Inti Raymi (Festival of the Sun), Cuzco
With origins dating back to Inca times, this festival celebrates the winter solstice and takes place on June 24th each year. It is currently the second biggest event in South America attracting hundreds of thousands of revellers from all over the world. Traditional entertainment takes place from morning until night ensuring that wherever you are in Cuzco you are sure to stumble across some form of merriment. As well as this there are numerous age-old traditions such as the procession to the ancient fortress of Sacsayhuaman which have been preserved since the beginning of Inti Raymi. A unique festival which will give you a deep insight into the Peruvian culture, this one shouldn’t be missed. You should note, however, that if you do intend to stay in Cuzco for the celebrations, you will need to book your accommodation well in advance.
Independence Day, Nationwide
Independence Day was declared by the Liberator Jose de San Martin on July 26th, 1824 but it’s actually celebrated on July 28th when everything in the country comes to a standstill for two days – with the exception of the parties that is. Celebrations take place all over the country Lima really is the place to be for the 28th and 29th. Even the native Peruvians vacate their hometowns and head for the capital to take part in the biggest event of the year. Beginning with the more formal traditions including a speech by the national president and a parade by civil and military groups, this is soon replaced with the mayhem that usually accompanies Independence Day celebrations in South America so be prepared to party long and hard for two full days.
Feria Taurina del Senor de los Milagros
Taking place since 1946, this bullfighting fair is currently one of the biggest and most important of its kind in Latin America. Running for the entire month of November, the Feria Taurina del Senor de los Milagros or ‘Festival of the Gentleman of Miracles’ attracts both participants and spectators from all over the world. And, while it may not appeal to a great many of you, the fact is that the pomp and hype surrounding this, like so many other bull fighting festivals world wide, is pretty hard to avoid if you’re in the area. Vying for two main prizes, one for the most skilled matador and one for the most impressive bull, this is another century old tradition which bears strong links with both the history and the cultural identity of the country so if you think it’s for you be sure to stop by.
Semana Santa, Nationwide
As with a lot of the festivals in Peru, Semana Santa revolves around religious traditions and takes place during Holy Week every year. The biggest celebrations take place in the villages of the Andean Highlands including Ayacucho, Cuzco, Huaraz and Tarma and the best of these are the festivities at Ayacucho. A visit to any of the four during this week, however, is well worthwhile and will give you the opportunity to see century old customs first hand. Street processions where the streets are completely covered in flowers, open air markets, fireworks, music and dance combined with ample servings of local food and drink ensure that these celebrations are going to remain in your memory for quite some time.
While every town and village in the country, regardless of size, celebrates carnival, Cajamarca is undoubtedly the Peruvian capital of this worldwide phenomenon. Preparations begin months in advance. In fact, participants have no sooner finished with one year’s celebrations until they have to start thinking about those of the following year. Nine full days (and nights) of madness and mayhem mean that you certainly shouldn’t go into this with your eyes closed. You will need all your wits about you to fully appreciate the craziness that carnival in Cajamarca has become since the celebrations first began over seventy years ago, and to enjoy the traditional food and drink which is synonymous with the festival. Go easy on the chica, however, it’s a lot stronger than people originally think and it’s certainly an acquired taste.