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Lake Titicaca, home to Peru’s largest festival

Every February, thousands of brightly-costumed dancers fill the streets of Puno, the regional capital, for the Festivity of the Virgin of the Candelaria.
The spectacular display of Andean traditions has its roots in the Spanish conquest and occupation.

The area around Lake Titicaca is often viewed as the heart of Peru’s folkloric customs. Dozens of traditional festivals take place in the towns and villages around the lake throughout the year. And none is larger — or more spectacular — than the Festivity of the Virgin of the Candelaria (or Candlemas, as it is known in English). Taking place during the first half of February, the festival is the third largest in South America, after the Rio Carnival and Bolivia’s Carnival of Oruro.


With a distinctly religious tone and rooted in the syncretic practices of the local indigenous Aymara and Quechua communities, the festival honors the Virgen de la Candelaria, the patron saint of Puno, and is intended to thank her for the blessings and miracles that have taken place during the previous 12 months. As many as 45,000 dancers and 5,000 musicians of all ages and both sexes take part, dressed in brightly-colored, glittering costumes that represent their different communities and depict characters from Andean cosmology.


The elaborate costumes typically take months to make and consume a large portion of family budgets. In total, there are more than 200 distinct dances. The festival has become so big that it indirectly employs as many as 25,000 local people, including embroiderers and the makers of masks.


In 2014, UNESCO designated the Festival as part of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity. Although it has attracted a growing number of foreign visitors in recent years, the festival remains an authentic and unspoiled expression of Puno’s culture with locals far outnumbering outsiders, who are nevertheless given a warm welcome.


To see the Festival de la Candelaria with the Peru Empire Company, as part of your unique, individually tailored Peru itinerary, contact us at travel@pec.pe or on +51-1-700-5100 or, if you are in the US, 347-713-7030/34.


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