Peruvians love any excuse for a celebration and the country enjoys a huge number of religious ceremonies, festivals and local events. Cusco, in particular, is a great place for both Christian celebrations and for Inca festivals like Inti Raymi in June. In October, Lima, and especially its suburb of La Victoria, takes centre stage, with processions dedicated to Our Lord of Miracles, in memory of the ever-present earthquake danger. Carnival time (generally late Feb) is lively almost everywhere in the country, with fiestas held every Sunday – a wholesale licence to throw water at everyone and generally go crazy. It’s worth noting that most hotel prices go up significantly at fiesta times and bus and air transport can be fully booked days in advance.
In addition to the major regional and national celebrations, nearly every community has its own saint or patron figure to worship at town or village fiestas . These celebrations often mean a great deal to local people, and can be much more fun to visit than the larger countrywide activities. Processions, music, dancing in costumes, and eating and drinking form a natural part of these parties. In some cases the villagers will enact symbolic dramas with Indians dressed up as Spanish colonists, wearing hideous blue-eyed masks with long hairy beards. In the hills around towns like Huaraz and Cusco, especially, it’s quite common to stumble into a village fiesta, with its explosion of human energy and noise, bright colours, and a mixture of pagan and Catholic symbolism.
However, such celebrations are very much local affairs, and while the occasional traveller will almost certainly be welcomed with great warmth, none of these remote communities would want to be invaded by tourists waving cameras and expecting to be feasted for free. The dates given on these pages are therefore only for established events which are already on the tourist map, and for those that take place all over the country.
In many coastal and mountain haciendas (estates), bullfights are often held at fiesta times. In a less organized way they happen at many of the village fiestas, too – often with the bull being left to run through the village until it’s eventually caught and mutilated by one of the men. This is not just a sad sight, it can also be dangerous for you, as an unsuspecting tourist, if you happen to wander into an apparently evacuated village. The Lima bullfights in October, in contrast, are a very serious business; even Hemingway was impressed.

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