For the entire week between Palm Sunday and Easter Sunday, the people of Peru celebrate the special days of the Semana Santa, or Holy Week. This week-long celebration is typical in Hispanic culture. The government of Peru has set aside this time as a national holiday to nurture the country’s unique traditions and to share them with the world. People from all over Peru and all over the world come to experience Holy Week in Cusco Peru, a joyful celebration of the return of Christ with many fascinating twists.
Main Traditions of Holy Week in Cusco Peru
In addition to the Catholic traditions typically associated with Holy Week, locals in Cusco have a few very special traditions of their own. The most interesting ones happen on Monday and Friday. Don’t miss these two main attractions of Semana Santa in Cusco Peru.
The Procession of El Señor de los Temblores
On Holy Monday, an ancient, blackened statue of Christ known as el Señor de los Temblores (Lord of the Earthquakes) emerges from the Cathedral to pass through the city and pronounce his blessing on the people.
The statue earned its name in 1650, when locals believe it produced a miracle by stopping an earthquake that threatened the Cathedral. Ever since then, the statue has played an important role in the celebrations of Easter week.
Different groups of people carry the statue along the parade route, and he is met with serenades from bands and showers of red flowers from the ñucchu plant. Any flower that touches the statue becomes blessed and people will collect them to place on their own statues or images of Christ at home.
After traveling to all the local churches, el Señor de los Temblores returns to the Cathedral. The bells ring and sirens wail as he blesses all the people packed into the Plaza de Armas.
Good Friday Celebrations
At two am on Friday morning, the faithful begin performing the Via Crucis, or the stations of the cross. This is done in many Catholic cities, but in Cusco you experience the unique twist of actually being scourged by a priest to receive forgiveness of sins. Plus, you’ll hear the Peruvian interpretations of traditional songs and music.
In most places, people fast for the entire day of Good Friday. In Cusco, they fast until noon and then enjoy the 12 dishes of the Good Friday Feast.
Other Trips Near Cusco While Attending Holy Week
When choosing a place to celebrate Holy Week in Peru, many travelers feel torn between Ayacucho and Cusco. While Ayacucho may have larger celebrations, Cusco has just as much passion and excitement with many more options for accommodation. However, in either city you must book early because hotels and hostels fill up quickly.
You may want to plan to arrive a few days before Palm Sunday so that you can explore the city and become familiar with it before the huge crowds descend for Holy Week in Cusco Peru. Definitely stay for the parade on Monday.
If you decide to explore some nearby attractions such as Machu Picchu be back in time to witness the Via Crucis on Holy Friday, and of course enjoy the Good Friday Feast.
Saturday will be a quiet day of family togetherness. The most unique attractions of Semana Santa in Cusco will be over, and you might consider leaving town on Saturday to beat the crowds that will be traveling home after mass on Easter Sunday.