South America is vivid, colourful and bewildering. From the snowcapped Andes Mountains to the dense Amazon Jungle it is filled with stunning rugged landscapes, ancient ruins and vibrant cities and villages where rich cultural traditions are kept alive alongside modern life. And nowhere is that wholehearted embrace of living so clear than during the continent’s celebrated South America festival traditions.
Throughout the year, there are several exciting South American festivals that involve music, ornate costumes and dancing in the streets. Taking part in these cultural showcases is an unforgettable way to immerse yourself in the local traditions. If you’re planning to attend any events in South America, make sure that you book in advance. Accommodations will fill up during these popular South American fiestas.
February 9-14th, 2018
The booming drum beats fill the air as the sequins on a samba dancer’s costume sparkle in the sunlight. The Brazil Carnival has become the epitome of the decadent, chaotic and dazzling South American festival.
The famous Samba schools of Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro have been rehearsing all year for their competition in the Sambadrome stadiums. Carnivals in South America are known for their incredible artistry, and the Samba dance exhibitions are no exception.
The festivities feature bright, flashy and sexy samba dances performed by gorgeous dancers in barely-there get-ups bedecked with feathers, jewels and more. From Carnival Saturday to Tuesday the open air dances will take place throughout the city of Rio.
February 9- 12, 2018
Named by UNESCO as a “Masterpiece of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity,” this religious festival dates back more than 200 years. As one of the oldest music festivals in South America – nay, the world – it is a riot of music and colour with 150 bands containing around 10,000 musicians and 28,000 dancers.
The festival performers represent a dazzling array of folk dance styles representing different areas around Bolivia, from the mountainous Andean region to the valleys of Cochabamba and Tarija and the plains and forests of Santa Cruz.
During the festival there are parties in the streets and at any time you might get randomly sprayed by water or white foam – so watch out! This ‘baptism’ is one of the beloved South America customs and traditions you can expect at this wild and beautiful event.
A line of dancers parade through the streets of La Paz, Bolivia – Photo by Global Goose
First Two Weeks of February
The small city of Puno in Southern Peru is most often used as a jumping off point for exploring Lake Titicaca…but every year it is also home to one of the most colourful festivals in South America, the Festival de la Candelaria.
More than 200 groups of musicians come together to celebrate the Virgin of Candelaria, the patron saint of the city. Thousands of costumed dancers wearing heavy masks decorated with mirrors and jewels move around the city in an endless parade.
Musicians take a break from the festivities for a beer. Photo by Global Goose
December 24th-29th, 2018
The city of Cali is known for being the beating heart of salsa dancing culture in Colombia. This festival has been taking place there since 1957 and it is a booming street carnival that includes performances from some of the best salsa dancers in the world.
As one of the most musical of festivals in Latin America, you’ll see famous singers and bands from countries including Cuba, Venezuela and Puerto Rico.
Get on your dancing shoes and let a sexy Colombian teach you the steps so that you can salsa until the sun comes up.
Dancers perform at the Feria de Cali – Photo by Wikimedia