Traveling to South America this Easter? The Catholic continent loves to celebrate Easter with religious festivals, parties, and feasts. A South America Vacation during Semana Santa, or Holy Week, is one of the best ways to experience South America’s rich cultural and religious heritage at its liveliest. Here are some of the celebrations that you can expect to find in Colombia, Peru, and Brazil.
Colombia’s Easter Celebrations
Some regions of Colombia go all out for Holy Week and Easter. In the department of Cauca, the colonial city of Popayan holds an annual Easter religious procession — and has done so for centuries. The city has been named a UNESCO World Heritage Site for its “Oral and Intangible Cultural” legacy.
Living up to its lofty legacy, Popayan seems preserved in time and everything about the city seems geared towards the annual Easter celebrations. The town boasts beautiful colonial architecture made of white stone that hearken back to Iberian architecture and here are more churches per capita than any other city in Colombia.
Every Easter, and during the Holy Week leading up to it, church officials dressed in full regalia carry flowers and shrines, while musicians serenade the crowds. Even the kids get into it, marching along in their own processions. Popayan will host a film festival in addition to its annual Easter procession, as well as art exhibitions, that will allow visitors to enjoy the full spectrum of artistic expression during the celebratory week.
There are also Easter celebrations to be held in Bogota, Cartagena, Cali, and smaller processions in other towns. If you are planning to travel to Colombia during Easter time, make sure to book your hotels and tours ahead of time.
Peru’s Easter Celebrations
Peru also loves to celebrate Easter and Holy Week with colorful processions and festivities. Wherever colonial presence was strong, Easter traditions remain strong, and the colonial cities of Arequipa, Ayacucho, Cusco, Junin, Piura, and La Libertad, as well as the capital, Lima, pull out all the stops on their Easter celebrations.
Locals partake in religious processions, and there is often music, dance, and food aplenty throughout the festivals. Handicraft fairs, horse races, and bullfights are also common.
In the highland city of Cusco, a special procession is held each year on the Thursday before Easter. This procession is called Señor de los Temblores, or Lord of the Earthquakes, and it commemorates the day in 1650 when an earthquake struck Cusco but the Cathedral was spared. Thousands crowd into the Plaza de Armas to participate in the procession, which features a black crucifix.
If you are planning to travel to Peru during Easter time, make sure to book your hotels and tours ahead of time.
Brazil’s Easter Celebrations
Home to the largest population of Catholics in the world, Brazil is the place to be if you want to experience a South America vacation during Easter week.
Just about every city and town holds some religious celebration. Rio de Janeiro, Ouro Preto, Sao Paulo, and Recife always hold terrific religious processions during Easter time.
One popular tradition during Holy Week is the covering of the streets with rugs and carpets, and then piling on flowers or sawdust, often in elaborate shapes and designs, such as in the photo here and the video below.
If you are thinking of traveling to South America this Easter, make sure to book your trip ahead of time. Hotels often get booked well in advance if you are traveling during Easter or Carnival in South America.