How Holy Week Became Guatemala's Most Famous Festival

Cucuruchos in Antigua, Guatemala
Cucuruchos in Antigua, Guatemala | © Marina Kuperman Villatoro / Flickr
Jack Guy

The story of Holy Week celebrations in Guatemala begins with the arrival of the Spanish in 1524, and continues to this day.

Alfombra during Holy Week in Antigua, Guatemala

A tradition brought over from Spain

With the Spanish came Catholicism, and the belief system was quickly imposed on the local Maya. Today this continues, with Antigua, Guatemala the centre for celebrations. In this small colonial town, there are more than 50 activities over a 40-day period leading up to Easter Sunday.

Over the course of that period, there are a number of processions involving huge floats carried by devotees. These parades are accompanied by funeral bands, and the atmosphere is incredible. At the same time, local residents spend hours setting up intricate “alfombras,” or carpets, made from brightly-coloured sawdust. The floats then pass over the “alfombras,” consigning them to history until next year.

Huge floats draw the crowds

It’s an incredible sight to see, and one that has grown in popularity throughout history. Previously it was only religious groups known as “cofradías” that took part, but these days anyone can get involved. For a small fee, devotees known as “cucuruchos” can take a turn carrying the floats, some of which are as long as buses.

As the processions have grown in size and grandeur, so has the number of people coming to watch them. In 2017 an estimated 1.2 million people came to Antigua to see the processions, bringing in huge amounts of money for the local economy.

Street scene in Antigua Guatemala during Holy Week

Book ahead to make the most of it

The processions are now so popular that Antigua is counted alongside Seville and Madrid as one of the best places in the world to spend Holy Week.

If you want to attend, you’ll have to be very organized. Accommodation can be booked out around a year in advance, and prices also rise as property owners take advantage of increased demand. Be organized, and you’ll really enjoy yourself.

landscape with balloons floating in the air

KEEN TO EXPLORE THE WORLD?

Connect with like-minded people on our premium trips curated by local insiders and with care for the world

Since you are here, we would like to share our vision for the future of travel - and the direction Culture Trip is moving in.

Culture Trip launched in 2011 with a simple yet passionate mission: to inspire people to go beyond their boundaries and experience what makes a place, its people and its culture special and meaningful — and this is still in our DNA today. We are proud that, for more than a decade, millions like you have trusted our award-winning recommendations by people who deeply understand what makes certain places and communities so special.

Increasingly we believe the world needs more meaningful, real-life connections between curious travellers keen to explore the world in a more responsible way. That is why we have intensively curated a collection of premium small-group trips as an invitation to meet and connect with new, like-minded people for once-in-a-lifetime experiences in three categories: Culture Trips, Rail Trips and Private Trips. Our Trips are suitable for both solo travelers, couples and friends who want to explore the world together.

Culture Trips are deeply immersive 5 to 16 days itineraries, that combine authentic local experiences, exciting activities and 4-5* accommodation to look forward to at the end of each day. Our Rail Trips are our most planet-friendly itineraries that invite you to take the scenic route, relax whilst getting under the skin of a destination. Our Private Trips are fully tailored itineraries, curated by our Travel Experts specifically for you, your friends or your family.

We know that many of you worry about the environmental impact of travel and are looking for ways of expanding horizons in ways that do minimal harm - and may even bring benefits. We are committed to go as far as possible in curating our trips with care for the planet. That is why all of our trips are flightless in destination, fully carbon offset - and we have ambitious plans to be net zero in the very near future.

Winter Sale Offers on Our Trips

Incredible Savings

X
Edit article