Numerous festivals and events take place in Cusco each year, ranging from religious processions and pilgrimages to festive markets and ritual battles. As one of the cultural hubs of Peru, Cusco is also a good place to be for nationwide events such as Independence Day and other national holidays.
The following month-by-month schedule highlights all of the main festivals in both the city of Cusco and the wider Cusco region. Some dates may vary from year to year.
- For annual festivals and events throughout Peru, see Peru Month by Month.
- Adoración de Reyes Magos (Epiphany), January 6 -- The Christian festival of Epiphany is celebrated to varying extents throughout Peru, where it is known as the Adoración de Reyes Magos (“Adoration of The Magi,” the Three Wise Men). A major folkloric and religious festival takes place in Ollantaytambo, about 37 miles from the city of Cusco.
- Chiaraje, January 20 -- Chiaraje is a ritual battle held each year in the Canas province of the Cusco region. The battle, called a pucllay, is part of a fertility ritual honoring and revitalizing Pachamama (Mother Earth).
- Carnival -- February is carnival time in Peru, and Cusqueños (residents of Cusco) join in with the rest of the country, dancing round the yunsa tree and throwing water at passers-by. Carnival events take place throughout the month, as do the water-related high jinks (keep your camera in a waterproof bag).
- Luchas de Toqto, February 2 -- Another ritual battle, the three-day Toqto is fought between communities in the provinces of Canas and Chumbivilcas.
- Semana Santa (Holy Week), March and/or April -- Cusco is a good place to spend Holy Week (the last week of Lent and the week leading up to, but not including, Easter Day). Religious parades and festivals take place across Peru, but Semana Santa is particularly impressive in the former Inca capital.
- Señor de los Temblores, Easter Monday (March or April) -- One of the main events of Holy Week in Cusco is the procession of El Señor de los Temblores. On Easter Monday, devotees carry the image of El Señor de los Temblores (“The Lord of the Earthquakes”) through the streets of Cusco to the Plaza de Armas, watched by vast crowds from across the country.
- Semana Santa (Holy Week), March and/or April -- see March.
- Señor de los Temblores, Easter Monday (March or April) -- see March.
- Cruz Velacuy, early May (dates may vary) -- Cruz Velacuy is Cusco’s version of the Fiesta de las Cruces (Festival of the Crosses), a primarily Andean tradition that honors the holy cross. The cross carrying festival normally takes place on May 3.
- Señor de Torrechayoc, Dates Vary -- The Señor de Torrechayoc festival pays homage to a miraculous crucifix located in the town of Urubamba in the Sacred Valley. The cross is carried through the streets during May. Related festivities include traditional music, regional dances and fireworks, as well as bullfighting and cockfighting competitions.
- Corpus Christi, May/June -- Corpus Christi (a moveable feast) is celebrated throughout Peru, but the main festival takes place in Cusco. The faithful carry images of saints in procession through the streets to the main cathedral in Cusco, where they are placed for an overnight vigil.
- Qoyllority, May/June -- The Qoyllority (or Qoyllur Rit'i) is an annual pilgrimage to the mountain sanctuary of Sinakara, located in the Ocongate district of the Cusco region. The pilgrimage, which incorporates elements of both pre-Columbian and Catholic religious beliefs, takes place in the days before Corpus Christi.
- Corpus Christi, May/June -- see May.
- Qoyllority, May/June -- see May.
- Festival Folklórico de Raqchi, third Sunday of June -- The Festival Folklórico de Raqchi is an annual music, song and dance exhibition at the Inca archaeological site of Raqchi (Raqch’i, or the Temple of Wiracocha) in the Canchis province of Cusco. Performers from communities throughout the Cusco region take part in the colorful event.
- Inti Raymi, June 24 -- Inti Raymi, the “Festival of the Sun,” was one of the key ceremonies of the Inca Empire and remains a major event on the Peruvian calendar. The main celebrations take place in Cusco, where vast crowds gather to watch the re-enactment of the ceremony at the Sacsayhuamán archaeological site. Tickets for the main event are available through the Empresa Municipal de Festejos del Cusco (EMUFEC); prices start at about US$90 for adults. While Cusco celebrates Inti Raymi, the jungle regions of Peru celebrate the Festival of San Juan.
- Virgen del Carmen, July 15 and 16 (central days) -- The Fiesta de la Virgen del Carmen is an annual religious procession held in various regions of Peru. The festival is particularly famous in Paucartambo, near Cusco, where it is known as Mamacha Carmen. The Paucartambo festivities last for five days, with colorful and impressively athletic dance troupes accompanying the image of the Virgin through the streets.
- Festival de Apóstol Santiago, July 25 -- The Festival de Apóstol Santiago, or Corpus de Santiago, is celebrated each year in the Plaza de Santiago in Cusco. Colorful dances and regional cuisine accompany the religious mass.
- Fiestas de Quillabamba, July 25 to 29 -- The Fiestas de Quillabamba mark the anniversary of La Convención, the largest of the 13 provinces in the Cusco region. The main festivities, which include music festivals, beauty pageants, motocross and cockfighting competitions, take place in the small town of Quillabamba, the capital of La Convención.
- Independence Day (Fiestas Patrias), July 28 and 29 (national holidays).
- Día de la Pachamama, August 1 -- Andean communities celebrate Día de la Pachamama (Mother Earth Day) on August 1, taking part in pago a la tierra (“payment to the earth”) ceremonies in which traditional items such as coca leaves, huayruro seeds and chicha de jora are offered to Pachamama.
- Nuestra Señora de las Nieves, August 5 -- A religious festival in honor of “Our Lady of the Snows,” featuring cultural exhibitions, gastronomic fairs, folk dances, processions and, in some regions, bullfights.
- Warachikuy, August (dates vary, sometimes occurs in September) -- The Warachikuy festival dates back to Inca times. The festival was an important initiation ceremony in which young Inca males earned their first wara (breechcloth) by successfully completing a series of tests. If completed, the youth would prove his maturity, earning the right to marry and partake in battle. Today’s Warachikuy is a colorful reenactment of the Inca rite of passage.
- Señor de Huanca, September 14 -- Each year, thousands of devotees from across Peru and neighboring countries come to Cusco for the Señor de Huanca pilgrimage. The faithful hike from Cusco to the Sanctuary of the Señor de Huanca (a trek of four to six hours) to receive their blessings and gaze upon the centuries-old image of the Señor de Huanca painted on the rock walls of the shrine.
- Semana Turística del Cusco -- Cusco’s tourism week takes place in October, with a packed schedule of events designed to celebrate and promote all that the city (and the region) has to offer.
- Día de Todos los Santos (All Saints’ Day) and Día de los Difuntos (All Souls’ Day), November 1 and 2 -- All Saints’ and All Souls’ (Day of the Dead) are celebrated throughout Peru. Cusco is a good place to spend both days, watching on as the locals pay homage to the dead before tucking in to family feasts of lechón (roast suckling pig) and tanta wawa (a traditional Peruvian bread baked to resemble a doll or infant).
- Inmaculada Concepción, December 8 -- Peruvians celebrate the Immaculate Conception of the Virgin Mary (Inmaculada Concepción or Dia de la Purísima Concepción) on December 8, a national holiday in Peru. Expect street parades across the country, Cusco included.
- Santuranticuy, December 24 -- Christmas Eve is the time for Santuranticuy, a traditional market held in Cusco’s Plaza de Armas. Artisans from across the region gather in Cusco’s main square, where they sell handcrafted images of the nativity and related religious representations.
- Christmas -- Cusco is one of the best places to spend Christmas in Peru. December 24 is the liveliest day, building up to the midnight festivities of Noche Buena. December 25 tends to be a sleepy affair, but the Christmas spirit keeps on going until the Bajada de los Reyes (Adoración de Reyes Magos/Epiphany) on January 6.