Holy Week in Peru is one of the most important festivities celebrated in the country, where religion, culture, and tradition merge to commemorate the crucifixion, death, and resurrection of Jesus.
Since the majority of the population is Catholic, Peruvians celebrate Holy Week with much devotion, gastronomy, and processions. The festivities are traditional and share different customs that every tourist is excited to observe.
Holy Week begins on Palm Sunday with the entrance of Jesus to Jerusalem and the faithful believers attend mass to bless their crosses made of palm leaves in their hands. Holy Thursday and Holy Friday are holidays in different parts of Peru, and each city celebrates in its own way.
If you are planning a trip for these dates, here are the 5 destinations in Peru you need to visit during Holy Week and discover its main traditions. Let’s get started!
Holy Week in Ayacucho
Ayacucho is the destination to celebrate the best Holy Week festivities. Every year, this city welcomes thousands of national and foreign tourists and becomes a true exhibition of colorful carpets, bull chases, processions full of flowers, and devotion.
During Palm Sunday there are several caravans of donkeys loaded with dried flowers accompanied by musical orchestras. While on Holy Friday, all the lights of the city are turned off to witness a beautiful candlelight procession of Jesus and the Virgin Mary in the Plaza de Armas.
After these days, the streets become pure culture, full of crafts, food, and local music. The city and its 33 churches, one for each year of Jesus’ life, await you this Holy Week. You can also take the time to visit the Historical Sanctuary of the Pampa de Ayacucho and learn part of its history.
Holy Week in Cusco
Unlike other celebrations in Peru, the central day of Holy Week in Cusco is Monday, when the Lord of the Tremors (Señor de Los Temblores) comes out. For this reason, every Holy Monday, the statue adorned with red ñucchu flowers walks through the Plaza de Armas and dozens of men carry it with great devotion. Legend has it that on May 31, 1650, there was a great earthquake in the city, and when the statue of Christ crucified was rescued from the church, the tremors stopped.
On Holy Friday, they usually taste the twelve different dishes in honor of the twelve apostles. Due to the prohibition of eating red meat, most of these dishes contain vegetables, potatoes, and Andean plants. Also, some may include fish, shrimp and are accompanied by delicious Peruvian desserts such as rice pudding, peach jam, apple jam, or the typical Easter empanadas.
In addition, people from the countryside come to the city to sell their medicinal plants, a tradition since ancient times. The perfect blend of beliefs, culture, and history between the present and the ancient world will fascinate you. You can take advantage of the time to take a city tour or go shopping at the San Pedro market.
Holy Week in Cajamarca
Cajamarca is undoubtedly one of the most visited regions during Holy Week. The celebration begins on Palm Sunday with the well-known Fiesta de las Cruces, where the inhabitants of the area make a donkey walk to eat part of the crops so they can have a good harvest.
On Holy Thursday and Holy Friday, they perform penance at midnight; then, they stage the resurrection of Christ in the streets. This performance is so natural that it leaves more than one tourist speechless. Also, you can observe large crosses with mirrors, paintings, and various ornaments that represent the faith of the devotees.
In every corner of this historic city, you will find good preservation of churches and monuments that will leave you fascinated. After living the traditions of Holy Week, we recommend you visit the Baños del Inca and treat yourself to a relaxing moment in its hot springs.
Holy Week in Arequipa
During Easter Sunday in the white city of Arequipa, the inhabitants of the area make the “burning of Judas,” which consists of making a large doll that represents the apostle traitor and is considered an act of punishment and justice. This activity is best appreciated from Yanahuara and is accompanied by fireworks.
Holy Friday is one of the most devout days; during the night, the image of the recumbent Christ is watched over and the faithful approach him with cotton wool to heal his wounds while praying the rosary.
Arequipa, also known as “The Rome of Peru,” is not only known for its history and the incredible tour to the Colca Canyon, but also for the delicious food prepared in the city and offered in its traditional picanterías. Be sure to try their specialties, such as chupe de Camarones (shrimp chowder), ocopa arequipeña (Arequipa octopus), and rocoto relleno (stuffed red pepper).
If you plan to visit Arequipa at Easter, you should not forget to take the Sillar Route, one of the major attractions of the region where you can witness natural scenery made of an albino stone of volcanic origin. Its incredible architectural landscapes will surprise you.
Holy Week in Lima
Holy Week in Lima is declared Cultural Heritage of the Nation. It is one of the most important celebrations in the country because it brings together citizens from different districts of the capital and even nationals. One of the major customs of the faithful is to visit the seven churches between Holy Thursday and Holy Friday. It is a tradition influenced by Spain and Italy that brought Catholicism to Peru.
On the other hand, on Easter weekend there is a procession in honor of the Virgin Mary and her son Jesus through downtown Lima. During Palm Sunday, believers take home an olive branch in commemoration of Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem. In addition, you can taste the delicious Lima desserts that you will find in the squares of the city.
One of the peculiarities of Holy Week in Lima are its colorful floral carpets and it is a tradition that dates back to the sixteenth century to receive the various processions that travel the streets of Lima. They even hold a national contest to choose the most beautiful carpet.
Being in Lima during Holy Week is quieter, and you will have enough time to stroll through the bohemian neighborhood of Barranco, the green coast, among others. Don’t forget to try their delicious ceviche and other fish-based dishes.
Celebrate Holy Week
Holy Week is celebrated throughout Peru, full of food, devotion, music, culture, family time, and faith. It is considered one of the most important religious festivities in the country, that many domestic and foreign tourists look forward to witnessing the ancient customs. We know you are one of them. Which of these destinations caught your attention the most?
Written by: Estefany Huamaní.