Within the vast continent of South America, there is a great diversity in each country’s religious and cultural make-up. Shared holidays such as New Year and Easter can be celebrated very differently from country to country, and the many different indigenous groups add their own traditions into the festive calendar. Whether religious or secular, travellers are always welcome to join in the celebrations, and festivals are the perfect opportunity to learn a little more about the country that you are visiting.
The largest and most renowned festival in South America has to be the Rio Carnival, held every year before Lent, when hundreds of samba dancers from different schools compete with their amazing costumes and colourful floats to see who will be crowned the year’s best samba school. Out in the streets there are daily parades, dances and parties. Carnival is also celebrated in other countries around the continent, such as Brazil’s neighbours of Argentina and Uruguay, but the world’s second biggest carnival is in Barranquilla, Colombia, where the area’s Spanish, African and Indian traditions blend to create a celebration of huge religious and ethnic diversity. The indigenous festival of Inti Raymi, or the ‘Festival of the Sun’, celebrated over the summer solstice in Peru and Ecuador, is one of the region’s other major festivities. In Peru, the festival takes over Cusco, with thousands of people travelling from all over South America for a week-long celebration. The centrepiece is the all-day celebration on June 24th, when a colourful procession takes place from the Cusco to the ancient fortress of Sacsayhuaman, in the hills above the city. The Cusqueños recreate an ancient Inca ceremony, revering Pachamama (Mother Earth) and praying for a good harvest season.