While we didn’t originally set out to visit Peru over New Year’s, it worked out well that our trip was timed that way. Apparently Cusco is one of the best cities in South America to celebrate New Year’s Eve in. Locals and tourists gather in the Plaza de Armas, watching free live music and dancing performances on a stage set up in front of the cathedral, drinking alcohol (no open container laws here), wearing yellow or buying yellow hats/glasses/etc for good luck, and setting off fireworks (I wonder how many firework injuries the hospitals see on New Year’s Eve in Cusco).
And you’ll see yellow confetti lining the buildings for good luck (even more visible the next morning) and people with yellow confetti still in their hair the next day.
We watched fireworks set off all over the city from our hotel’s patio (and woke up to the sound of more fireworks at 7am as we have every morning: apparently people set off fireworks at any time of day for fun in Cusco, not just at night on holidays).
The next morning, you could see the haze from the night before, as well as some new smoke from the morning fireworks.
On New Year’s day in Ollantaytambo, we watched locals dressed in traditional clothing gather for a New Year’s Day tradition that involves playing a game that’s faintly similar to bowling with the city leadership to get to know their new representatives for the year.
Some people even carry in their own seating.
Here, someone just threw a ball to try to knock down one of the bowling-pin-like flower clusters.
Tips for your visit:
- New Year’s Eve in Cusco: Celebrating in the Plaza de Armas is free. If you want to avoid the crowd (and the short-range fireworks that some people in the crowd will inevitably set off) but still be near the action, you can pay a steep cover (and will likely need to make a reservation in advance) at one of the restaurants bordering the plaza with upstairs balconies. Want to see the fireworks in a more relaxing atmosphere? Get a hotel room along the calle Tandapata (this street lines where the city starts to slope steeply upward, so businesses along here have great views of the city) and watch from a courtyard or balcony. We accidentally discovered that Tandapata Boutique Hotel has a very nice patio. If a hotel courtyard/balcony isn’t an option for you, you might also have somewhat of a view for free from the upper level of the Plaza de San Blas (on calle Tandapata). If you’d like more tips on spending time in Cusco, check out my Cusco post.
- New Year’s Day in Ollantaytambo: If you plan to spend New Year’s Day in Ollantaytambo (or likely any of the other smaller towns in the region), expect to have fewer food options that day and either buy ahead or be OK with what’s available (likely the more touristy restaurants on the plaza and convenience stores). This isn’t a very big issue unless the touristy restaurants don’t appeal to you and/or you want to pick up food in advance for an early train ride and visit to Machu Picchu the next morning. If you’re picking up food for your train ride and Machu Picchu visit the next day, you might not actually need to pick up food in advance. Check out my Machu Picchu post for more info.