Though a visit to Machu Picchu is one of the highlights of the region, there are a number of events and festivals that you can also incorporate into your trip to Cusco depending on the time of year you would like to visit. In Casa San Blas Boutique Hotel we want to facilitate your vacation plans in Cusco so here is a list of the main festivities that take place in and around the city.
In the squares of Cusco as well as the outlying villages in the Sacred Valley, Peruvians celebrate the spanish custom of Carnival, beginning 40 days before Easter Sunday (Lent). Carnival parades are not as common here as in other South American cities, but you will often come across festivals in smaller villages around the city of Cusco, as well as kids running around with water balloons and spray-foam.
HOLY WEEK (Semana Santa) – April, ending on Easter Sunday:
Pilgrims from all over Peru, South America and overseas come to Cusco to celebrate this festival. Holy Monday, six days before Easter, sees the procession of the Lord of the Earthquakes, the figure of Christ is said to have stopped any further seismic activity after the 1950 AD earthquake that destroyed much of the city.
If you come to visit Peru on these dates you will love it. Qoyllor Riti, or the “Snow Star” festival, takes place in the Sinakara valley 300 km southeast of Cusco, near the Ausangate glacier, at 4,800 meters above sea level. This festival is yet another example of the merging of both Indigenous and colonial traditions. Where the local communities will participate in a pilgrimage to the Apus (mountain gods) with their catholic crosses and attire in order to ask for prosperity in work, life and future projects. This is one of the most important religious festivals for the Andean populations of Peru. It is usually planned three days prior to the Catholic Festivity of Corpus Christi.
CORPUS CHRISTI – End of May/beginning of June:
Adding emotion on your trip to Cusco in June, you will also be enchanted by this festivity where the fourteen saints of Cusco are taken from their respective churches and carried in procession to the main Cathedral in the historic center. The Corpus Christi celebration is a merging of Catholic and indigenous traditions, for the Incas too carried mummified remains of their sovereigns in procession at the same time of year as the Catholic celebration of Corpus Christi. This is about the only time of the year when locals and visitors alike can enjoy the typical dish “chiriuchu” (a plate of cold meats, tortillas, toasted corn, cheese and roasted guinea pig) served as a specialty by local vendors and restaurants in and around the Plaza de Armas and will add to your vacations in Cusco a little taste of the traditional cuisine.
Inti Raymi, the Inca festival of the Sun, is held each year on June 24th, and is one of Peru’s prime tourist attractions. The festivities initiate at Koricancha in downtown Cusco, the Temple of the Sun, and continue onto Saqsayhuaman outside of Cusco, where the main theatrical event takes place. Amongst the performance, one of the most symbolic points seen is the high priest’s sacrificial offering of a baby llama to the sun, in order for the sun to continue to provide its life giving rays and bring about a prosperous and fertile year. Locals from all over the region of Cusco travel to the city center to witness the festivities and when you visit Cusco in June, you will be one of them!
VIRGIN OF CARMEN – July 16th:
If you choose to do your trip to Cusco in July, here is an excellent option. In the village of Paucartambo, one of Peru’s most traditional festivals takes place, as fifteen customary dance groups pay homage to the Virgin of Carmen on her feast day. The celebrations last for four days, during which the dancers perform an intricate narrative choreography and the huge crowds gather to celebrate with copious amounts of food and drink. Many pilgrims also make the trip to the nearby Tres Cruces where perched above the Amazon basin, they witness the phenomenon of a unique and spectacular sunrise only seen at that time of the year, during which the sun appears to divide in three as it climbs into the sky. Your vacation to Peru couldn’t be more amazing!
Peruvians celebrate their independence from Spain on July 28th, and the festivities range from concerts held in the multiple plazas around downtown Cusco, to street processions, dance performances and more. There is also a wide variety of local food and drinks available throughout the day to accompany the festivities and your stay in Casa San Blas Boutique Hotel.
OFFERING TO MOTHER EARTH (Pachamama) – August:
In Peru, Ancient Peruvian civilizations prior to the arrival of the spaniards, have always looked to Mother Earth as the giver of life, she has had an important role in their survival and so she is looked upon as a sacred element. As a result, during the month of August, Peruvians will perform sacred offerings to Mother Earth, or Pachamama, and ask for a new year of good harvests and good fortune. At Casa San Blas Boutique Hotel you can also experience them since we do the offerings to the pachamama in this month.
TOURISM MONTH – September:
You can also enjoy your vacations in Peru surrounded by a multicultural group of people, from September to October the Cusco region holds a number of sporting, cultural and ecological events to mark “el mes turístico” (tourism month).
This is a religious celebration that not only encompasses believers of the Christian faith within Peru, but also touches those in neighboring countries. Devotees from Bolivia, Paraguay, Argentina and Chile will also make the trip to the Sanctuary of Huanca (located 2 hours away from the city of Cusco by bus) to receive the blessing of the Lord. It is believed that in 1675, Diego Quispe Tito, a local Indian escaped from the Yasos mine where he had suffered much abuse. He hid from his master in a cave, and it is said that this place was illuminated by the presence of God. As soon as the priests of Our Lady of Mercy heard the story, they sent an artist from the Cusqueñian School of Art, to paint the image of the Lord in the place where it had been seen. Now, every year on September 14th many will make the trip to this location to worship the lord, making this trip, another adventurous option while traveling to Peru.
This is a Christian tradition in Peru, which begins on November 1st by celebrating those who have passed and have been venerated as Saints within the Christian religion. The festivities continue through to November 2nd, known as the Day of the Dead, where the locals will visit the graves of loved ones, to pray to them and to God, to watch over those that are still on Earth. In Peru, it is also a custom to eat “lechon” or roasted baby pig, to round off the celebrations, and you will find it at several local restaurants in Cusco.
SANTURANTICUY - Christmas Eve:
If you come to spend your Christmas’s vacations in Cusco this is an excellent option which involves a charming traditional fair held on Cusco’s Plaza de Armas. Peasants from far corners of the Andean highlands head to the City center to sell their more unique handicrafts. Due to the popularity of the fair, the items on sale include images of the holy family, clothes, ceramics, jewelry, weavings, natural food products and a variety of traditional souvenirs from Cusco.