Peru celebrates over 3,000 vibrant festivals each year so whatever time you plan a visit you are likely to stumble across a unique insight into the Peruvian culture. However, so as not to miss some of the most flamboyant and diverse festivals that are held, take note of some of the festivities taking place in 2012, and plan a trip accordingly.
Peru has many traditional dances and the north is home to the elegant couples Marina dance. Aussies can get off the beaten track and head to the northern sites to coincide with the Marinera Festival from 23 – 29 January in Trujillo where the city comes alive with processions and dancing. This festival and competition celebrates this dance which involves a great deal of flirting between the couple, who each twitch a handkerchief in their right hand.
Puno on the shores of Lake Titicaca is known as the Folkloric capital of Peru and holds one of the biggest festivals in the country, the Fiesta de la Candelaria where the city comes to life in a grand spectacle from 2 February to honour the Pachamana (Mother Earth). With over 200 bands of musicians and 200 groups of dancers parading behind the Virgin in the streets and stadium of Puno, the festival is a spectacular array of colours and sounds.
The country comes alive at Carnival time in March with a colourful display of dance, elaborate costumes and unique masks. These festivities include throwing buckets of water and handfuls of powder over each other, so visitors need to be prepared to end up messy!
The southern province of Ica is famous for wines and Peru’s famous Pisco liquor and in the first two weeks of March the city of Ica celebrates the International Grape Harvest Festival. Visitors will enjoy tastings of wines, Pisco brandy and cachina (mature fermented grape juice) as well as gastronomic fairs, parades, music and the crowning of the Queen of the festival.
With its 33 churches, the Andean town of Ayacucho is a hive of activity during Easter with several daily processions on the city’s streets. Faithful devotees wait around bonfires lit in the main square overnight and then at dawn Christ Resurrected leaves the cathedral and is carried on a wax portable altar.
Museums, galleries and art spaces in Lima’s trendy neighbourhoods of Barranco, Miraflores and San Isidro throw open their doors during Peru Art Week every year in May. Visitors can take advantage of free music concerts, talks and Gallery Night circuits where galleries are open until late.
On 24 June the entire Amazon region comes alive for the Feast of Saint John the Baptist. This celebration has a strong association with water which is vital in the Amazon region as the rivers and rains are very important for the survival of the biodiversity. All the stops are pulled out for these celebrations with live bands playing traditional music, dancing parades and a feast made up of Amazonian food is enjoyed.
Every year on 24 June Cusco celebrates the most famous festival in the Inca calendar, Inti Raymi – Festival of the Sun. The winter solstice and local harvest are the driving force behind the celebration in honour of the God of the Sun: Wiracocha. Visitors are advised to book accommodation early as it is now the second largest festival in Latin America with over 200,000 people visiting Cusco to join the merriment, parties and fireworks. Professors, archaeologists and historians carefully script a performance of an Inca ritual in the fortress of Sacsavhumán which is just 2km away from Cusco then the city itself parties the day and night away.
Lima’s Independence Day Fiestas are eagerly awaited and celebrated in plazas and parks throughout the city centre around the 28 July. On the final day a Great Military Parade takes place on either Avenida Brasil or Avenida De La Peruanidad and is a great spectacle to witness.
Every October hundreds of devotees crowd and parade the streets of Lima for the Procession of the Lord of Miracles through clouds of incense, singing and dancing. This month is also known as the mes morado, or purple month as purple is the patron saints colour and people in Peru honour this. Visitors should also try the sweets and delicacies which can be bought alongside the procession such as Turrón de Doña Pepa, a delicious soft and sweet paste made with eggs, butter, flour, aniseed and fruit syrup.
For more information on Peru and further festivals visit www.peru.travel