One of the most spectacular annual festivals in Peru, and in South America in general, is the festival held each February in honor of Puno’s patron saint, the Virgin de Candelaria. In a stunning display of faith and devotion, the city embarks on a vibrant display of costume, music, and dance, showing off some of the hundreds of different classified dances which have earned the city a reputation as the Folkloric Capital of Peru. This year, 164 officially registered dance groups will take part in the festivities- an estimated 40 thousand dancers, 5 thousand musicians, and an astonishing 25 thousand indirect participants (from embroiderers to artisans specializing in masks, boots, bells and others necessary artisan goods).
Dancers will move the rhythm of musicians hailing not only from the Puno region, but also from Japan and North America. These international musicians return to join in the celebrations year after year, playing their Andean panpipes (zampoñas) and other instruments alongside the Sikuris of the altiplano.
On the day before the main day of the two week festival (February 2nd), devotees process with the Virgen of Candelaria statue, transferring it to the Puno Cathedral from its home church. The main procession will take place the following day, on the 2nd, as vibrantly costumed dancers and musicians descend upon Puno from the countryside in order to dance for the Virgen.
Sunday, February 3rd
The festival’s popular Indigenous Dance Contest will take place at the Enrique Torres Bellón Stadium and will showcase the pre-Columbian Incan and Aymara-based dance and music traditions of Lake Titicaca and the Peruvian altiplano. Among the many pre-Columbian dances with Aymara and Quechua roots that one can expect to see are the Cahuiris, which honors of the god of thunder, and the Llullmitha, where dancers in dragging dresses engage in moves representing the sowing of fields. After the contest, the 80 participating troupes of indigenous dancers and musicians show off their moves and costumes in a spectaculare parade along the city’s main streets. They will begin at the intersection of Floral and Bolívar Avenues, dancing along the Puno’s main street, Avenida La Torre, before continuing along Jr. Deza, Jr. Lima, and up Jr. Puno into the main square.
Sunday, February 10th
The mestizo dance competition will highlight 84 groups performing colonial and republican era dances, such as the famous diablada (devil’s dance) and the morenada (black dance), which has roots in the black slave community. Another popular and evocative dance is the Republican Pandilla Puneña, where dancers perform dressed as the archetypal Andean woman, in voluminous petticoats, bowler hats, shawls, high-head boots, and braids.
High Hopes for the 2013 Festival
Expectations for this year are high: according to local Trade and Commerce director Juan Pedro Fredes, more than 34,000 domestic and international tourists are predicted to attend- an attendance of several thousand more than last year. The movement of so many performers and attendees means an economic boon of 17,500,000 soles the mainly rural region.
According to Fredes, 90% of Puno’s hotel and hostel rooms are already reserved! However, we do still have availability in Pirwa Puno Backpackers Hostel, located in central Puno, about a 15 minute walk from Lake Titicaca harbor. Those of you needing assistance or advice regarding transportation to and from Puno, or excursions around the city, Lake Titicaca, and the famous Floating Islands of Uros can feel free to contact our travel agency department at firstname.lastname@example.org for help.
If you had a chance to read our earlier post, you know that we’re looking at some of Peru’s lesser-known wonders. Peru has so much more to offer than just Machu Picchu, Lake Titicaca, the Nazca Lines, and Colca Canyon. They’re not in any particular order, but if you can manage #1, you’ll definitely feel like Indiana Jones…
#3 Lord of Sipan
The Lord of Sipan was an important leader of the Moche civilization, which ruled along the Peruvian coast several centuries ago. Luckily, his pyramid tomb located near Chiclayo was never raided, remaining undiscovered for 1600 years, until the 1980s. Fully intact, it contained various mummies which researchers believe to include the Lord’s wife, concubines, a military commander, banner holder, watchman and child. Also found were 400 elaborate carved necklaces, earrings, and masks of gold, silver, and precious stones, as well as ceremonial items and other relics. From his gigantic half-golden, half-silver necklace representing the sun and moon to a spider necklace with human head in the middle, the pieces provide priceless insight into the Moche. A special museum was constructed to house the treasures of the Lord of Sipan (including 2000 gold pieces), and in 2012 received more visitors than any other museum in Peru.
# 2 The Canyon of Wonders
The world’s deepest canyon, Cotahuasi Canyon outside of Arequipa, Peru, is often referred to as “The Canyon of Wonders”. Over centuries, the force of the mighty Cotahuasi River carved out this canyon between the enormous Coropuna and Solimana Massifs. From the cold desert summits to the subtropical river floor, the eponymous reserve spans 12 distinct ecosystems boasting stunning landscapes which nurture traditional Andean communities and native plants such as coca and kiwicha. Aside from appreciating the striking views and pre-Incan and Incan terracing, visiters can enjoy some of the most challenging and exciting white-water rafting in Peru, hike, mountaineer, or paraglide.
Along the banks of the Utcubamba River in the Amazonas province, one finds a fortress dating back more than a millennia, to the most advanced civilization of the Peruvian jungle, the Chachapoyas (also known as the Cloud Forest People). Quelap Fortress took around 200 years to build, covers 14 acres, and (thanks to walls raising 20 meters high protecting 400 buildings and a castle) contains more material than the Egyptian pyramid of Keops. It was an important center from 800 AD until its abandonment after the Spanish conquest in the 1500s (it had retained its status after the 1452 Inca conquest). Despite its astounding engineering, wall friezes unlike any other in South America (evoking eyes and birds), and lush surroundings, Quelap is overlooked by many travelers following the main tourist routes.
For more information about any of the sights mentioned on the blog, or other travel aspects for your trip through Peru or Bolivia, contact the specialists of Pirwa Travel Service at email@example.com and they’ll be pleased to help you with your questions or requests.
Peru has such an overwhelming wealth of natural, cultural, and historical richness that merely working out your itinerary must-sees can be a challenge. Some, such as the Nazca Lines and Machu Picchu, have become so iconic that they require no mention. Others you may not have heard about yet. In no particular order, this is a list of some of our favorite overlooked Peruvian wonders.
#7 An ancient city older than the Egyptian pyramids…
The first civilizations arose thousands of years ago in Mesopotamia, India, Egypt, China, Central America…. and Peru. You’ll find one of the world’s oldest cities two hours north of Lima: the Sacred City of Caral, whose discovery was one of the 20th century’s most stunning archeological finds. Its structures of stone and clay predate the Egyptian pyramids and mark the birth of civilization in the New World. (Although there are possibly more ancient settlements in its vicinity, Caral was region’s the cultural center.) Although still under excavation, Caral has been open to tourism since 2006
#6 Playful Penguins…
Many travelers are surprised to learn that they can watch boisterous sea lion and penguin colonies off of southern Peru’s desert coast. Once can find Paracas Reserve (whose name means raining sand in Quechua) and the Ballestas Islands along Paracas Bay, located south of Lima. Despite the bay’s location in the middle of one of the driest deserts in the world, it boasts a great diversity of sea birds and marine life, thanks to the cold Humboldt current (which gives the penguins which live there their name.
#5 A Fortress of Giant Stones
Sacsayhuaman Fortress, on the outskirts of Cusco, is the number one must-see sight in the former Imperial City of the Incas. Its stones astound for their size- some equal to that of a small truck- and the precise placement that allows them to fit perfectly together and survive the passage of time and seismic activity without any mortar. It is often said that the stone’s jutting corners and sides fit together so perfectly that no blade of grass or sheet of paper could pass between them. Among the zig-zagging walls of the fortress, decisive battles played out between the Incas and the Spaniards.
#4 A Bio-Diversity Icon
Manu National Park and Biosphere Reserve in Peru’s Amazon basin is perhaps the most bio-diverse region in the world (the only serious challenger for the title is Bolivia’s Madidi National Park). The park protects 15% of the world’s bird species, thousands of plant species and hundreds of animal species- some of whichare quite endangered and some of which can be found nowhere else- and indigenous communities. Manu’s rainforest of giant trees, dense canopy, and rushing rivers boast a great variety of tropical birds, monkeys and tapirs, caiman, and the incredible and very rare jaguar sighting.
It’s finally here- We’ve got new lights, dj and soundsystem, have stocked up on drinks (and a drinking tube…) and everything else we need to throw what we think will be our best New Year’s party ever!
It all starts at 9pm and will continue on through to the morning- no cover, and no outrageously high drink prices as happens in other locals on New Years. Stop by any of our Cusco hostel receptions for details, directions, and a bracelet for entry- we hope to see you there!!