Experience the festival spirit and join year-round celebrations with our guide to the must-see festivities across Latin America.
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil | 21 – 26 February 2020
It’s the world’s most famous party, an overwhelming display of sequins, feathers and, of course, non-stop samba dancers. Walk outside and you’ll be immersed in four days of parades and block parties taking place across the city. The most popular place to celebrate is the Sambadrome, the parade ground designed by Brazilian architect Oscar Niemeyer, where dozens of samba schools perform on immense floats to beating drums. The intricate costumes are eye-poppingly bright, and they are only outshone by the joyful participants wearing them.
2. International Tango Festival & World Cup
Buenos Aires, Argentina | Mid August
This two-week extravaganza celebrates everything that is amazing about Argentina’s best-known cultural export, from the music and style to the dance itself. Thousands of dancers descend on tango’s birthplace to enjoy free concerts, performances and classes, all culminating in the Mundial de Tango, the dance’s most important international competition.
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil | 31 December
If you thought Carnival was the pinnacle of Rio’s party scene, make your way to Copacabana Beach for New Year’s Eve. More than two million revellers soak up 10 hours of music on the sand, reaching an apogee with fireworks over the water. Blend in with local partygoers and wear white in honour of the Candomblé sea goddess Yemanjá. Join the festivities at one of the city’s premier hotels along the beach, many of which host masked balls and extravagant galas.
4. Day of the Dead
Oaxaca, Mexico | 31 October – 2 November
Although Día de los Muertos is celebrated across Mexico, the southern city of Oaxaca is renowned for its vibrant festivities. In the lead-up, local cemeteries are cleaned before family members decorate graves with beautiful altars, adorned with food and drink to lure the souls of dead loved ones to join the celebrations. Families gather to feast and party, markets are even more colourful than usual and hundreds spill out into the streets to participate in calendas, or costumed carnival processions, often on the night of 1 November.
5. Flower Fair
Medellín, Colombia | 1–10 August
The capital of Antioquia, Medellín, lives up to its moniker as the ‘city of eternal spring’ with this blooming celebration. The 10-day Feria de las Flores showcases the work of silleteros, or the farmers who create vibrant floral displays on silletas, wooden back boards used for carrying flowers. As well as the deluge of flowers, the festival incorporates a horse fair, an orchestra festival, classic car parades and an abundance of music, dancing and feasting.
6. Tapati Rapa Nui
Easter Island, Chile | January–February 2020
This cultural celebration was first held in the 1970s to showcase Rapa Nui’s heritage and traditions. Today, all islanders get involved in sporting competitions and musical and dance performances. At the start of the festivities, two female ‘candidates’ are put forward. Participants compete for points for one of the candidates, with the winner crowned queen of Tapati for the coming year.
7. Fiesta Nacional de la Vendimia
Mendoza, Argentina | 1–9 March 2020
Delve into the wonderful world of Argentinian wine at this annual grape harvest celebration in Malbec’s heartland. The festivities begin with the ‘Blessing of the Fruit’, a thanksgiving service, and continue with music, dancing and feasting. Women from the surrounding departments are elected as queens, reinas, and parade through the streets in chariots for the Carrusel.
8. Inti Raymi
Cusco, Peru | 24 June
Celebrate the winter solstice and honour the sun god, Inti, at this unmissable Incan festival. Although commemorations are held throughout the Andes, the must-see pageantry and parades take place in Cusco and at the nearby ruins of Sacsayhuamán. The spectacle is a re-enactment of the traditional ceremony, albeit minus a procession of mummies and with a decrease in the number of llama sacrifices. Locals will crowd together in the hills above to watch, although there are grandstand seats available closer to the action.