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Carnival in Latin America and other popular must-see celebrations
Latin America is one of the most diverse, multiethnic and culturally rich places on Earth. The mixture of pre-Columbian cultures, colonial and modern societies have turned it into one of the most appealing tourist destinations worldwide.
All of this mix of traditions and cultures have also brought some incredible and unique celebrations that can´t be seen in any other region in the world.
So before you are set to travel to the other end of the world to embark on the adventure of a lifetime, you should find out a bit more about some of the most colourful and richest celebrations they host and mark it on your schedule and make some plans to be a part of them while visiting these countries!
Carnival in Latin America
Carnival or “Carnaval” in Spanish and Portuguese is a four-day religious celebration (from Saturday to Tuesday) prior to Lent in February and with big cultural significance. It’s held in almost every South American country such as Argentina, Brazil, Peru, Uruguay and Bolivia and combines a lot of dancing, music and vibrant energy.
It certainly has its own twist in each country but they all carry the same vibe and upbeat energy!
However, if you could only join one Carnival celebration in Latin America, the one in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil is the one to see as no one does it quite like Rio!!
This is by far the ultimate party and the world’s most famous one!
Its the most visited event in South America every year and it gets filled with over 2,000,000 people from all over the globe!!!
It’s a time of joy and celebration; it’s basically the best time for dancing, singing, partying and having huge amounts of fun. Parties take place all over Rio: in the streets, clubs, bars and beaches, and it all ends with the Rio Parade where you will be able to see about 200 samba schools competing for first place!
Get ready to witness some unbelievable dance moves, costumes, and nonstop music and partying!
Rio is an amazing place to visit by itself but combining it with the Carnival makes for an out of this world experience!
Inti Raymi (Festival of the Sun), Peru
Mark your calendars, June 24h in Cuzco is a must! Every year this city celebrates the Inti Raymi, the most famous pre-Columbian festival, also known as the Inca festival of the Sun.
And they do it with processions that go all over the city, accompanied with vibrant music, dancing, flowers, people sweeping away evil spirits and many other unique surprises!
The Sun was the Inca’s most revered God and since 1400 this festival has been runnnig to honor him by sacrificing animals in his name. Nowadays there are no longer sacrifices made although there’s an actor chosen to portray the Sopa Inca (Emperor) and the whole ceremony ends with a simulation of a llama Sacrifice at the hilltop of Sacsayhuaman where the main events take place.
Nowadays a huge number of street parties, dances, processions and fiestas are held in and around Cusco during the last week of June, turning this into the country’s most popular cultural event.
Day of the Dead, Mexico.
Yes, you read it correctly, the Day of the Dead! Mexico’s most characteristic fiesta is the wonderfully macabre “Dia de los Muertos” which takes place on November 1st and 2nd encompassing two celebrations: All Saint’s Day (to honour people who died as children), and All Souls Day (to honour souls who died in adulthood.
I know it seems a bit ghoulish and morbid but it’s absolutely the opposite. It’s quite a natural celebration and the mood is lively and upbeat! It’s actually quite hard to find a more colourful and happy festival in Latin America!
So, expect to see people gathering at the cemeteries bringing candles, bread of the dead, beer, tequila, things to decorate the graves, burning incense and a lot of food for the dead!
Holy Week in Antigua, Guatemala
Easter celebration is HUGE in Latin America and every country celebrates it with a different twist, just like what happens with the carnival! In Guatemala, for instance, they have a week-long event in the colonial city of Antigua featuring processions, carpet making and candlelight vigils.
During the week you will see locals adorning floats with flowers and sculptures of Christ on the Cross, and laying beautiful carpets made of sawdust on the streets, covered in pine needles, fruits and vegetables!
On Friday the celebrations peak when the streets get filled with spectators, live music and costumes!
Wine Harvest Festival in Mendoza, Argentina
Argentinian Malbec wine is one of the best there is, so just travelling to Mendoza where it comes from and enjoying its taste surrounded by the mountains is a beautiful trip in itself…. but if you manage to travel the first weekend of March and join the Wine Harvest Festival, even better!
Harvest is a reason to celebrate so you can get ready for singing, parades, concerts and a carnival-like atmosphere that ends with an open-air show with music, dancing and fireworks!
It all ends with the selection of the Harvest Queen of the year!
If these destinations and popular celebrations are appealing to you, please mark them on your calendars and start planning your trip to Latin America! There are lots of amazing destinations, communities, wildlife and opportunities waiting for you!