Among the many ancient feasts that are still celebrated in Peru, the Virgin of Candelaria festival stands out for being the most colorful and massive of them all, a symbol of the religious syncretism among aymara, quechua and spanish culture that is revealed through the dance of the peculiar characters that are part of its performance. This festivity is so outstanding that is even postulated to be included in UNESCO’s list of Intangible cultural heritage.
The festival of the Virgin of Candelaria takes place every year during February’s first two weeks and the second sunday and monday of the month are the days where diverse activities happen to bid farewell to the Virgin and ask her for one more year of blessings.
If you are currently staying at our Tierra Viva Puno Plaza hotel, located only 4 blocks away from the sanctuary of the Virgin of Candelaria, we encourage you to take part in this wonderful experience. Here are some tips to take into consideration for your enjoyment.
Getting to Puno
The Lima-Puno flight only takes one and a half hour (LAN and TACA airlines flight to Juliaca -capital of Puno-, 45 kilometers from Lake Titicaca). For those with tighter budgets and who are feeling more adventurous, a bus trip will get you there in 22 hours (we highly suggest to pick Cruz del Sur as your bus service). Another way to get to Puno is flying Lima-Arequipa (1 hour) and then taking a bus to Puno (5 hours).
Tourism in Puno during the Candelaria season
The service of “La Octava” and dance parade
As we mentioned before, the highlight of the festivity begins at the second sunday of February. The day starts at 10am with the “Fiesta de la Octava” (Celebration of the Eighth) service at the sanctuary of Virgin of Candelaria (San Juan Bautista Church). The parade starts at 2 pm with the image of the Holy Virgin of Candelaria going across Puno’s main streets and squares, followed by its devoted pilgrims and the bands of musicians.
At 7pm, at the Enrique Torres Belón stadium, the “Danzas Mestizas” contest begins. More than 80 groups of dancers dressed in flashy suits and exotic masks -hand made by Puno’s artisans-, perform a series of choreographies elusive to the Virgin. Some of them gather around making forms of chandeliers or stars. Another attraction of the contest is the music bands, some with over 100 musicians. There is a fee to witness this magnificent spectacle: S/.25, S/.35 or S/.45 depending on the zone. The tickets are sold at the stadium from 4:00 am.
Parade and Veneration to Holy Virgin Mary
It takes place every second monday of the month. At 7 am, the Parade and Veneration of Holy Virgin Mary -patron saint of Candelaria- begins. In this celebration, hundreds of “trajes de luces” (light suits) dancers participate in colorful costumes to the beat of the music performed by known local bands. The parade begins in the intersection of El Sol and Lampa avenues, and goes all through Simón Bolívar avenue ending in San Juan Bautista Church, the sanctuary of the Virgin of Candelaria. To see a full map of the peregrination click here.
The parade is totally free and can be seen by anyone in the center. However, getting the best view might be a challenge. Luckily, the families that live on Simón Bolivar avenue offer a nice service: you can rent a small place on the sidewalk or a terrace inside their houses. Small signs are hanging in the doors of the families who rent the space. Price for getting a front row sit? Approximately S/.30 to S/.40.