Fiestas and festivals
Cusco is known for its rich cultural heritage. The city is home to various traditional festivals and fiestas that take place throughout the year. Visiting the celebrations is a great way to learn about the colorful Peruvian culture and try local food. The most popular and traditional festivals and fiestas in Cusco you can visit are:
Inti Raymi is one of the most important festivals in Cusco. Inti Raymi means Fiesta del Sol in Quechua, which takes place in the city of Cusco during on June 24th. The festival is a reenactment of an Inca ceremony that was held to honor the god Inti (the sun god) and is considered one of the most important celebrations of the Inca culture.
The festival takes place at three locations: it starts at Qoricancha, continues at the main square of Cusco, the Plaza de Armas, and the final part is at Sacsayhuaman, where thousands of local people, as well as tourists from all over the world, watch the spectacle. The ceremony is led by the Inca, and traditional dances, music, and costumes accompany it. A procession follows the ceremony through the streets of Cusco, where locals and visitors alike can witness the colorful parade.
The festival is an opportunity for locals to showcase their cultural heritage and traditional customs and for visitors to experience a unique celebration steeped in Peruvian tradition and culture.
Corpus Christi takes usually place in the city of Cusco during June (sometimes at the end of May). Corpus Christi is a Catholic celebration that commemorates the presence of Jesus in the form of bread and wine in the Eucharist. Processions, colorful costumes, and traditional dances mark the festival. The main event takes place in the main square of Cusco, where locals and visitors can witness the colorful parade.
Corpus Christi is a good example of "cultural syncretism": the catholic religious day, introduced by the Spaniards, was easily integrated into Andean practices. Moreover, the date coincided with older Andean festivals like Inti Raymi and the winter harvest festival. For the Incas, these occasions involved porting mummies and other sacred objects to the principal plaza, followed by several days of festivities.
The Corpus Christi festival in Cusco as it is today, bears a remarkable resemblance to the most important traditions of the Andean world before the conquest, when 15 different saints moved from the churches to be walked to the central Plaza de Armas and into the Cusco Cathedral, where they will remain for eight days until "El Octave" arrives, the day on which the saints are taken out and taken to their temple or church of origin.
The day before the procession in the Plaza de Armas, you can see the entrance of the saints and virgins to the cathedra and enjoy the dances accompanying the entry.
Virgen del Carmen (Paucartambo)
La Virgen de Carmen is a traditional festivity in the small town of Paucartambo. The festival is held from 15 - 16 July in honor of the La Virgin del Carmen. It is an important celebration in the region. Paucartambo is a picturesque town located in the quiet valley above the eastern jungles at approximately 115 km from Cusco. It takes about 3 – 4 hours to get there.
The festivity is a week-long celebration that includes various events such as traditional dances, music, processions, and religious ceremonies. The main event is the procession of the Virgen del Carmen through the streets of Paucartambo, where locals and visitors can witness the colorful parade. The Virgin is carried on the shoulders of the faithful and accompanied by music, dances, and traditional costumes. During this event, you will see the best traditional dances of Peru and the most varied and exotic masks and costumes to be seen anywhere in the Cusco region.
To get to Paucartambo, you can take a bus or a car from Cusco. Unfortunately, there are no tours of this festival.
Qoyllur Riti is a traditional Andean festival in the region of Cusco, in the town of Ocongate, located about 150km from Cusco. The festival or pilgrimage takes place in May or June. Qoyllur Riti is also known as the "Fiesta de las Estrellas" (Feast of the Stars); like many festivals in this region - it is influenced strongly by the Christian religion.
Qoyllur Ríti is a multi-day event that includes various events such as traditional dances, music, processions, and religious ceremonies. The main event is the pilgrimage to the Sinakara Valley, where thousands of people gather to participate in religious ceremonies and traditional dances. The pilgrimage is led by the Qollas, or Andean priests, who carry a statue of the Virgin Mary on their shoulders through the mountains.
Not many foreign visitors go here; the trip to Ocongate is not easy, and the trek to the Sinakara Valley is challenging. Therefore, it is recommended to be in good physical shape, well acclimatized, and not go alone but in a group and with a guide.
The date of Qoyllur Riti varies, but it is usually the Sunday before Corpus Christi. The Sinakara valley is close to the magnificent Ausangate Mountain, above the village of Mawayani in the province of Quispicanchis.