For most people around the world, December is the best month of the year. Joy, gifts, happiness, snow… Wait, snow? For all Peruvians -including the team of Machu Travel Peru-, December is a synonym of sand, sun, and great waves. It marks the official start of Peru’s beach season. So, visiting Peru in December is a terrific idea. Well, as for the Andean mountains and the Jungle, rains start falling. But in the case of Amazonia, the climate is hot and humid throughout the year.
The remote possibilities of having a white Christmas will be compensated with temperatures rising to 30°C in the coastal regions of Peru. Spending your holidays relaxing under the sun while tasting delicious seafood and sipping a pisco sour, doesn’t sound so bad, right? But if the tropical temperatures are not your thing, there are a lot of places to visit in Peru. Take them into consideration before starting your journey.
What to do
A country as diverse and big as Peru really offers it all. This country is a truly beautiful, colorful and vibrant place to spend your holiday.
- Sightseeing in Lima: The Peruvian capital is rich in culture and history. It counts with unique architecture, interesting museums, cool nightlife, stunning art movement, and a growing culinary scene. Lima is by far the best place to try Ceviche (the national dish) while you are sipping a pisco sour (the national drink). You can also watch the sunset from the jetty of Miraflores or wander around the artistic streets of Barranco. If you are interested in Peru’s history and colonial past, the historic center is a must-visit.
- Hit the beaches: Peruvians tend to flock to the beaches in December. Peru’s coastline boasts stunningly unique and beautiful beaches along the Pacific Ocean. Although it’s not possible to say which are the most beautiful, we will mention some of them: Punta Hermosa, San Bartolo, Huanchaco, Playa Roja, Punta Sal.
- Surfing and watersports: If you are a surfer and you love a relaxed vibe, you must definitely go to Lobitos, Chicama, Mancora, and Cabo Blanco. These enchanting and fulfilling beaches are blessed with ideal shaped waves. December is the perfect month for waves since Peru attracts more northerly swells that bring along warmer water. Also, diving, kiteboarding and whale and dolphin watching are popular.
- Wildlife viewing on the Ballestas Islands: Known as “The Galapagos Islands of Peru”, these islands offer great aquatic wildlife viewing. They are home to rare birds, sea lions, turtles, dolphins, and whales. Its location on the Pacific coast is accessible from the beach town of Paracas. During your Ballestas tour, you can also explore the sand dunes of Huacachina. It’s an oasis paradise that offers a scenery second to none.
- Trekking in the Andes: The Andes offers lots of off-the-beaten paths in Peru. There is an abundant nature with ample opportunities for hiking, treks, outdoor activities and exploration that will allow you to discover stunning mountain scenery. There are plenty of opportunities for day and multi-day hikes like our Machu Picchu tours. These can include visits to ancient ruins, hot springs, and even waterfalls.
One of the main things you should do when visiting Peru in December is to know the Peruvian traditions. Christmas and New Year’s Eve are the most expected dates through the year.
In most parts of the world, Christmas is a special date for families to come together and celebrate. In Peru, there is a traditional Christmas dinner. It normally consists of roast turkey served with rice, potato or apple puree and pasta salad. A common alternative is roast pork, often Lechon or suckling pig. Also, fish dishes are common around the coastal and Amazonian areas.
This exquisite dinner is accompanied by Paneton, a traditional cake/bread that is filled with dried fruits. Also, it is served with hot chocolate. Nobody in the family can refute eating it in December, even when that means sweating nonstop. There is no match for hot chocolate and Paneton when they come to get into the Peruvian Christmas spirit. In fact, it’s a ridiculously yummy combination. So, when visiting Peru in December, you must follow this tradition.
The main event: On December 24th, the most common Peruvian Christmas tradition is the unveiling of Jesus Christ. Yep, Peru is a religious country. A tiny Jesus is covered with a blanket and, at midnight, Peruvians remove the blanket. It symbolizes the birth of Jesus. After the big Christmas dinner, everyone opens their presents. This is probably the best part of the celebration for kids.
Besides, on December 25th, everything is really chill, people usually spend the day at home or visiting their families.
Peruvian New Year
Here, Christmas is to the family as New Year is to friends and party. During this celebration, all the Peruvian traditions are meant to bring fortune and good luck for the upcoming year.
One of the most popular ones is the twelve-grapes tradition. When the clock strikes midnight, you must eat twelve grapes under the table while making a wish per grape. A thirteenth grape must be eaten to seal the deal! Also, sprinkling rice around the house is supposed to bring luck, health and especially money.
Another tradition is related to underwear. Wearing it in a specific color means what desire you want to come true for the upcoming year. Yellow is for luck, red for love, green for money and white for health. In fact, yellow underwear is the most popular. Some people even take a bath of flowers. Peruvians use to bathe in a basin with flowers of different variety and color depending on the wish. For example, roses are for love.
Finally, the funniest Peruvian tradition is dressing up a real-size doll with old clothes, and filling it with fireworks. Then, burn it on the streets. It symbolizes the transition from the old to the new. It’s particularly funny when these dolls have the face of a corrupt politician.
Where to go when visiting Peru in December
Christmas in Cusco
Certainly, Cusco is really festive during December. The combination of Andean and Christian traditions makes Cusco more unique and special.
Every year on December 25th, a huge Christmas market called Santuranticuy takes place in the Plaza de Armas. Over 1000 stalls offer a vast variety of nativity figures, decorations, religious ceramics, handmade toys, seasonal food and much more. This is a great way to learn and enjoy the authentic part of the Andean culture.
But aside from those commercial stalls, many people from the local hill communities come to the Plaza de Armas. They sell twigs and moss that are bought by the townsfolk to use when making their nativity scenes. In truth, people from the hill communities travel long distances on a budget; even some of them end up spending the 24th sleeping at the Plaza de Armas. They don’t have too much. They sell their stuff to make a little money to provide their families with some kind of Christmas celebrations. Sad but true. Certainly, this is also a real part of Peru which exists outside the tourism. So, if you plan to travel to Cusco, keep in mind that it’s always good to support local communities.
New Year’s Eve in Cusco
Travelers and people from all over the region flock at Plaza de Armas for the countdown to the New Year. There are amazing fireworks displayed every year. After this incredible show, people go to bars or nightclubs until the sun comes up. Don’t get surprised. Cusco is the craziest party city in Peru, so it’s not an exception to celebrate this way, especially when visiting Peru in December.
Christmas in Machu Picchu
If you want to escape Christmas and all the eccentric festivities, you can still opt for a Christmas trek that lets you get to Machu Picchu. You will enjoy a holiday cheer in one of the seven wonders of the world. Without a doubt, one of the best things to see in Peru. It will be completely epic.
New Year’s Eve in the Sacred Valley
On the 1st of January, you can join the “Sinkuy” festivity. It takes place in the central Plaza of Ollantaytambo where people play a bowling game. The tradition consists of the mayor and his wife throw the first ball and then the game gets started. All the people wear costumes, bring chicha (Inca beer), meat and animal-shaped bread.
To conclude, Peru counts with many festivals that are held all over the country. You must take them into consideration; your journey might become a really memorable one. In Machu Travel Peru, we are sure you will have an incredible jolly old time.