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Let’s Celebrate: Christmas and New Year’s Eve in Cusco

Forget holiday mayhem and travel instead! Bowing out of buying expensive gifts in exchange for having a culturally rich experience in Cusco.
by Gina Cronin

The plaza of Cusco becomes a holiday wonderland draped in twinkling lights and full of cheer.  Street vendors appear selling steaming cups of rich and creamy spiced hot chocolate and ponche, a hot rum punch. It seems as if every store is selling the traditional panetón, a special Christmas fruit cake topped with dried fruit candies. Here is the scoop for Christmas and New Year’s Eve in Cusco for 2019 and the dawn of 2020. 

Cusco | Late December & Early January

*This article is monitored by the Peru for Less team, and was most recently updated by Gina Cronin in October of 2019. 

Christmas

On the day before Christmas, artisans flock to the historic Plaza de Armas in Cusco to participate in a street fair called Santuranticuy, or the selling of saints.

These artists set up stalls or spread out colorful blankets on the ground and artfully arrange their Christmas creations to tempt passersby. For months beforehand, the artisans make little figurines for the nativity scenes that most Peruvians faithfully display in their living rooms.

Christmas day can be quiet in Cusco, when most Peruvians spend the day at the homes of their oldest family members, eating chicharron (slow-cooked pork) or turkey. However, far from being a disadvantage to the traveler, this affords wonderful opportunities rare for visitors to Cusco.

Visit the incense-filled cathedral and the numerous churches displaying intricate and somewhat fantastic nativity scenes to hear choir groups sing traditional holiday and Andean songs. This is also a perfect time to wander the streets of this picturesque city and appreciate the exquisite architecture incorporating Inca stones into colonial construction.  Afterward, step into one of the English pubs serving special Christmas menus to a fairly rambunctious international crowd.

New Year’s Eve

New Year’s Eve is basically the opposite of the calm and family-oriented Christmas.

On the evenings leading up to New Year’s Eve, Cusco’s most distinguished theater group, Kusikay, does free performances with firework displays in Plaza de Armas to help people get ready for the main event. This is a good transition time because, as you are about to learn, New Year’s Eve in Cusco can get a little crazy.

New Years Eve in Peru from ItsLiLi on Vimeo.

Plaza de Armas becomes packed with thousands of people who gather hours before the main event. There is hardly room to walk and the only open spaces are full of people setting off fireworks. For a prime viewing spot, we suggest you secure a table at one of the restaurants with a balcony overlooking the square.

There is a countdown to midnight and as soon as the New Year rings in everybody sets off fireworks.  Kids run around setting off bottle rockets, and everyone is drinking, singing, cheering, and having fun.

Cusco New Year’s Eve Traditions

Peruvians also are, in general, pretty superstitious and have quite a few traditions that you may or may not want to participate in.

Holiday Dining Options

There are some scrumptious Christmas and New Year’s dining options awaiting along the cobbled, festive streets of Cusco.  From traditional Andean earth creations to eclectic Peruvian and international infusions to organic, health-based delights, there is a spot for every family this season. Make sure to make your reservation in advance, as these offerings fill up quickly!  Below, find a list of top Cusco restaurants that are offering excellent menus this 2019 holiday season, to welcome 2020:

INKAGRILL
  • Cuisine: $$ Peruvian/International Infusion
  • Ambiance: Elegant eclectic with antique touches
  • Christmas (December 24) Special Menu: 3 courses and 2 drinks—1 hot (tea or coffee) and 1 cold (water or soda). $45 USD.
  • New Year’s (December 31) Special Menu: 1 appetizer, 3 courses, and 4 drinks—1 glass of wine, 1 glass of champagne, 1 hot (tea or coffee), and 1 cold (water or soda). 7pm, $65 USD; 9:30pm, $109 USD.
  • Location: Portal de Panes 115, Plaza de Armas, Cusco
  • Finishing Touches: Live music
  • Website Here.
MAP CAFE
  • Cuisine: $$$$ Upscale Peruvian
  • Ambiance: Classic elegant with artistic flair, in the courtyard of the Museum of Pre-Columbian Art
  • Christmas (December 24) Special Menu: 3 courses and 2 drinks—1 hot (tea or coffee) and 1 cold (water or soda). $55 USD.
  • New Year’s (December 31) Special Menu: At 7pm, cost includes 1 appetizer, 3 courses, and 4 drinks—1 glass of wine, 1 glass of champagne, 1 hot (tea or coffee), and 1 cold (water or soda). At 9:30pm, cost includes 1 appetizer, 5 courses, pairing, and 4 drinks—1 glass of wine, 1 glass of champagne, 1 hot (tea or coffee), and 1 cold (water or soda). 7pm, $86 USD; 9:30pm, $155 USD.
  • Location: Plazoleta Nazarenas 231, Museo de Arte Precolombino, Cusco
  • Finishing Touches: Live harp music
  • Website Here.
PACHAPAPA
  • Cuisine: $$ Traditional Andean/Earth Oven/Slow-Cooked with wood fire and clay pots
  • Ambiance: Old mansion in the San Blas neighborhood with Andean rustic design and open-air courtyard
  • Christmas (December 24): Regular Menu
  • New Year’s (December 31): Regular Menu
  • Location: Carmen Bajo 120, Cusco
  • Finishing Touches: Live harp music
  • Website Here.
INCANTO
  • Cuisine: $$ Mediterranean/Italian/Peruvian fusion
  • Ambiance: Relaxed, Cusco-style trattoria with wood and stone accents
  • Christmas (December 24): 3 courses and 2 drinks—1 hot (tea or coffee) and 1 cold (water or soda). $45 USD.
  • New Year’s (December 31) Special Menu: 1 appetizer, 3 courses, and 4 drinks—1 glass of wine, 1 glass of champagne, 1 hot (tea or coffee), and 1 cold (water or soda). 7pm, $59 USD; 9:30pm, $86 USD.
  • Location: Santa Catalina Angosta 135, Cusco
  • Website Here.
Greens Organic
  • Cuisine: $$ Health-food/Organic/Peruvian Fusion/Vegetarian Options
  • Ambiance: Modern rustic with bright touches, colorful art, and plantlife
  • Christmas (December 24): Regular Menu
  • New Year’s (December 31) Special Menu: 1 appetizer, 3 courses, and 4 drinks—1 glass of wine, 1 glass of champagne, 1 hot (tea or coffee), and 1 cold (water or soda). 7pm, $45 USD; 9:30pm, $65 USD.
  • Location: Santa Catalina Angosta 135, 2nd floor, Cusco.
  • Website Here. 
Limo (Dining Room)
  • Cuisine: $$$ Nikkei/Peruvian/Japanese
  • Ambiance: Classic refined with Japanese design elements and wood finishes
  • Christmas (December 24): Regular Menu
  • New Year’s (December 31) Special Menu: 1 appetizer, 3 courses, and 4 drinks—1 glass of wine, 1 glass of champagne, 1 hot (tea or coffee), and 1 cold (water or soda). 7pm, $75 USD; 9:30pm, $105 USD.
  • Location: Portal de Carnes 236, 2nd floor, Plaza de Armas, Cusco
  • Website Here.
Limo (Balcony)
  • Cuisine: $$$ Nikkei/Peruvian/Japanese
  • Ambiance: Classic elegant decor with a majestic view of the Plaza de Armas
  • Christmas (December 24): Regular Menu
  • New Year’s (December 31) Special Menu: 1 appetizer, 3 courses, and 4 drinks—1 glass of wine, 1 glass of champagne, 1 hot (tea or coffee), and 1 cold (water or soda). 7pm, $95 USD; 9:30pm, $135 USD.
  • Location: Portal de Carnes 236, 2nd floor, Plaza de Armas, Cusco
  • Website Here.
Kion
  • Cuisine: $$$ Peruvian/Chinese
  • Ambiance: Contemporary with Asiatic decor
  • Christmas (December 24): Regular Menu
  • New Year’s (December 31): Regular Menu
  • Location: Calle Triunfo 370, 2nd floor, Cusco
  • Website Here.
Calle del Medio
  • Cuisine: $$ Authentic Peruvian Creole/Bar
  • Ambiance: Trendy, upbeat nightlife with a rustic, traditional touch and panoramic view of the Plaza de Armas
  • Christmas (December 24): 3 courses and 2 drinks—1 hot (tea or coffee) and 1 cold (water or soda). $45 USD.
  • New Year’s Dinner (December 31): 1 appetizer, 3 courses, and 4 drinks—1 glass of wine, 1 glass of champagne, 1 hot (tea or coffee), and 1 cold (water or soda). $70.
  • New Year’s Dinner and Party (December 31): 1 appetizer, 3 courses, and 4 drinks—1 welcome cocktail, 1 glass of champagne, 1 hot (tea or coffee), and 1 cold (water or soda). $195
  • New Year’s Party: Open bar for 3 hours plus DJ and live band. $115.
  • Location: Calle del Medio 113, 2nd floor, Plaza de Armas, Cusco
  • Website Here.
Novotel hotel: 365 Restaurant
  • Cuisine: $$ International/Andean
  • Ambiance: Cozy elegant with local flair
  • Christmas Special Menu (December 24): 3 courses, 2 drinks—1 hot (coffee or tea), 1 glass of wine. 6:30-10:30pm, $50 USD not including taxes or services.
  • New Year’s Eve Special Menu (December 31): 3 courses, 2 drinks—1 hot (coffee or tea), 1 glass of champagne. 6:30-10:30pm, $60 USD not including taxes or services.
  • Location: Calle San Agustin 239, Cusco
  • Website Here.
Palacio del Inka Luxury Hotel: Inti Raymi Restaurant
  • Cuisine: $$$$ Peruvian/Vegetarian Option
  • Ambiance: Regal elegance with antique and traditional decor
  • Christmas Special Menu: 4 courses, 1 glass of local sparkling wine. $90 US.
  • New Year’s Eve Special Menu: 5 courses, 1 glass of champagne.
  • Finishing Touches: New Year’s Eve includes live music and traditional dances.
  • Location: Plazoleta Santo Domingo 259, Cusco
  • Website Here.
JW Marriott Hotel: Qespi Restaurant
  • Cuisine: $$$ Peruvian/Local Ingredients
  • Ambiance: Trendy elegance with stone and brick accents
  • Christmas Special Menu (December 24): Includes amuse-bouche, appetizer, carving buffet, sides, dessert, and homemade breads plus a glass of sparkling wine, Peruvian coffee or infusion, and a welcome drink.  7-11pm. $75 USD/adult, $34 USD/child.
  • New Year’s Special Buffet Dinner (December 31): The buffet is comprised of a cold cuts and salad station, bread station, sushi and ceviche station, pasta station, carving station, table of sides, live churros station, and dessert bar plus each person receives a Quespi New Year’s cocktail, glass of sparkling wine, 1 soda, water, and infusions. 8pm-midnight. $155/adult, $75/child.
  • Finishing Touches: Live music.
  • Location: Ruinas and San Agustin Corner, Cusco.
  • Website Here. 
Belmond Hotel Monasterio
  • Cuisine: $$$$ El Tupay Restaurant—International, Peruvian, Vegetarian-Option / Illariy Restaurant—Mediterranean, Peruvian, Vegetarian-Option
  • Ambiance: Tupay—Romantic luxury, colonial art and decor / Illariy—Elegant, cloister-like setting
  • Christmas Special Menu at El Tupay Restaurant (December 24): 4 courses, hot drinks, children’s choral performance at 6pm, dinner accompanied by live opera show. 7-10:30pm. $90 USD.
  • New Year’s Eve Special Menu at Illariy Restaurant (December 31): 6-course meal, a welcome cocktail, and a bottle of sparkling wine per couple, fireworks show, Peruvian and international music, midnight toast, party accessories, water, and soda. 8pm-1:30am. $280 USD.
  • New Year’s Eve Special Menu at El Tupay Restaurant (December 31): 6-course meal, a welcome cocktail, and a bottle of sparkling wine per couple, fireworks show, live opera show, midnight toast, party accessories, water, and soda. 8pm-1:30am. $350 USD.
  • Address: Calle Nazarenas 337, Cusco
  • Website Here.
BelmonD Hotel Palacio Nazarenas: Senzo Restaurant
  • Cuisine: $$$$ Classic Peruvian with a modern interpretation
  • Ambiance: Refined elegance with regional decor
  • Christmas Special Menu (December 24): 4-course meal, live music. From 7pm. $90 USD.
  • New Year’s Eve Special Menu (December 31): 6-course dinner, live jazz show, gala cocktail, DJ. 8pm-1am. $360 USD.
  • Address: Calle Nazarenas 223, Cusco
  • Website Here

*Some of the above costs may not include taxes and fees. 

Holiday Travel Advice

  • In late December & early January, both Peruvians and foreigners take advantage of the holidays to travel to Cusco and Machu Picchu in high numbers. Book early to avoid disappointment. Tickets to Machu Picchu and availability in our preferred hotels are limited.
  • Machu Picchu is open on Christmas Day and there are few things more fabulous than watching the sunrise over these ancient ruins on a holy holiday.
  • If you bring the New Year in Cusco, reserve a table in advance on a balcony overlooking the plaza for a prime spot to experience one of Peru’s liveliest parties!

You deserve the gift of Peru this holiday season. Click “Go Discover” now.