Semana Santa, March/April
Verano Negro, February/March
Fiesta de la Vendimia, March
January through March is the busiest (and most expensive) season on the coast, with beach facilities open and festivals rocking. In the mountains and canyons, this is rainy season, best avoided by trekkers and mountaineers.
New Year’s Day, January 1, is particularly big in Huancayo, where a full-blown fiesta continues until Epiphany (January 6).
Dance of the Blacks
Revelers wear costumes with black masks to commemorate slave forefathers who worked the area mines. In the central highlands town of Huánuco.
Fiesta de la Marinera
Trujillo’s national dance festival is held the last week in January, with contest participants decked out in elaborate finery.
The Inca Trail is closed all month. Many Peruvian festivals echo the Roman Catholic calendar and are celebrated with great pageantry, especially in indigenous highland villages, where Catholic feast days are often linked with traditional agricultural festivals.
La Virgen de la Candelaria
Held on February 2, this highland fiesta, also known as Candlemas, is particularly colorful around Puno, where folkloric music and dance celebrations last for two weeks.
Held on the last few days before Lent (in February or March), this holiday is often celebrated with weeks of water fights, so be warned. It’s popular in the highlands, the Cajamarca festival is one of the biggest. It’s also busy in the beach towns.
Lunahuaná Adventure Sports Festival
Lunahuaná has an active and growing adventure sports scene, especially river running. Check out this festival in late February/early March.
Beach resort prices go down and crowds disperse, though the coast remains sunny. Orchids bloom post–rainy season on the Inca Trail and Amazonian birds enact their mating rituals.
Fiesta de la Vendimia
Celebrated big on the south coast’s two main wine regions, Ica and Lunahuaná. These harvest festivals involve some grape stomping.
A must for anyone with an interest in Afro-Peruvian culture, this festival in Chincha features plenty of music and dancing. It takes place in late February or early March.
Crowds and high-season prices mark Holy Week, a boon of national tourism in March or April. Hotel prices spike to their highest and availability is low. Reserve way ahead.
The week before Easter Sunday, Holy Week is celebrated with spectacular religious processions almost daily, with Ayacucho recognized as the biggest celebration in Peru, lasting a full 10 days. Arequipa and Huancayo also have Easter processions.
The heaviest rains have passed, leaving the highlands lush and green. With the return of drier weather, trekking season starts to take off in Huaraz and around Cuzco.
Noche en Blanco
Inspired by Europe's White Nights, the streets of Miraflores in Lima are closed to cars while arts, music and dance take over. Held in early May.
A fascinating indigenous pilgrimage to the holy mountain of Ausangate, outside of Cuzco, in May or June. Though known by few outsiders, it’s well worth checking out.
Festival of the Crosses
This fascinating religious festival is held on May 3 in various locations including Lima, Apurímac, Ayacucho, Junín, Ica and Cuzco.
El Señor de Muruhuay
This big annual pilgrimage with an image of a crucified Christ happens in late May – with processions and fireworks to accompany the religious fervor.
High season for international tourism runs June through August, with Machu Picchu requiring advance reservations for train tickets and entry. It’s also the busiest time for festivals in and around Cuzco.
Processions of this Catholic celebration in traditional Cuzco are especially dramatic. It's held on the ninth Thursday after Easter.
The Festival of the Sun is the greatest of Inca festivals, celebrating the winter solstice on June 24. It’s certainly the spectacle of the year in Cuzco, attracting thousands of Peruvian and foreign visitors. It’s also a big holiday in many jungle towns.
Reggae, cumbia (Colombian salsa-like dance and musical style) and electronica rock the jungle at this music festival held near Oxapampa, in a spectacular national park setting.
The feast of San Juan is all debauchery in Iquitos, where dancing, feasting and cockfights go until the wee hours on the eve of the actual holiday of June 24.
San Pedro y San Pablo
The feasts of saints Peter and Paul provide more fiestas on June 29, especially around Lima and in the highlands.
Semana de Andinismo
Mountaineering aficionados descend on the city of Huaraz to celebrate the Andes with hikes, rock climbing, paragliding, skiing and concerts.
Spot the Marvelous Spatuletail
June is your best opportunity to spot this unique and endangered hummingbird in tracts of forest around the Río Utcubamba valley near Chachapoyas.
The continuation of high-season tourism. In Lima the weather is marked by garúa, a thick, grey sea mist that lingers over the city for the next few months and brings a chill.
La Virgen del Carmen
Held on July 16, this holiday is mainly celebrated in the southern sierra – with Paucartambo and Pisac near Cuzco, and Pucará near Lake Titicaca being especially important centers.
The National Independence Days are celebrated nationwide on July 28 and 29; festivities in the southern sierra begin with the Feast of St James on July 25.
Fiesta del Santiago
Río Mantaro valley towns, especially Huancayo, dress up cattle and parade them through the streets. There's also singing and dancing, in what many believe is an ancient fertility right.
The last month of high tourist visitation throughout Peru is also typically the most crowded at Machu Picchu. Book reservations for lodging and site tickets well ahead.
Feast of Santa Rosa de Lima
Commemorating the country’s first saint, major processions are held on August 30 in Lima, Arequipa and Junín to honor the patron saint of Lima and of the Americas.
Sierra Andina Mountain Trail
This annual marathon along the Santa Cruz trail to turquoise lakes under snowbound peaks provides hearty athletes with a super-scenic challenge.
Low season everywhere, September and October can still offer good weather to highland trekkers without the crowds, while migrating birds become another attraction for birders.
For one week in September, this massive food festival with international acclaim is held in Lima, drawing up to half a million visitors to sample the country's best restaurants and street food.
El Festival Internacional de la Primavera
A don’t miss, the International Spring Festival features supreme displays of horsemanship, as well as dancing and cultural celebrations during the last week of September in Trujillo.
The best time to hit the Amazon runs from September to November when drier weather results in better wildlife-watching and easier travel throughout the region.
Great Amazon River Raft Race
Attracting teams from the world over, the longest raft race in the world flows between Nauta and Iquitos in September or early October.
La Virgen del Rosario
On October 4, this saint’s celebration comes to Lima, Apurímac, Arequipa and Cuzco. Its biggest event is held in Ancash, with a symbolic confrontation between Moors and Christians.
El Señor de los Milagros
A major religious festival, the Lord of the Miracles celebration is held in Lima on October 18, around which time the bullfighting season starts.
El Señor de Luren
Travel down to Ica in late October for this religious festival, marked by fireworks, processions and plenty of merriment.
A good month for festivals, with plenty of events to choose from. It’s worth checking out the wild celebrations held in Puno. Waves return, calling all surfers to the coast.
All Saints’ Day is November 1, a religious precursor with processions to the following day celebrated with Catholic Masses.
Día de los Muertos
All Souls’ Day is celebrated on November 2 with gifts of food, drink and flowers taken to family graves. It’s especially colorful in the Andes where some of the ‘gift’ food and drink is consumed, and the atmosphere is festive rather than somber.
Starting November 5, this week-long festival involves several days of spectacular costumes and street dancing to celebrate the legendary emergence of the first Inca, Manco Cápac.
Beach season returns with warmer Pacific temperatures. Skip the Amazon, where heavy rains start falling from the end of the month through early April.
Fiesta de la Purísima Concepción
The Feast of the Immaculate Conception is a national holiday celebrated with religious processions in honor of the Virgin Mary. It’s held on December 8.
Held on December 25, Christmas is less secular and more religious in Peru, particularly as celebrated in the Andean highlands.
La Virgen del Carmen de Chincha
Frenzied dancing and all-night music in the peñas (bars or clubs featuring live folkloric music) of El Carmen on December 27.