From the wild excesses of Carnival to the soberness of the Day of the Dead the fiesta’s of Latin America are both moving, euphoric, entertaining and cultural events. You’ll get to wriggle your hips, pay homage to old traditions, watch films, take in some great music and even freeze on a glacier during these festivities.
- Carnival, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
For the ultimate party head to Rio where the King of the Carnival festivals takes place. The Carnival is a wild four-day celebration prior to Lent, which has a religious and cultural significance. Essentially though it’s a time of euphoria where people dance, sing, party and have lots of fun. Some parties last all day and night and they take place everywhere in the streets and squares, bars, clubs and take over the entire city culminating in the Rio Carnival Parade. It’s easy to join in, get a samba costume, learn the moves and swing your hips.
- Semana Santa
Holy week is the most important religious festival in South America and takes place everywhere although the most famous week-long celebrations are in Peru, Chile and Colombia. Semana Santa is observed with a range of celebrations from the most solemnly religious to the pagan/Catholic and even the commercial. Each day has its rituals, processions through the streets, prayer meetings and thousands of devotees paying homage.
- Day of the dead, Mexico
In Mexico festivities and morbidity seem to go hand in hand. The Día de los Muertos is celebrated annually on November 1 and 2 as a reunion of dead relatives with their families. It sounds kind of ghoulish but for Mexicans it’s a natural celebration. Celebrations include decorating graves, burning incense, prayers and chants for the dead and the consummation of much food and drink.
- Montezuma International Film Festival, Costa Rica
Head to the beach in Costa Rica in November and catch a flick in between surfing. There are five days of free film screenings, lectures, art exhibitions and live music in the small, laid-back town. Films of all genres, lengths and origins are shown.
- World Tango Championships, Buenos Aires, Argentina
The birthplace and cradle of tango hots up every August for this competition for the world tango crown. Sultry and sexy dancers from around the world come here to test their credentials on the dance floor in various venues in the city. Free dance classes and concerts form part of the festivities.
- Fiesta de San Juan Bautista, Venezuela
St John the Baptist is the patron saint to many on the central Caribbean coast and they celebrate the Saint’s feast day from June 23 to June 25 with the beat of an African drum and exuberant dancing.
- Panama Jazz Festival, Panama
This developing jazz festival is held annually in late January and aims to encourage tourism and instill a natural cultural identity. Well known stars and artists perform daily to transform the capital into a stage of art, culture and pleasure. Kids concerts, free concerts and evening concerts feature in the lineup along with a series of classes for music students to develop their skills.
- Love parade, Santiago, Chile
The world’s largest electronic dance music festival comes to Chile in January each year. More than 100 DJs in massive floats complete with sound systems, take over the city in a 2.5 mile long party. The parade finally gets to Plaza Italian where it goes off with a bang for over 18 consecutive hours. There are usually after parties too so be prepared for a long night.
- Palmares Civic Fiestas, Costa Rica
These fiesta’s in the first two weeks of January include folk dancing, concerts, carnival, music, tope (horse parade), rides and tico style bullfighting. Tico bullfighting doesn’t injure the animal, but consists of daredevil ticos who attempt to touch the bull as it runs around the ring, armed with nothing but the clothes on their back and a bandana.
- Festival of the Snows, Peru
One of the strangest and coldest festivals on earth takes place in May every year on a remote Peruvian glacier. About 30,000 pilgrims converge here for a festival known as Qoyllurit’I with three days and nights of intense celebration with music and dancing. The culmination is a torch-lit procession over some 5000m passes.