Many travelers to the Cusco region are aware of the biggest festival in the region, that being the Inti Raymi, but not many visitors are aware of the other interesting festivals in the area. So if you are planning a visit and would like to try and experience a local festival, here is a list arranged by date so you can see if there is a festival close to your planned dates.
New Years – Jan 1st is celebrated in every corner of the world and the Cusco region is no exception, whether you are interested in a grand spectacle, or a more quiet local celebration, you will find both here in the Cusco Region.
Carnival – While usually in February this can also fall in March as it is dependent on the date of Easter. The celebrations last for a week and commence on Sunday, 7 weeks before Easter. Carnival is celebrated throughout the region with music, dancing and water balloon fights.
Senor de los Temblores – Held on the Monday before Easter, a statue of Christ known as Senor de los Temblores or the lord of the earthquakes, is carried in a procession through Cusco. This practice started during the 1950 Earthquake in Cusco, in an effort to save artifacts if the Cathedral were to collapse, items were being taken out of the cathedral and when the figure of Christ was carried out, the earthquakes stopped. This practice has continued in an effort to prevent or limit future earthquakes.
Easter – Easter is a Christian holiday commemorating the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead three days after his crucifixion on Good Friday and marking the end of the Lent. Easter is a movable event and depends on the equinoxes and the moon phases (the first Sunday after the full moon which follows the Spring equinox in the northern hemisphere)
Watia – This is an agricultural festival held in the nearby village of Huallacocha on May 1st the watia is a mound where potatoes are burred and a large bonfire is built on top, during the festival the potatoes are dug up, usually by a bulldozer, and the towns people all run in to grab the cooked potatoes. During this festival the towns people also do pachamanca to sell, pachamanca is a meal of beef, pork, chicken, several types of potato and abas (fave beans) all slow cooked together in earth ovens.
Cuy festival – This festival is also held on May 1st but in another nearby town called Pucyura, this festival is a celebration of Cuy or guinea pig, and a good place to sample this typical Andean dish.
Cruz Velacuy – Cruz Velacuy is the Cusco regions version of the Fiesta de las Cruces (Festival of the Crosses), a primarily Andean tradition that honors the holy cross. The cross carrying festival normally starts on May 3rd, during this festival the Crosses that are normally on the hills around Huarocondo are brought into town, cleaned and re-dresses with cloths, then taken into the church where they are blesses before being returned to the hill tops.
Festival Folklórico de Raqchi – The Festival Folklórico de Raqchi is an annual music, song and dance exhibition at the Inca archaeological site of Raqchi (or the Temple of Wiracocha) in the Canchis province of Cusco. Performers from communities throughout the Cusco region take part in the colorful event which is held on the third Sunday of June.
Corpus Christi – Held on a Thursday 60 days after Easter Sunday. Corpus Christi in Latin literally means the “Body of Christ” and is a Christian festival held in honor of the Holy Eucharist (the sacramental re-enactment of what Jesus did at his Last Supper in giving his disciples bread, saying “This is my body,” and the cup, saying “This is my blood.”). Corpus Christi (a movable feast) is celebrated throughout Peru, but the main festival takes place in Cusco. The faithful carry images of saints in procession through the streets to the main cathedral in Cusco, where they are placed for an overnight vigil. During this time the City of Cusco can be quite crowded and difficult to navigate through due to the large number of locals and tourists.
Inti Raymi – The ‘Inca Sun Festival’ of June 24th is the big one for tourists. It is staged at the massive ruins of Sacsayhuaman, above the city. This event is really more a pageant than a fiesta, with hundreds of locals playing the parts of Inca priests, nobles, virgins of the sun and soldiers. The coveted role of the Inca Pachacuti is awarded following lengthy auditions. Guaranteeing a seat at the event in Sacsayhuaman can be an expensive affair but you can get a good idea of the festivities for free since the procession starts at the Temple of the Sun and winds its way to the Plaza de Armas throughout the morning. Inti Raymi, the “Festival of the Sun,” was one of the key ceremonies of the Inca Empire and remains a major event on the Peruvian calendar. The main celebrations take place in Cusco, where vast crowds gather to watch the re-enactment of the ceremony at the Sacsayhuamán archaeological site.
Virgen del Carmen – A very colorful local fiesta with the best traditional dances, and the most varied and exotic masks and costumes to be seen anywhere in the Cusco region. The Fiesta de la Virgen del Carmen is an annual religious procession held in various regions of Peru. The festival is particularly famous in Paucartambo, near Cusco, where it is known as Mamacha Carmen. While the Paucartambo festivities are the largest in the region and attract a lot of tourists, our town of Huarocondo hosts the second largest celebration in the Cusco region and is much more typical as there are far fewer tourists that visit. The Virgen del Carmen festival starts on July 15th and lasts for 5 days with music, dancing, food and fireworks every evening.
Dia de la Pachamama – Andean communities celebrate Día de la Pachamama (Mother Earth Day) on August 1, taking part in pago a la tierra (“payment to the earth”) ceremonies in which traditional items such as coca leaves, huayruro seeds and chicha de jora are offered to pachamama in recognition of gifts received (crops).
Killarumiyoq Raymi – The Killarumiyoq Raymi is the festival of the moon, the counterpart to the larger Inti Raymi in June and while the sun was considered masculine, the moon was considered feminine and as such this festival celebrates those things feminine. While smaller then the Inti Raymi it is just as colorful and much less commercial than the Inti Raymi, seeing few to no tourists at times. The festival is held on the last Sunday in August at the nearby archaeological site of Killarumiyoq, and starts with a ceremony on the sites terraces, followed by food, music and dancing just below the site.
Virgen de Natividad – The Virgen de Natividad is celebrated in many small villages throughout Peru on the 8th September with processions, music and danc. In the Cusco region one of the largest festivals is held in Chinchero.
Señor de Huanca – Each year on Sept 14th, thousands of devotees from across Peru and neighboring countries come to Cusco for the Señor de Huanca pilgrimage. The faithful hike from Cusco to the Sanctuary of the Señor de Huanca (a trek of four to six hours) to receive their blessings and gaze upon the centuries-old image of the Señor de Huanca painted on the rock walls of the shrine.
Moray Raymi – During the month of October, hundreds of residents of surrounding communities attend the circular terraces of Moray to celebrate the Moray Raymi or Festival of Moray. The festivities are held on Oct 8th and include folk dances related to land, products and work agriculture.
Festival of Lechon – On November 1st or town has a celebration in honor of the towns specialty of lechon or roast pig, this is a full day of local food and drink along with kids games and Music, this festival is fun for the entire family and a great choice to have lunch and people watch.
Día de Todos los Santos (All Saints’ Day) and Día de los Difuntos (All Souls’ Day) – All Saints’ and All Souls’ (Day of the Dead) are celebrated Nov 1st and 2nd throughout Peru as the locals pay homage to the dead before tucking in to family feasts of lechón (roast suckling pig) and tanta wawa (a traditional Peruvian bread baked to resemble a doll or infant).
Immaculate Conception – Peruvians celebrate the Immaculate Conception of the Virgin Mary (Inmaculada Concepción or Dia de la Purísima Concepción) on December 8, a national holiday in Peru. Expect street parades across the country.
Santuranticuy – Santuranticuy is a traditional fair held in the main Plaza de Armas in Cusco every Christmas Eve (24 December). Christmas Eve is the time for Santuranticuy, a traditional market held in Cusco’s Plaza de Armas. Artisans from across the region gather in Cusco’s main square, where they sell handcrafted images of the nativity and related religious representations, Cusqueñan artisans display and sell the best of their works in the main square of Cusco. Miniature animals, trees, bridges, grasses etc are all for sale to create lavish nativity scenes at home.
Christmas – As in many Christian countries around the world, Christmas is big in Peru, but the majority of celebrating is done on Christmas eve, with families staying up until midnight, having dinner and opening presents, with the celebrations generally continuing on into the morning hours, so Christmas day itself is usually a quiet day to rest from the night before. Here at GringoWasi we offer a large Christmas dinner for any guests that are staying with us the night of the 25th.
Nativity scenes – The churches, plazas and houses of the Cuzco region have an amazing array of nativity scenes. More popular than Christmas Trees home grown nativity scenes are a creative outlet for families and children. The scenes can typically be viewed starting up to week before Christmas until about the 6th of January.