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The best and only way to identify with a city like Cusco that spends its life partying is to understand the deeper meanings of its celebrations. The range of fiestas that face the traveller is almost infinite. However, it is the main ceremonies that define the special occasions. Of course, Cusco is not averse to the national celebrations such as Fiestas Patrias (Peru Day), but none of these can equal the attraction of the regional fiestas.

JANUARY

CHIARAJE

Date: 20th January

The ritual struggle between the populations of the communities of Checa and Quehue, in the district of Yanaoca, in the province of Canas. The inhabitants face each other in a battle game in order to enhance the fertility of the soil. The winning community is that which occupies the most land. The men are armed with slings, leather whips and sticks, and they are dressed in waistcoats decorated with flowers. The women help by looking after the horses and collecting stones, and they encourage the men by singing.

FEBRUARY

CARNAVALES

Variable date.

A celebration in the various villages of the Sacred Valley of the Incas and in Cusco where they dance to the rhythm of Huayno.

MARCH

HOLY WEEK

Date: From the second fortnight of March to the first week of April (Variable date)

Holy Monday: Procession of the Lord of the Earthquakes, Patron of Cusco and blessing of the city. Since 1650 when, according to devotees, a canvas of Christ of the Good Death stopped a strong earthquake which saved the city of Cusco, the inhabitants have worshipped the image of 'Taytacha de los Temblores'. In this celebration, it is possible to clearly see the fusion of Christianity and Andean religion. The sight of the people in the Plaza de Armas is impressive.

  • 2010 From 28th Marzo to 4th Abril
  • 2011 From 17th to 24th Abril
  • 2012 From 1st to 8th Abril
  • 2013 From 24th to 31st Marzo
  • 2014 From 13th to 20th Abril

MAY

CRUZ VELACUY

Date: 2nd May

The fiesta of Cruz Velacuy is the day of the catholic crosses of Cusco and almost all the Andean towns. It is celebrated to worship the crosses which have been present for centuries in the city. This fiesta originates from the first decades of the 18th century, when it was a private or family celebration, relatively humble and without the grandness it has today.

FESTIVAL OF THE LORD OF QOYLLUR RITT´I

Date: First week of May

Location: Province of Quispicanchis, district of Ocongate, Mountain of Sinakhara. This is the fiesta of the Lord of the Ice. A ritual whose symbol is the image of Christ, but its basic objective is the integration of man with nature. It consists of a well-populated pilgrimage towards the summit of the snow-capped peak Ocongate. It unites 20,000 devotees in a single trail 8 Km long.

This festival unites the Andean and Catholic traditions since it celebrates the appearance of the image of Christ on a massive rock at 4750m altitude and at the same time the cult of the Apu Ocongate. Typical dance groups and others from the region and other regions come together where pre-hispanic and Christian customs mix. On their return they execute a longer trek , enjoying rituals such as the worship of the Apu Ausangate and the Lord of Qoyllur Ritt'i. This fiesta is considered one of the most important of the Americas and lasts three days. Temperatures reach a minimum of -4 °C. The trek is accompanied by a procession, dances, bands, fireworks, and the symbolic market of the Alacitas (artisanal fair of miniatures).

JUNE

This is Cusco's anniversary month and there are celebrations nearly every day. The principle day is 24th June.

LORD OF TORRECHAYOQ

Date: 03th June

Province of Urubamba. The origins of this fiesta go back to 1867 when an enormous cross was constructed and placed in the snow and an inaugurating mass was held along the Urubamba-Lares road. Years later it was taken to "Ch`ynaqasa", and then a sanctuary was constructed in the town of Urubamba, where it is worshiped. In addition to the mass, the cross is taken in a procession with all its finery. The celebrations include fireworks, dance processions, bull running and cock fights.

"CORPUS CHRISTI"

Variable date: Nine weeks after Maundy Thursday (Thursday of Holy Week).

Location: Province of Cusco, District of Cusco.

A religious festival celebrated in Cusco's Plaza de Armas. A procession of 16 images or saints participate from the 14 parishes or churches of the city. Firstly, an enormous float completely covered in silver goes through the streets. A combination of Andean and Catholic rituals are observed. The platforms and images are decorated with splendour and extravagance, shown in the processions of Virgins and Saints from almost all the parishes. Bands of musicians and groups of folk dancers form part of the processions.

The typical and classic dish of this festival is "Chiri Uchu".

INTI RAYMI

Date: 24th June

Location: Province of Cusco, District of Cusco.

Re-enactment of the ancient ritual that represents the harmonious relationship of man and the cosmic manifestations with the sun. The fiesta starts at Koricancha and occurs at the Winter Solstice. Next, it carries on to the Plaza de Armas. The main part takes place in the promenade of Saqsayhuaman, where a white or black llama is sacrificed as an offering to the sun god. It is considered the most important day for the city since it coincides with Cusco anniversary celebrations. The re-enactment expresses the harmonious relationship between man and the sun god, the principle deity of the Incas. It takes place at the Winter Soltice.

JULY

Month of the anniversary of Independence, celebrated on 28th July.

FESTIVAL OF THE VIRGIN OF CARMEN

Date: From 15th to 18th July

Location: Province of Paucartambo

Known as the fiesta of "Mamacha Carmen", this festival is a well-established, joyful and extravagant religious celebration. A visit to the natural balcony at Tres Cruces is recommended since from there you can see the unique and amazing sunrise. The Virgin of Carmen is commemorated not just with a procession but with music and dancing. The fiesta at Paucartambo is considered the best demonstration of folklore in the región and has been declared part of the National Cultural Heritage.

AUGUST

OFFERING TO PACHAMAMA

Date: Dawn of 1st August and throughout the month of August.

Se ofrenda a la madre tierra como agradecimiento por lo recibido durante el año. Es una antigua costumbre andina de encuentro con los Apus o montañas sagradas que es dirigida por un Paq´o o Chamán que prepara el despacho o regalo a la tierra y la sagrada hoja de Coca en un ritual ancestral de conexión espiritual.

SEPTEMBER

FESTIVAL OF THE LORD OF HUANCA

Date: 14th September

Province of Calca, district of San Salvador.

The story of the Lord of Huanca dates from 1675 when it is said that Jesus Christ appeared in a cave to the villager Diego Quispe. His vivid account inspired one of the best painters of the time to represent the image on a rock. The cult (recognised in 1779) has 14th September as its principle day and devotees arrive there from all over Peru and Bolivia in order to have their problems of both body and soul healed.

NOVEMBER

ALL SAINTS

Date: 1st and 2nd November

Baptisms of 'wawas' (babies) made from bread, gastronomic specialities like lechón (pork), tamales, pucheros (stew) and others.

Pilgrimages to cemeteries are organised by the general Cusquenian population. Offerings to the dead in the cemetery, food offerings in the churches, solemn masses.

DECEMBER

SANTURANTIKUY

Date: 24th December

This event has been celebrated since the arrival of the Spanish in the city of Cusco and is an occasion when clay images can be acquired in order to put together the nativity scenes which can be found in every home.

In the present day it is the oldest, biggest and highest quality popular art and craft fair in Peru. It brings together art of different genres, such as metalwork, needlework, wickerwork, sculpture, waxwork, toy making, among others. As in the past, it takes place around the perimeter of Cusco's Plaza de Armas.