Wouldn’t a Christmas vacation in Peru be perfect!? Christmas in Peru, as in other South American countries, is a unique experience. Christmas in Cusco is probably different than you are used to, with many new things to see and do! Be prepared and check out our list 19 Things To Do for Christmas in Cusco. Update: Christmas celebrations might be a bit different this year. Use this article as in inspiration for future travels or, if you are in Peru, check well or contact us.
Christmas in Cusco
On the days before Christmas, the beautiful town of Cusco becomes the vibrant center of celebrations for both tourists and Andean people, who maintain many traditions and customs of the Quechua people. Cusco is an ideal spot for travelers, with an impressive infrastructure of hotels, cafes, restaurants and so on. Soak up the Cusco Christmas spirit and enjoy a magical Christmas time in Peru with our 19 Things to Do for Christmas in Cusco.
19 Things to Do for Christmas in Cusco
1. Join a Peruvian cooking workshop.
Learn about the famous Peruvian cuisine at a cooking workshop. You will visit the local market and learn how to prepare typical Peruvian Christmas sweets and snacks. Get a preview of your Christmas dinner feast, and maybe you can even impress your friends with your new cooking skills!
2. Get a picture with a Christmas llama.
This is a very touristy thing to do, and yes, you might have to pay for it, but this photo might be one of your favorite memories! With a cute llama, a beautiful local girl in bright folkloric dresses and amazing Inca stones in the background, this photo will be a special reminder of your Christmas Holidays in Peru. Plus, it’s the closest thing to a reindeer in Cusco…
3. Explore the city of Cusco and the surrounding area!
Most of our tours run normally throughout the holidays. Check out our tours in Cusco, including the Cusco City Tour, the Day Trip to the Sacred Valley of the Incas, and treks or train tours to Machu Picchu.
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4. Share some chocolate and a smile.
A typical Cusco Christmas tradition is a chocolatada. Many institutions in Cusco invite the people of the surrounding local communities, especially their kids, to a cup of hot chocolate, a Panentón (a typical Christmas cake filled with dried fruits) and a toy to celebrate Christmas. These chocolatadas, aimed at providing a celebration for less fortunate families, take place in several places throughout Cusco.
If you are interested in joining us for this event or would like to make a donation, please contact us (at least two weeks before Christmas). It would be a pleasure to have you take part in our Dos Manos Chocolatada!
5. Check your agenda carefully
Don’t forget that the main celebration is on Christmas Eve, December 24 (not on December 25th). The night of the 24th is called Noche Buena (“Good Night”) and is when the main festivities take place. On Christmas Day itself (December 25th), the city will be rather deserted, as most people celebrate with their families at home.
6. Watch the Fireworks!
At midnight, the city of Cusco will light up with fireworks! Thousands of local people and tourists will gather at Cusco´s Plaza de Armas to enjoy these amazing fireworks. This firework show will also take place on New Year´s Eve!
7. Enjoy the amazing Peruvian Christmas food!
Like many other countries, most local people have a big, juicy turkey for Christmas Dinner in Peru. The turkey will be seasoned with typical Peruvian condiments, and some even inject shots of pisco into their turkeys.
A popular alternative to turkey is a typical Peruvian roasted pork, called Lechón. This is served with a tamal, which is a steam-cooked corn meal dough, wrapped in banana leaves and filled with chicken, peanuts, boiled eggs, olives and pieces of chili pepper.
8. Visit the colorful Christmas markets!
The days leading up to Christmas in Cusco are busy and fun, with the city full of small Christmas markets. People are out buying gifts for their friends and relatives, munching on sweets and breads, and purchasing Christmas decorations, such as textiles, incense, candles, and ceramics.
9. Instagram the beautiful Nativity scenes!
Nativity scenes are very common in Peru, and you will see them all over Cusco, on the streets, the plazas and inside the buildings. A typical Nativity scene includes the main elements from Jesus´s birth: figurines of Jesus, Mary, Joseph, the animals, the angels and the wise men. Other Christmas decorations are also often included. Approximately 90% of the population in Peru is Catholic, so the Nativity scenes are an important part of the Peruvian Christmas.
10. Make your dreams com true: Visit Machu Picchu on Christmas Day!
Being one of the Wonders of the World, Machu Picchu is an amazing tourist attraction that Peru offers. What a great way to celebrate Christmas or bring in the New Year with a visit to this amazing place! This enchanting archaological site will allow you to pause and reflect on the year and spend some time in the glorious mountains of Peru.
One tip: don’t wait too long if you want to book a train tour to Machu Picchu.
11. Enjoy the Southamerican summer
In South America, you won´t find any snow, warm winterjackets, or the biting cold during Christmas time. Summer has just started! This warm weather will be especially obvious if you spend a couple of days on the Peruvian coast, where you will surely notice the high temperatures and the summer atmosphere!
12. Buy a saint at the famous ¨Santurantikuy Christmas Fair¨
On December 24th, craftsmen from all over Peru will come together for the most charming and diverse Christmas markets of Peru: the magical Christmas fair Santurantikuy.
Being a tradition for over 500 years, this market is perfect for taking some time to relax and to browse the colorful stalls while sipping a hot chocolate. The word ´´Santurantikuy´´ means ´´the selling of the saints,´´ which is what the market is known for. This could be the ideal spot to purchase a souvenir or a last minute Christmas gift. The market is open early in the morning and runs until late night on Christmas Eve.
13. Attend the Mass of the Roosters.
Cusco´s Santo Domingo Cathedral will open its massive doors for a beautiful Christmas mass on the evening of December 24th. This Mass of the Roosters, or Misa de Gallo, starts around 10 pm and will last for about an hour and a half. Peruvians who attend the mass return to their houses for a midnight gift exchange, a Peruvian Christmas tradition. Even if you don’t speak Spanish, attending this mass is a cultural experience of a lifetime.
14. Have a warm Peruvian comfort drink: Ponche
As you stay out on Christmas Eve to see the fireworks, you might need a nice, warm drink to stay warm. Try Ponche, a typical Peruvian drink that contains milk, egg, cinnamon, cloves, and airampo, which is an Andean fruit. This drink is very sweet and is served warm, making it the perfect drink for your Christmas Eve celebration. Ponche is also sometimes served with Pisco for those who would like an alcoholic version of this typical Peruvian beverage.
15. Search for the perfect spot to experience Christmas Eve
Magnificent decorations, Nativity scenes and fireworks will be on display in the colonial center of Cusco. The best way to view this is from one of the many balconies lining the main square. Whether it is with dinner, a Pisco Sour or a hot chocolate, you can observe the beautiful festivities of Christmas and New Year´s Eve from a higher vantage point.
16. Go on a trek to Machu Picchu!
We organize various cultural exchanges with indigenous communities, as well as treks to Machu Picchu during the festive season. Hiking to Machu Picchu is a very special endeavor, where you will experience beautiful nature and some time to meditate without distractions, making your time in Cusco truly memorable.
Celebrating for New Years Eve in Peru? There are a few unique activities that will
make your New Year´s Eve celebration an unforgettable experience:
17. Burn your old clothes.
Every neighborhood in Cusco has a communal area where people come on New Year´s Eve. Peruvians come here to burn their old clothes and things that they no longer want in their lives in the next year. These ceremonies throughout Cusco are symbolic for a fresh start, and is also a great way to lighten the weight of your backpack while traveling!
18. Go yellow.
Part of the tradition of New Year’s Eve in Cusco is to wear yellow underwear, supposedly bringing you good luck. In fact, after the New Year celebrations, Cusco will be transformed into a city decorated in all things yellow, from balloons and ribbons to confetti and flowers.
19. Hit the Plaza for New Years’s Eve.
This is an absolute must. The Plaza starts to fill up early with people, so it´s important to scope out a spot before it gets too crowded. On this night, Peruvians traditionally eat 12 grapes while waiting for midnight, when the Plaza de Armas explodes with electrifying cheers, abrazos, music and the famous Cusco firework show.
Experiencing Christmas and New Year´s Eve in Cusco will be an unforgettable experience. You will have the opportunity to spend the Holiday season in a different culture and participate in the various traditions that they observe in Peru. With all the fun activities, delicious food and drink, and amazing fireworks, spending Christmas time in Peru will provide you with memories to last a lifetime!
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