dance groups (Devilish – Typical Andean highland dance where the dancers dress in devil costumes). There are hundreds of different dance teams competing for the best dance prize. A unique show to see.
Valentine’s Day – February 14
Love is not elusive in Peru, and the 14 of February day is the perfect example. Many concerts of romantic music are held in the country’s capital. Besides, lots of deals on movie ticket prices and items for that special someone. Cusco is not lagging behind and has special offers in restaurants, hotels, and spas. Without mentioning discounts in packages of Machu Picchu tours and Sacred Valley. Don’t forget that the best hotels in Peru you will find in Cusco and Sacred Valley.
Carnivals – February 26
The Carnivals in Peru are celebrated in many forms in the different regions of Peru (Sierra, coast, and Jungle). Usually, these holidays in Peru coasts consist of people of this Peru area and Jungle launching balloons filled with water, in the middle of a battle of men against women, in the streets and squares of the cities, where nobody is saved. Despite February not being the best time to visit Peru, the Carnivals in the Peruvian sierra are worth to visit it. These are the oldest and particulars like the Yunsa, where a tree is covered with gifts and surprises in its branches, then the people of the community or neighborhoods dance to festive music surrounding the tree. When their turn comes, each of them tries to split the trunk of the tree with an ax to the rhythm of the music. Whoever manages to do so is in charge of organizing the Yunsa for next year. Of course, the gifts and surprises are collected by all the Yunsa participants. Cajamarca, a north Andean city of Peru, organizes a battle of water balloons between men and women on its squares, the coronation of the carnival queen, parades, and food festivals, it is the most famous in Peru.
Trujillo foundation – March 5
Trujillo is one of the earliest Peruvian cities that achieved its independence from the Spanish. The Peru north city celebrates its foundation every March 5 with a colorful parade of Peruvian typical dances, some concerts, and the main activity, the annual Peruvian Marinera contest. The Marinera is a traditional coast dance developed by a couple in which the woman is beautifully dressed and dances barefoot, instead the man accompanies the movements of his partner dancing with a large straw hat, a beautiful spectacle to see!
International Women’s Day – March 8
The struggle for equal rights in front of the law by Peruvian women takes place throughout the year. But on March 8 there is its greatest concentration in the main squares of the principal Peru cities. Among holidays in Peru, this is the most social. To this day, you can find the history of the fight of Peruvian women for years to reach equal recognition of rights in front of Peruvian justice, in the form of billboards and posters, dances, parades, and more.
Lord of the Earthquakes – March 31
In Cusco, at the end of March and the beginning of April, the Señor de Los Temblores is celebrated. Just, in the Holy Week. This is a miracle sculpture of a crucified Christ that was long forgotten in the warehouses of the Cathedral of Cusco up to the earthquake of 1650 when the earth’s movements did not stop and the population resolved a procession of the sculpture through the main streets of the city, miraculously stopping the earthquake. Since then, the sculpture won a space (chapel) inside the cathedral of Cusco. Many candles were lit in front of him, for a long time, blackening the Christ. In this form, in every earthquake, pandemic, or pest in Cusco, the sculpture is taken in procession, in all cases, with the same results, a miraculous cessation of movements, or an arrest of the plague or pandemic. Nowadays, the Sculpture is paraded by the main streets and the main square of Cusco every Holy Tuesday, the historic center of Cusco is crowded with faith and devotion. Simply amazing!
Holy Week – April’s first week
During the first week of April, the Holy Week celebrations continue with some important processions of sculptures of Christ and mother Mary on the main streets and squares of Peruvian cities. As we described before, the procession of Lord of the Earthquakes is developed in the Holy Week in Cusco, exactly on the Holy Tuesday. Also, Thursday and Friday, the Peruvian family has the tradition of eating the famous “twelve dishes” as a kind of representation of the dishes that ate the Christ apostles in the Last Supper. However, after Holy Week there are usually no other major holidays in Peru of importance.
La Virgen de Chapi – May 1st
In Arequipa, one of the most famous places in Peru, along with Cusco and Puno, celebrated the Virgen del Chapi or the Virgin of the Purification. The local people make a pilgrimage from Arequipa, through an arid desert, walking more than 15 kilometers, until get to the Polobaya district, where the Virgen de Chapi chapel is located. The Arequipa people affirm that the sculpture is miraculous. The festival features music and food and the main celebration day is 1 May.
Lord of Torrechayoc – May 15
This is one of the most important Catholic holidays in Peru, specifically in Cusco. History says that a Cross was placed in the middle of the snow in 1860, for the inauguration of the Urubamba – Lares railway section, and a mass was celebrated on that occasion. Time passed, and the travelers who used the place to rest affirmed that they dreamed of the cross and the image of Christ, he told them about the cold and the abandonment that felt. The parish priest of Urubamba, hearing these rumors, ordered the cross to be brought to his parish. Thus begins a long tradition of festivities in honor of Christ of the Cross. Today, every May 15, the cross is moved to the local coliseum for a massive mass. After more than 30 typical dances are developed in front of him and the all Urubamba population, the festivity is combined with music, food gastronomy, and beer. At night, fireworks, campfires, and more music accompanied the evening.
Cruz Velacuy – May 2
In May, the festivity of Cruz Velacuy is also celebrated. Cusco and generally, all Andean Peruvian cities have crosses distributed on the “frontis” of churches and parish, in addition to being in the main streets, neighborhoods, squares, and even on the slopes and on the tops of the hills (Let us remember that at the time of the colony, these cities, being more rooted in the Inca worldview, received more evangelical and Catholic influence from the Spanish). Specially, During the festivity of Cruz Velacuy in Cusco, it is customary to carry crosses from some peaks, hills, and sanctuaries to the front of the church or parish closer. The parishioners spend a couple of nights accompanying the cross and praying, always accompanied by music, folk dances, and food.
Corpus Christy – June 8
Among the holidays in Peru to experience in June, Corpus Christi is the most famous. All the saints statues are taken from their Churches in Cusco to the Cathedral (Cusco is divided into districts, and each one is run by a saint and his church, Santiago, Saint Sebastian, Saint Ana districts, and more) So, these sculptures are paraded through the main streets and the main square. Each saint is accompanied by a live music band and a local dance. Around the main square, there are food festivals, more music, beer, and happiness. Undoubtedly, this is a spectacle not to be missed.
Inti Raymi – June 24
June is a big month in Peru for festivals; In Cusco, the anniversary of the city is celebrated. But also, during the month, there are traditional activities and food festivals in the main neighborhood of the city. Also in Cusco on June 24 is the Inti Raymi Inca festival. This is the traditional festival of the Sun, which the Incas worshiped. The festival coincides with the winter solstice and the harvests. A group of actors, actresses, professional dancers, and volunteers, in general, are dressed in the Inca style, representing Inca soldiers, priests, Qollas (chosen virgins), the Panaca (Inca royalty), and the Inca. All of them represent the ancient Sun festivity developed by their ancestors, in several numbers of dances and coordinated movements in the Qoricancha (Temple of Sun) and the Sacsayhuaman. Imagine a giant theatrical number in broad daylight, that is Inti Raymi! The entrances to see this spectacle is limited and usually to be sold out 6 or 7 months before. So, hurry up!
Lord of Qoyllority – June 26
Also in June in Cusco is Señor de Qoyllority, which is the largest pilgrimage in South America. History says that Mariano Mayta, a shepherd boy, met another shepherd boy in the Sinakara Valley, on the slopes of Qolkepunku snow in, the late 17th century. They played for a long time until decided to return to Mariano’s house. His parents, seeing their son and the strange child, dressed in clean, luxurious, and bright clothes, decided to call the local priest. When the churchman arrived at Mariano’s house, he only found Mariano and his parents, the strange child had fled. So he chased him until he reached a rock, where the image of a crucified Christ miraculously appeared. Today, more than 10 thousand people walk on foot to Ausangate Mountain, worshiping a painting of the Niño Jesus. Dances, live music bands, and pilgrims accompany the pilgrimage to the Church, a massive mass is developed on the slope of Ausangate. The night is adorned by more dances, music, and hot punch. After, the pilgrims return from the mountain with blocks of ice that they place on their lands to irrigate with the sacred water. This festivity is recognized by UNESCO as an intangible heritage of humanity.
Pisco’s day – July 24
During the first week of July, Ica celebrates Pisco Day. Pisco is the Peruvian brandy and one of the most emblematic drinks in the whole country. In Ica, tourists can choose to visit the different wineries of Tacama, Ocucaje, El Carmelo, Vista Alegre, and others, and tasting the main wines and the different Piscos is a great way to enjoy July. Also, in different main squares and streets of Peruvian cities, workshops on Pisco Sour preparations, are developed. The Pisco Sour is the official drink of Peru.
Independence day – July 28
July is recognized for having some national holidays. From 27 to 29 you will find locals celebrating the Independence of Peru. The country celebrates this day with a variety of celebrations, which typically include food, music, fairs, and lots of partying. On July 28, the declaration of Independence in Lima by Jose de San Martín is commemorated. While on July 29 you usually enjoy the Great Military Parade. And on July 30, the Thanksgiving ceremony for Peru is celebrated, always in the presence of the President of the Republic and other high authorities. Being able to vacation in July is one of the best family vacation ideas.
Pachamama Raymi – August 1st
In the Andean world vision, August 1st is considered the beginning of the new Andean year. On this day, the Incas worshiped the Earth as a mother (generator of life), she gave food, vegetables, and even home. And, at the end’s life, they returned to her. In this form, every August 1st, the Cusco population realizes an Earth’s pay (Pago a la Tierra). This consists of a gift, made of coca leaf, incense, candies, cookies, and sheep bait among other exotic products wrapped in paper and decorated as a present. After, this little package is buried in a sterile zone by a Shaman (An Andean priest) with chants and prayer. In this way, the juxtaposition of Catholic and pagan (Inca) thought is united in a single form of prayer.
Arequipa foundation – August 15
August 15 is also the celebration of the Anniversary of Arequipa. Many locals from all over the country flock to the White City to pay tribute to this important date. This famous folk festival is usually accompanied by bullfights, handicraft fairs, allegoric cars, and much more. Arequipa is the second-largest city in Peru, so its anniversary is a special time to visit it. You can see the Arequipa Picanterias (Traditional restaurants where spicy food is served) and taste delicious dishes like Rocoto Relleno (stuffed hot pepper), Chupe de Camarones (Shrimp soup), and its local soda called Kola Inglesa.
Santa Rosa de Lima – August 30
Undoubtedly, the most important festival in August is that of Santa Rosa de Lima. Santa Rosa was the first saint in all of America to be recognized by the Church and the Pope in 1671. She is the patron saint of Peru, Filipinas, and the arm forces of Venezuela and Argentina. She belonged to the tertiary order of the Dominicans, and helped a lot of the poor and mendicant people of colonial Peru, besides to do miracles. Today, the Peruvian faithful visit her house and the shrine that she constructed to attend to the poor, and its well where she threw the key to her chastity belt. Also, the Santa Rosa well is developed as one of the most important Peru facts this month. There, the faithful usually throw letters of supplication, asking for health improvements, financial improvements, even in the realm of love. Rumors ensure that the pleas and requests are answered and come true!
Lord of Huanca – September 17
In the region of San Salvador near Cusco, Señor de Huanca is celebrated. History affirms that an Andean slave, Diego Quispe was imprisoned due to his protection a companion of his from the whipping of his Spanish patron. On a certain day, he escaped from his prison, near the Yasos mines, to find shelter in Chinchero. In a middle way, he rested over stone blocks, praying all night to not be found. In this form, Christ, still with the sores from his whipping, appeared in a dream to the young Indian to say not to be afraid and sent him, as a messenger, to the closest town to communicate this apparition and built a Catholic sanctuary in this place. Nowadays, thousands of people travel to the church of Señor de Huanca in the month of September to assist in a massive mass and collect water from a nearby spring, legend says it is holy water. But the main celebration day is September 14. One of the holidays in Peru and Cusco that you cannot miss.
Angamos battle – October 8
October 8 is an important day in Peru. Despite being lost the war of the Pacific against Chile in 1879 and its main battleship with his war hero Miguel Grau in this battle, the Andean country commemorates the bravery of Miguel Grau, nicknamed El Caballero de los Mares. The combat of Angamos is one of the holidays in Peru with military thematic. The Peruvian flag is raised in several public squares in the country, in addition to witnessing military parades and food festivals in the nearby streets.
Lord of the Miracles – October 28
In October, the Señor de Los Milagros (Lord of the Miracles) is celebrated. History says that an African slave, who comes from Angola, painted an image of crucified Christ over a wall of a modest church in Pachacamilla (Southern Lima) that was used as a temple for the slaves. The miraculous happened in 1655 and 1687, when a series of earthquakes devastated Lima, destroying houses and temples, the parish of Pachacamilla was no exception. However, the wall where the image of the crucified Christ stood remained standing. Since that date, a copy of the miraculous image is paraded through the main streets of the Peruvian capital every October 28. Charging more devotees and faithful over the years. In this form, each October 28 the faithful celebrate the Lord of the Miracles dressed in purple. Lima is flooded with purple in its streets and clothes. On the day of the procession, all wear purple robes, sing and pray accompanied by the image of the Lord of Miracles.
Creole song day – October 30
In Lima, October 31, the day of the Creole song, is also celebrated. Especially in the Lima tourist districts of Barranco, Miraflores, La Victoria, and Barrios Altos. There you can see the different restaurants, and nightclubs playing Creole music and dancing to the Marinera, besides seeing the neighbors of these districts form parties on the streets with Creole music, food, and dances. Of course, the children have their own festivity, Halloween, but, don’t worry, everyone respects the party they want to celebrate. Make sure to take advantage of the tours in Peru during the month of October.
All Saints’ Day – November 1st
The Day of all Saints and the day of the deceased are both celebrated on the one & two of November, and these festivals are celebrated all over the country. In ancient times, the Incas usually adore their dead and this practice is still practiced by the Peruvians. On November 1st, Peruvian go to the cemeteries, carrying food, beer, and even a live music band for their deceased. They spend the night with them until the next day, as a form of accompanying their dead and remembering them. Therefore, these days feature a mix of Christian and Indigenous beliefs. Also, this day is one of the most important festivals in Cusco, where the Lechon (baked pork) is usually consumed by the Cusco population.
Puno’s foundation – November 2nd
In November, the Week of Puno is also celebrated. At the beginning of the month, in the historic center of the city, certain dramatizations are carried out about the birth of Manco Cápac and Mama Ocllo. They emerged from the waters of Lake Titicaca to find the well-known Inca Empire in Cusco. Besides it, you can enjoy a great folk festival, craft fairs, exhibitions, conferences, competitions, and much more in the Peruvian plateau city.
Santuranticuy – December 24
On 24 December, the festival of Santuranticuy takes place in the Plaza de Armas in Cusco. This Cusco festival comes from the colonial period, when the Spanish priests and masters taught the Andean young painting and sculpture, to represent the saints of the Catholic religion in the new churches that were being built in Cusco (In a way to extirpate the Inca idolatry of the place). From this period, the Andean artists began to show their masterpieces to the general people every December 24. Today, the Festivity of Santuranticuy brings together the greatest exponents of Cusco art in the Plaza de Armas on the same day, the visitor can see beautiful sculptures and paintings of “Cusco school”, a Cusco style art own.
Christmas – December 25
Christmas is celebrated in Peru as it is all over the world on 25 December, with all the churches having Mass and showing their sculptural representations of the births of the baby Jesus, among other activities. With Peru, being a very religious country, these holidays in Peru are not so different from other Christmas festivities around the world. However, Christmas in Cusco is a very special time to be in Peru and enjoy a hot chocolate and Panettone (After Italy, Peru is the second country in the consumption of this Italian sponge cake)
End of the year’s party – December 31
Peru is not only an Archaeological or natural attraction but also cultural. The End-Year’s party is the best example, many Peruvian tourist cities like Piura and Tumbes (north beaches), and Cusco (Machu Picchu), prepare their best offers in hotels, restaurants, spas, and tours in general. Without mention that you can go around the main square of Cusco at 12 midnight, drinking champagne, among a crowd of different nationalities (Cusco is a cosmopolitan city), before dancing and enjoying in one of the many discos of the Imperial city! Also, if you asking if is Peru safe to travel to this time, don’t worry, Peru and particularly Cusco is very Safe, the National Police and government always protect security on this day as this celebration is the best example of a cosmopolitan display of current holidays In Peru.
“GRATITUDE UNLOCKS THE FULLNESS OF LIFE”
There is no better time to go to Peru, with festivals throughout the year any time is excellent. The list of things to do in Peru is endless, so do your research and book a trip to Peru today! Being able to enjoy this magical country during its festivities and holidays in Peru is one of the best things. Together with Machu Travel Peru, we hope to be of help. If you want to know about our different routes, you can consult with our team of advisers. Even if you are looking to stay during one of these festivities, you can book with us!