Latin Americans put a little more passion into everything they do, and their celebrations are no exception.
From music festivals and huge carnivals, to delicious and hearty food, and a rich religious and familial culture, each country in South America has its own charm, traditions and deep folklore.
So if you want to be part of some the biggest celebrations on earth, you’ve picked the right continent. Everyone deserves to experience these 5 festivals at least once in their life.
New Year’s Eve and Viña del Mar Festival
Where: Valparaíso/Viña del Mar, Chile
When: New Year’s Eve and February
Spending New Year’s Eve in Valparaiso in Chile is absolute madness (the fun kind). The port city, located 1.5-hours away from Santiago to the west, built almost entirely on the hills overlooking the ocean, receives a huge flow of tourist throughout the year, attracted by the windy and narrow streets featuring an incredible amount of graffiti and colourful wall art. Another attraction is the elevators, present all over the city in order to get a few blocks up the streets easier. Every New Year, there’s a magnificent fireworks show over the ocean, and watching it from the hills of Valparaiso is truly popular. After the fireworks, you’ll be able to find parties everywhere, even on the streets. It’s not unusual for the celebrations to carry on until the early morning hours of the next day.
If you’re hanging around and you’re after a music festival that showcases the best hispanic music and artists from all over the world, get tickets to Vina del Mar Festival, held for 5 days in late February.
Carnaval do Brasil
Where: Rio de Janeiro
When: February, 40 days before Easter
Duration: 4 days
The Carnaval do Brasil is the party of parties. For 4 whole days, the country concentrates solely on the non-stop massive celebration that takes place in Brazil’s largest city, Rio de Janeiro. There is truly nothing like it: 2 million people participate in it every year, attracting a high number of visitors from all over the world.
The carnival consist of parades, dances, floats, costumes, dance competitions, drinking, singing and overall over-the-top celebrating. With its roots in Italy, the carnival starts before Lent – a time of repenting before Easter in the Catholic tradition. The carnival has been shaped to what it is nowadays thanks to Brazil’s rich multicultural background; a mix of South European and African cultures.
No one to go with? Party with a crew of travellers on this 6-day tour.
Festival de la Candelaria
Where: Bolivia and Peru
When: 2nd of February
Duration: 2 weeks
Most countries in South America have a patron Virgin Mary representation, and The Virgin of Candelaria is Peru and Bolivia’s one. To honour her, both countries host endless parades, processions, folklore dancing, ornate costumes, masks, mouth-watering food, drinks and more.
The carnival takes place in the shores of Lake Titicaca, a deep, beautiful lake located 3,812 mt over sea level in an Altiplano basin high in the Andes, on the border of Peru and Bolivia. As both countries share the lake, celebrations take place on both sides: Puno in Peru and Copacabana in Bolivia. The festival is enticing on both sides of the lake, featuring the more party-focused Puno and the more village-turn-to-life Copacabana.
Where: Cusco, Peru
When: 24th of June
Every June, Cusco celebrates the most famous indigenous festival in South America and the country’s biggest cultural event: the Inti Raymi, or Festival of the Sun.
In Incan culture, Inti was one of the most powerful and revered gods, who should be honoured with animal sacrifices, processions, folk dances, festivities, barbecues, street parties and opulent meals.
The festival’s date, the winter solstice, comes from the belief that when the sun was the farthest away from the earth, it needed to be ‘brought back’ with celebration. It also marks the start of the Incan New Year. Even though Inti Raymi is celebrated in the whole ancient ruin site of Sacsayhuamán, the centre of the celebration is still held in Cusco, where a pair of llamas is sacrificed.
Want some party buddies? Take this 8-day tour and fit in an Inca Trail trek while you’re at it.
Where: Buenos Aires, Argentina
When: Last two weeks of August
Tango is Argentina’s National Dance, a combination of passionate and mesmerising movements derived from the Spanish Flamenco. Even though if you visit Buenos Aires you might easily catch a glimpse of the dance, the World Tango Championships is certainly an enticing, not-to-be-missed event. The capital city hosts hundreds of dance events and stages that bring the best tango dancers to town, not just locals, from from all over the world.
An experience you won’t forget
Any trip to South America will be an unforgettable one. Beautiful landscapes, delicious food (and a lot of it), and rich cultures make this continent great for an adventure. But if you want to make it even more appealing, plan your trip around one of these festivals. It’ll be an experience you won’t forget.
About the Author Joe Olds:
Joe’s unquenchable thirst to see the world has taken him to North & Central America, across Asia, through Europe and around Oceania. Flying his British nest to travel, Joe has ended up in Melbourne, Australia, where he can be found pursuing his love of travel in the marketing team at G Adventures.