Machu Picchu and Cusco festivities calendar

Cusco and Machu Picchu are places full of traditions and festivities, some of which date back to Inca times. The most original are the Inti Raymi, the party in honor of the Lord of Qoyllur Rit’i or the party in honor of the Lord of Earthquakes. There are also festivities that copy world celebrations such as carnivals, Christmas or the New Year. However, in Cusco these festivals have their own characteristics that make them special.

Cusco dancers
Festivities in Cusco

The carnivals

Carnivals are one of the cultural manifestations that reach all of Peru. Throughout the Andean region, this festival is characterized by dance, music, and men and women playing with water, talcum powder and picapica.

In the city of Cusco, the party takes place on Sundays in February, when young people go to the Main Square to play with water. Some tourists even like to participate in these games with the people of Cusco.

In Machu Picchu town, the party is also with water between men and women. However, there are also dance and music shows in the streets.

Carnivals are not only celebrated in the city of Cusco and Machu Picchu. The best dance and music shows are in the towns of the Sacred Valley of the Incas: Pisac, Chinchero, Maras, Calca, Urubamba and Ollantaytambo.

  • Date: Sundays in February.
  • Place: In Machu Picchu and Cusco.
  • Activities: Water games, dances and music.

Feast in honor of the Señor de Torrechayoc

The cult of this Christian figure is present throughout Cusco but, above all, in the town of Urubamba. In this town of the Sacred Valley is currently the image, which is a representation of Jesus Christ crucified.

In Machu Picchu town, the festival is characterized by groups of dancers who perform choreographies with multicolored clothing, masks and other symbols of Andean life throughout history.

The festivities also include music shows and gastronomic fairs where the main Cusco dishes are offered and tasted, such as: baked guinea pig, humita, chicharrón and more.

Throughout the festivities, the image of the Lord of Torrechayoc is paraded through the town in a procession.

  • Date: Second week of May (variable date).
  • Place: In Cusco, Urubamba and Machu Picchu.
  • Activities: Party with music and dances.

Feast in honor of the Señor de los Temblores

The image of this crucified brown Jesus Christ is considered the ‘Sworn Patron of Cusco’ as it represents the most fervent display of faith among its inhabitants.

Its history dates back to 1620 when it was created in Spain and sent to Cusco where it rested for some time in the city’s Cathedral. Until March 31, 1650, a strong earthquake destroyed houses and temples. The population, fearful of the strong aftershocks, took this image in procession. Then the tremors ceased and faith in the so-called ‘Lord of tremors’ was born.

Every Holy Monday there is a procession in his honor, attended by thousands of people. The religious festival is accompanied by gastronomic fairs.

The image also travels the city during the Corpus Christi Festival. The rest of the year rest in the Cathedral of Cusco.

  • Date: Every Holy Monday (variable date the first, second or third week of April).
  • Place: In the city of Cusco.
  • Activities: With processions and gastronomic fairs.

Feast in honor of the Señor de Qoyllur Rit’i

The festival and pilgrimage in honor of the Lord of Qoyllur Rit’i is the most massive in the entire Andes Mountains. It is estimated that around ten thousand people attend each year.

In addition to the exacerbated faith of the pilgrims who come to the temple of the Lord of Qoyllur Rit’i in the town of Mawayani (Ocongate); What is most striking about this religious festival is that it takes place at the foot of the snow-capped Colquepunku, more than 5,000 meters above sea level.

The party also stands out for the multiple dances performed by people dressed in multicolored costumes. They all camp there, where the temperature drops below 0 degrees Celsius at night. Of course there are sales of food, drinks and demonstrations of faith among the people that alleviate the extreme cold a bit.

Due to its history, fervent devotion and the extreme conditions in which it takes place, this religious festival is considered the most important and famous in Cusco.

  • Date: Ascension day (variable date in late May or early June).
  • Place: In the town of Mawayani (Ocongate district).
  • Activities: Pilgrimages, dances, music and gastronomic fairs.

Feast of Corpus Christi

The religious festival of Corpus Christi (body of Christ in Latin) has unique characteristics in the city of Cusco. The reason is that during the colonial era this festival was established supplanting the Inca custom of walking the mummies of their rulers. That is why in Cusco this festival has an Inca religious background.

The festival begins with the transfer in procession of the fifteen images of the main saints and virgins of the city. The meeting is in the Cathedral of Cusco where thousands of faithful gather. There, in the Main Square, you can taste the delicious cuisine of Cusco.

After eight days in the Cathedral, the images return in procession to their respective temples. In addition to the expressions of faith, the music and dances in homage to each saint and virgin are striking.

  • Date: Nine weeks after Holy Thursday (movable date, approximately the second or third Thursday of June).
  • Place: In the city of Cusco.
  • Activities: Massive processions, music, dance and gastronomic fair.

Feast in honor of the anniversary of Machu Picchu

Machu Picchu celebrates its anniversary on July 7 because on that date in 2013, the Inca city was chosen as one of the seven wonders of the modern world through a global vote organized by the New Open World Corporation organization.

The celebrations take place in the city of Cusco but, above all, in the town of Aguas Calientes called ‘Machupicchu pueblo’ due to its proximity to the Inca wonder.

In the town of Aguas Calientes massive concerts are organized with the most fashionable bands in Peru. Drawing contests, gastronomic fairs and other events sponsored by the Municipality of Machu Picchu are also organized.

In the same archaeological site of Machu Picchu there are also ceremonies of ‘payment to the land’ and even Inca religious ceremonies in honor of the Inca city.

  • Date: Every year on July 7.
  • Place: In Machu Picchu town (Aguas Calientes).
  • Activities: Dance shows, music, dancing and mass celebrations.

Feast of the sun, Inti Raymi

The Inti Raymi (The Sun Festival, in Quechua language) is the most famous tourist festival in Cusco. It was organized in 1944 as a way of reclaiming the Inca past of the Cusco people.

The festival takes as a reference the celebration of ‘Wawa Inti Raymi’ established by the Inca emperor Pachacutec in 1430. This religious festival, the largest in the empire, was celebrated every winter solstice, when the sun god was closest to the earth.

Today the Inti Raymi is also celebrated around the winter solstice (June 24) with a gigantic staging in three stages: the Coricancha temple, the Main Square and the Sacsayhuaman fortress.

Hundreds of actors participate in these stagings representing the religious scenes of the Incas in the ancient Wawa Inti Raymi. The performances in the Coricancha and the Main Square are free for all the public while the staging in Sacsayhuaman has a cost.

Tourists really enjoy this representation of the Inca world. On that day, in addition, the people of Cusco organize parties with music and dance. It is a great date to visit Cusco and Machu Picchu.

  • Date: Every year on June 24.
  • Place: In the city of Cusco.
  • Activities: Music, dance and public shows with Inca motifs.

Feast for the anniversary of Peru

On July 28, 1821, the proclamation of the Independence of Peru was made in a public act held in the city of Lima. Since then, every July 28, the country celebrates one more year of its anniversary as an independent nation.

The anniversary of Peru is a patriotic celebration that takes place throughout the country through civic events and parades in each town and city.

In the city of Cusco, a ceremony is held in which the main institutions and local organizations parade. There are also music shows and typical dances, always in front of the Main Square.

In the same way, in the town of Machu Picchu, cultural ceremonies are held in the town square. Throughout the country, it is common to see Peruvian flags waving in each home.

  • Date: Every year on July 28.
  • Place: In Machu Picchu and Cusco.
  • Activities: Civic acts, dance and music.

Feast for the day of the Pachamama

In Cusco, as in most Andean regions of Peru, the day of Pachamama (mother earth in the Quechua language) is celebrated on August 1. This celebration has its origins in Inca times as they worshiped the land, whom they considered a life-giving god.

The celebrations consist of cultural events in the main squares and institutions. However, what is most striking on that date are the ceremonies of ‘payment to the land’ that are carried out in each town and family in the region.

The people of Cusco, in addition to having faith in Christian gods, maintain belief in Inca gods such as Pachamama. In his honor they organize ceremonies in which they offer coca leaves, chicha and other products, just as the Incas did hundreds of years ago.

For tourists it is the perfect date to attend this type of religious ceremonies of Inca origin.

  • Date: Every year on August 1st.
  • Place: In Machu Picchu and Cusco.
  • Activities: Ceremonies of payment to the land, cultural activities.

Feast for Christmas

Christmas is a Christian holiday that was also established in Peru. In Cusco it has special characteristics because it adapted to the Andean beliefs and customs.

In addition to the leafy trees and the images of Santa Claus, in Cusco there are cultural events such as the ‘Santuranticuy’ fair (sale of saints, in Quechua language).

Every December 24, this massive fair is organized in the Main Square. There are sold ceramic pieces of saints and animals alluding to the Christmas party. The people of Cusco usually buy their images there in order to worship them in their homes or weapons their ‘natives’ (representations of the birth of Jesus).

By the way, in Cusco the child Jesus is represented by the ‘Niño Manuelito’ who has the Andean features typical of the place.

At night on December 24 or at lunch on December 25, Cusco families usually eat the crispy baked pork or the characteristic baked turkey.

  • Date: Every year on December 25th.
  • Place: In Machu Picchu and Cusco.
  • Activities: Gastronomic fairs and handicraft fairs.

New Years party

In addition to the festivities and fireworks, the New Year in Cusco has peculiar characteristics that attract a lot of visitor’s attention.

The first thing is the custom of its inhabitants to surround the houses with yellow shredded paper as a symbol of good luck. In addition, when hugging the friend, family member or acquaintance, local custom orders to throw this shredded paper on the person’s head.

For dinner or lunch, custom dictates trying the crispy and tasty baked suckling pig. In the streets there is no shortage of gastronomic fairs where this dish is preferred by diners.

These customs are ingrained throughout Cusco, including Machu Picchu town. In both cities the party on the night of December 31 is massive.

  • Date: Every year on January 1st.
  • Place: In Machu Picchu and Cusco.
  • Activities: Music, dances and gastronomic fairs.

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