Hilary Bradt tells us about her personal favourites from 20 years of introducing trekkers to Cusco.Read more...
Peru - Calendar
August is the best time to trek the world-famous Inca Trail © J Duggan, Shutterstock
Fiesta de la Santa Tierra
The main festival on Isla Amantani on Lake Titicaca, where half the population celebrate at the temple of Pachamama and half at the temple of Pachatata, symbolising the islanders’ ancient dualistic belief system.
The Dance of the Demons
More than 200 musicians and dance troupes congregate in Puno for the Fiesta de la Virgen de la Candelaria. Especially thrilling is the Dance of the Demons, La Diablada, which involves a struggle between elaborately costumed angels and grotesque devils where dancers in wild costumes and masks blow panpipes and make offerings to Pachamama.
Semana Santa in Ayacucho
A week of celebrations ahead of Easter, involving the entire town and featuring handsome and spectacularly reverent processions that, after Good Friday, give way to several days of drinking and revelry in the belief that there is no such thing as sin until Easter Sunday, when the religious rites begin and again and culminate in music and fireworks.
Peruvian Paso Horse Festival
The Peruvian Paso, one of the world’s most beautiful breeds, famous for their unique and elegant gait, is celebrated in Pachacamac with an annual festival involving horses in elaborate tack and riders in traditional garb, who compete in both ridden and hand competitions.
A massive pilgrimage connected to the fertility of the land and the worship of apus, the spirits of the mountains, sees 10,000 pilgrims congregate at the foot of Mount Ausangate and culminates with people climbing to the snowline accompanied by mythical dancers, ukukus, in full bear costume in order to find the Snow Star that is reputedly buried within the mountain.
The Inca ritual of Inti Raymi
Witness one of the greatest pageants in South America, which celebrates the winter solstice and honours the Inca sun god, with a cast of thousands taking over Cusco and transforming the Sacsayhuaman ruins overlooking the city into a wonderful stage.
The Virgen del Carmen
Three days of dance, drinking, revelry and outlandish, scary costumes, representing a fusion of Andean pre-Columbian culture and Catholicism, are best witnessed in Paucartambo, where they re-enact historical events and folktales.
The Inca Trail
One of the best-known walks in the world and justifiably famous, the Inca Trail is best trekked at the end of the high season as crowds begin to diminish but conditions remain ideal. Alternative routes to Machu Picchu or Inca treks to other archaeological sites are equally good over this shoulder period as well.
Surfing in Mancora
Conditions on the coast are at their best at this time of year, especially in the north, where the water is warmer and there are a succession of big waves, left-hand breaks and some perfect barrels outside this one-time tiny fishing village.
El Señor de los Milagros
The largest procession in South America involves tens of thousands of participants dressed in purple coming together for a highly religious gathering in Lima in order to venerate a miraculous painting of Christ that survived a devastating earthquake in 1746 and is now taken on a 24-hour procession around the city.
The fiesta capital of the country celebrates its Amerindian roots over a week, starting with a huge procession from Lake Titicaca into town recalling the legend of the first Inca who arose from the lake to establish the empire. Day of the Dead early in the week is an especially joyous celebration with picnics in cemeteries.
The Santuranticuy Fair
One of the largest arts and crafts fairs in Peru, held in Cusco's Plaza de Armas, where artisans lay out blankets around the square and sell figurines and nativity scenes as well as ceramics, carvings, pottery and retablos. Try the traditional hot rum punch called ponche too.