The Best Festivals in Latin America

To visit a traditional Latin festival during your visit to South America, is an unforgettable experience during any trip to the continent. There’s certainly no doubting the global appeal of Latin America’s best-known carnivals, festivals and cultural get-togethers, celebrating everything from colonial liberation to local dance styles, film, photography, cultural heritage and much more in between, making the perfect addition to your adventure travel experience.

Top of the list for visiting travellers is usually the February ‘Carnaval’ season in Rio de Janeiro, though equally epic versions of these daily festivals can be found in Salvador da Bahia, São Paulo and indeed all over Brazil. With its world-famous samba beats, elaborate outfits, dancing and seemingly endless floats, Carnaval in Rio de Janeiro is as authentic for native Brazilians as it is an unforgettable spectacle in the eyes of tourists.

There is, however, far more to this continent’s cultural gatherings, with the ‘Day of the Dead’ festival – as featured in Daniel Craig’s James Bond classic – most commonly associated with Mexico in November, though can in fact be found throughout South America in various forms. There’s Inti Raymi – the Festival of the Sun for anyone who finds themselves wandering the streets of Cusco, Peru, in June, or even the world Tango Championships which fill the halls of Buenos Aires, naturally! Festival de la Candelaria livens up the neighbourhoods of Bolivia, Chile, Uruguay and Venezuela on 2nd February each year, while a slightly more sedate affair can be found at the annual Montezuma Film Festival in Costa Rica. So, with all of these famous events – and more – filling the calendar, we take a look at a few of the highlights you may wish to have in mind while planning your trip to Latin America.

Tapati Festival on Easter Island

The Tapati Festival on Easter Island, literally translating as ‘Rapa Nui Week’ (the island’s native name), is unlike anything else to be found in Chile, and maybe even South America more widely! Here, on the gentle slopes of an extinguished volcano, you will begin to find scantily clad locals brandishing traditional spears, face paints, headpieces and jewellery designed to reflect the ancient, bygone age of Rapa Nui culture. This is then celebrated through a series of daytime and evening events, competitions and pageants, from horseracing to canoeing, fireside dances and even a Queen of Tapati beauty pageant. What’s more, is that as welcome guests to this annual spectacle every February, all you need to do is sit back, grab a drink and enjoy the show!

Viña del Mar International Song Festival

Then, for something a little more contemporary, head to the coast of mainland Chile and the Viña del Mar International Song Festival. This annual event attracts artists and fans the world over, making it not only one of the most important events of the Chilean calendar but also a must-see for anyone visiting the country at this time of year. Celebrating a mix of local and Spanish musicians as well as its share of globally renowned names, the Viña del Mar International Song Festival breathes life into any trip to Chile.

Semana Santa in Peru, Chile, Ecuador, Colombia, Brazil… To Name a Few!

The holy week of Easter, as celebrated during the week-long Semana Santa Festival, is extremely important across much of Catholic Latin America. As much a pilgrimage as a festival, Semana Santa is awash with religious get-togethers, prayer meetings, colourful street processions and special meals, with each country taking up its own particular traditions and way of paying homage. In Peru for example, processions take a pre-determined route around Cusco which finish at the city’s famous cathedral – acknowledgement of its survival during a seismic 17th-century earthquake, while in the Colombian ‘White City’ of Popayan, local and traditional art is celebrated as much as religion during this time. In Ecuador and Argentina people will typically head to the coast for large family get-togethers and endless feasts of symbolic foods, while Venezuelans burn effigies and Guatemalans take a much more sombre approach to proceedings with their low-key marches through the painted cobbled streets of rural villages, marking something closer to the Spanish tradition. Wherever you are during your adventure trip to South America, be sure to partake in or at least observe the Semana Santa Festival, for a truly authentic slice of Latin American life.


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