Carnival is wildly celebrated immediately prior to Lent throughout the whole country, including Lima. While festivities usually take place during the last days of the month in the form of large informal gatherings of family and friends, it is the city’s children that have famously reclaimed this celebration as an opportunity to bombard each other with water balloons, all month long, as a way of beating the summer heat. Keep in mind that everyone – including tourists – are fair game when in residential areas, so take care with any costly equipment (cameras, for example) when you spot a group of excited looking youth. While water balloons are harmless enough, rowdy crowds of children are also known to use less pleasant materials in the more residential areas of Lima Centro, such as paint, feathers, and even shoe polish. Definitely keep this in mind if you plan to wander around on your own.
After years of public pressure agitating for such a day, the government finally gave in to popular demand and declared the first Saturday in February Pisco Sour Day, a national holiday in honor of this famous Peruvian national drink. The day is now marked with tastings, competitions, and parties across the capital city.
As a heavily Catholic country, Easter in Lima, not to mention the rest of South America, is celebrated over an entire week, known as Semana Santa or Holy Week. This is of course a public holiday and many limeños take the opportunity to travel to other parts of the country or South American. Religious ceremonies usually begin on the Friday before Palm Sunday and the following week is filled with daily and evening processions in the city’s Historic Center, in which participants demonstrate their devotion. This week of celebrations rivals that of Carnival in the sense that anything goes and revelers party and celebrate into the morning hours. At dawn on Easter Sunday, religious rites begin and end in a joyous celebration of the resurrection of Christ. Music, prayers, and fireworks mark the day.
Another popular non-religious annual celebration in Lima is the National El Paso Horse Competition held every year at Mamacona stables near Pachacámac, located about 19 miles / 30 km south of urban Lima. The paso horse is a direct descendent of the horses brought over by the Spaniards so many centuries ago, and was originally chosen for its elegant stride which makes a saddle unnecessary. Over the course of 300 years these horses have been continuously bred and developed to become one of the most beautiful and sought-after riding horses today. This tradition of a paso horse demonstration has been exported all over the world and has prompted a number of competitions both along the Peruvian coast (where the horses were most commonly used and bred for desert conditions) and in the arid highlands of the country as well.
For all Peruvians, the end of July is synonymous with Peruvian Independence Day, a public holiday characterized by military and school processions, notoriously noisy parties that go on into the early morning, and a Peruvian flag displayed at each and every house (by law). Peru’s actual Independence Day is the 28th of July, but the event has turned into a multi day celebration in mini-locales such as parks and plazas, culminating in a military parade in full regalia on the final day. Be warned however, festivities begin early with a 21-canon salute at the crack of dawn, followed by the hoisting of the Peruvian flag and traditional President’s Speech delivered from the governmental palace.
A relatively recent addition to Lima’s cultural calendar is the International Book Fair, where visiting authors discuss their work alongside book launches and dance shows, in the old San Martín barracks in Miraflores. The buying of books takes place amidst the busy mingling of the literary world. For more information regarding books, presentations, and scheduled appearances, refer to the official site (available only in Spanish) http://filperu.com/html/index.php?pag=inicio.
Lima’s patron saint – Señor de Los Milagros or Lord of Miracles – is celebrated towards the end of the month in an extremely popular festival featuring large and solemn processions (the main ones taking place on October 18, 19, and 28) through Lima’s Historic Center. This famous procession annually draws the largest amount of believers in South America – numbering in the tens of thousands – and has lasted since colonial times. Celebrating what has become Lima’s most venerated religious image, this festival honors a blessed image of a black Christ, drawn centuries ago by an Angolan slave on the walls of a hovel on Pachacamilla Plantation, near Lima. Despite numerous attempts to remove the image as well as a subsequent earthquake in 1746 that leveled all surrounding buildings, the portrait remained undamaged. Contemporary processions now consist of a 24-hour parade through the city by pilgrims dressed in purple tunics, who sing hymns and dance while chosen cargadores (carriers) share the burden of carrying the Lord of Miracles on a two-ton litter across the city to various points of religious and cultural significance. Read our Newsletter article about the Lord of Miracles Procession and learn how to make the associated dessert the Turrón de Doña Pepa.
In commemoration of the Lord of Miracles, Lima also hosts a well-known bull-fighting tournament under the same name, Feria Taurina del Señor de los Milagros, held at the city’s ancient Plaza de Acho bullring on the city outskirts. Traditionally, renowned bullfighters (toreros) from both Spain and Latin America take part in the event.
OutfestPerú is an annual festival for Lima’s gay, bisexual, and transgender population, using film as a method of exploring contemporary sexual and social topics. Venues are spread throughout the city, but most screenings of the festival’s national and international feature films, shorts, and documentaries take place in the Centro Cultural de España and the Centro Cultural de San Marcos. Please visit the festival website for full details of the programme: OutFest Peru Website
The Magic Water Circuit, inaugurated in the Reserve Park in 1997, has become one of the newest and most visited attractions in the city. Honored with a Guinness Record and unique in America, this circuit offers thirteen impressive fountains that combine movement, lights, sounds, and images. This is an amazing show to enjoy with all the family, and one that will equally enchant young and old audiences alike. The park is located between the main avenues Paseo de la Republica and Arequipa, in the Santa Beatriz neighborhood. Open Wednesday through Sunday from 4:00pm—10:00pm and General Admission is S/. 4.00 soles.
Pueblo Libre Artisan Market, Daily, 12pm-8pm
This daily market specialises in traditional handicrafts, art and clothing created by artists living in locations all over Peru. Prices are slightly better here than in traditional souvenir stores.
Miraflores Arts and Crafts Market, Daily, 5pm-11pm
Are you searching for that elusive one-of-a-kind souvenir? It is not a bad idea to stop by the stalls here, filled with local wooden crafts, jewellry and artwork. Conveniently located in the heart of Miraflores’ famous Parque Kennedy, shoppers are accompanied by a fun ambience of live music and local color as they wander round the circular markets.
Stamp Exchange, Saturday and Sundays, 9am-1 pm
Held weekly on the steps of the city’s Philatelic Museum (at the central Post Office off the Plaza de Armas). Commemorative issues can also be bought here.
Bioferia, Saturdays, 8:00am-2:30pm
Inaugurated in 1999, this ecologically minded food and goods fair has quickly become popular among locals who appreciate healthy food and fair prices. Here one can find fresh produce, whole grains, and preserved goods, as well as ready-to-eat pastries, smoothies, and desserts. Practically everything sold here is organic, and you will find products not readily available in other markets or specialty stores, including vegetarian, vegan, and lactose-free foods. Conveniently located alongside Parque Reducto in Miraflores, just 10 minutes from Parque Kennedy.
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