South American definitely know how to celebrate.
Jerry Leon is a Jetset Times contributor who is currently on a solo backpacking trip in South America. Each week, the born-and-raised Californian will share with us local festivals that he cannot wait to check out in person. Plus, check out his other super helpful South American tips here.
1. Semana Santa (Various countries)
Semana Santa, or “Holy Week,” is seen as the most important Catholic festival in South America. The weeklong event, which begins in late March and ends in early April, contains a unique blend of religious, pagan/Catholic and even commercial celebrations with many people taking advantage of the time to go holiday vacationing. Celebrations can be found throughout South America, including extravagant street processions during Good Friday in Quito (Ecuador); the streets of Ouro Preto (Brazil) colorfully adorned with flower painted murals; to all-night street celebrations in Ayacucho (Peru) before the start of Easter.
2. Fiesta Nacional de la Vendimia (Mendoza, Argentina)
If you love wine then look no further! Fiesta Nacional de la Vendimia is a five-day festival, complete with parades, folkloric events, fireworks, open-air concerts, and a royal coronation, all in the heart of Argentina’s wine country, Mendoza.
3. Pujillay (Tarabuco, Bolivia)
To commemorate the 1816 defeat of Spanish troops by local armies, Bolivia hosts Pujillay (Quechuan, meaning “to play”) on the second Sunday in March in Tarabuco. Events of the festival include ritual dancing, singing, lots of music and drinking the much beloved chicha (corn beer).
4. Rupununi Rodeo (Lethem, Guyana)
For those looking to add a little more excitement to their Easter weekend, Guyana’s Rupununi Rodeo may be for you. This 3-day event attracts more than 10,000 visitors every year, with cowboys competing in roping competitions of cattle, as well as saddle and bareback riding of wild horses found in the Rupununi wilderness.
5. Lollapalooza Chile (Santiago, Chile)
No need to fear: Lollapalooza Chile is just as raucous as its North American counterpart! With a lineup full of local homegrown acts as well as well-known international groups, Lollapalooza Chile is a must for any music lover, drawing more than 100,000 festivalgoers every year. The festival starts at the end of March and ends in early April.
6. Semana Criolla (Montevideo, Uruguay)
When most South American countries celebrate traditional Easter festivities, Uruguay likes to do things a little differently with Semana Criolla (Creole Week). This festive celebration infuses gaucho traditions into the holiday week, which includes roping and rodeo competitions and even lyric competitions between payodores, or poets who romanticize the gaucho lifestyle in song. As a post-Carnaval affair, many visitors come to enjoy the rodeos, concerts, barbecues and craft fairs.