Our Guide to the Best Festivals in Latin America
South and Central America are home to 33 countries, nearly 500 languages and hundreds of different indigenous groups.
Understandably, with such a diverse continent comes a diverse range of celebrations.
Unfortunately, it's near on impossible to can’t take part in them all, so our experts have narrowed the list down to 5 of their favourite festivals in Latin America.
1) Día de los Muertos, Mexico
Perhaps the most well-known of Latin America’s festivals, Día de los Muertos -or Day of the Dead – is Mexico’s antidote to Halloween. Instead of being filled with horror, Día de los Muertos is in fact two days of uplifting celebrations dedicated to showing love and respect to deceased family members. A UNESCO-recognised celebration, Día de los Muertos sees locals up and down the country don traditional make-up, enjoy parades and make offerings to lost loved ones.
Día de los Muertos is grounded in indigenous culture, and originated several thousand years ago in the era of the Aztecs. Mourning the dead was thought disrespectful, and so Día de los Muertos was born to help keep deceased community members alive in memory and spirit. Common offerings for the dead include the family’s favourite meal, pan de muerto (a sweet bread) and sugar skulls. The festival’s spiritual home is Oaxaca, but it’s celebrated in cities and towns across Mexico.
2) Inti Raymi, Peru
Peru’s biggest festival Inti Raymi is a 9-day celebration that pays homage to Inti, the sun god. The festival takes place on June 24th each year, shortly after the winter solstice and when it is thought that the sun needs coaxing back. Inti Raymi takes place in Cusco, and has been the most important date in the city’s events calendar for over 500 years.
On the day, actors from across the country come together to perform the rituals of Inti Raymi. Speeches praising the sun are followed by processions and the faux sacrifice of a llama. It’s an extraordinary festival, and is best seen to be believed. The best places to catch a glimpse are Qorikancha or Sacsayhuamán, both prime spots for viewing the procession.
3) Chocolate Festival, Belize
In the far south of Belize, emerald rainforest runs across the mountainous countryside with winding rivers that flow into the Caribbean sea. Within Belize’s southernmost district Toledo lie cacao plantations where the locals claim the terroir gives their chocolate a unique flavour and aroma. Today, this chocolate is becoming known worldwide with outstanding boutique chocolate purveyors like Cotton Tree Chocolate and Ixcacao.
To celebrate the region’s cacao, boutique chocolatiers and ancient Maya culture, Toledo hosts the three-day Chocolate Festival of Belize. Kicking off on May 22, the fiesta encompasses a street fair, chocolate tours, chocolate and wine tasting, and music and cultural performances, in Punta Gorda and its surrounds. A don’t miss festival for chocolate lovers.
4) Flower Festival, Colombia
Colombia’s Feria de los Flores (Flower Festival) is held in Medellin from late July to early August each year. The Feria de los Flores dates back to the 1950s, and today Colombians from near and far come to view the city in full bloom. The standout celebration though is the parade, known as Desfile de Silleteros.
The procession sees locals carrying small floral floats on their backs make their way through Medellin’s streets. There’s also plenty to explore beyond the parade, with exhibitions at the Botanical Garden, dance performances and a horse cavalcade (La Cabalgata) all adding to the atmosphere of revelry.
5) Carnival, Brazil
An integral part of the Christian calendar, Carnival is celebrated during the week before Lent in many countries around the world. No Carnival celebration is bigger than Brazil’s though, and the party atmosphere throughout is palpable. Taking place in February and March, Rio’s Carnival is the world’s biggest festival.
Samba parades, street parties and carnival balls have seen an astonishing 2 million people per day take to the streets since 1723. Revellers can hang out on Copacabana, dance into the night or simply spend time admiring the outlandish outfits on Rio’s streets throughout the celebrations.