When is it?
Carnival is usually celebrated in February and is the week before Lent. Its roots lie in the Catholic faith, which was brought over from Spain during colonization. Today, it is one of the most celebrated holidays in all of Peru and throughout Latin America. It has become a time of drinking, eating, and partying.
Where should you go?
Carnival is celebrated all over Peru, but there are some cities where it is especially popular, drawing people from all over the country as well as from all around the world. The cities mentioned here will require advance booking and planning in order to beat the crowds and find somewhere to stay. Expect most accommodations in these cities to raise their prices during carnival.
Cusco may have the most unique carnival celebration in all of Peru. It is a unique city that is a mix of Andean and Catholic traditions, and this will become apparent when you watch the parades and see the unique dress and the dance that take place.
Cajamarca is known around Peru as the best place to celebrate carnival. They have a massive Plaza de Armas, which is perfect for a large gathering of people. You’ll find the streets decorated, and people everywhere wearing costumes and masks. The normally sleepy Andean town comes to life this month to throw the best party of the year.
As the capital of Peru, there is sure to be a lot going on in Lima during carnival. The city is too big to have a centralized party, and instead, you’ll find neighborhood parties all over the city, with people everywhere joining in on the carnival traditions.
How do Peruvians celebrate?
Peru has many different and unique ways of celebrating one of their biggest parties of the year. Some of the traditions won’t be found anywhere else in Latin America, making a Peruvian carnival a unique experience.
Water ballooning not just your friends, but everyone you see, is common practice. Small armies of kids armed with huge numbers of water balloons will be seen throughout cities, chucking water balloons at unsuspecting bystanders. The intense heat of a Peruvian summer means that the barrage of water balloons is welcomed by most people.
The person in charge of your carnival party will plant a tree that is decorated with presents and ornaments, similar to a Christmas tree, but with prizes on it. Everyone hangs around the tree until all the guests have arrived, and will then begin the chopping. Taking an axe or machete, couples will take turns hacking at the tree until it is brought down. The couple that knocks down the tree will then throw next year’s party.