Virgin of Paucartambo Festival 3 days/2 nights
This festival takes place on the 15th, 16th & 17th of July each year
Four hours from Cusco, in the town of Paucartambo, thousands of devotees hold a festival in honor of the Virgen del Carmen, known locally as Mamacha Carmen, patron saint of the mestizo population. The setting gives way to a series of ingenious choreographies that portray events in Peruvian history. For five days, dance companies in various costumes take to the streets to accompany the Mamacha for the entire procession along the main square, the church and the city streets. On the main day, the virgin is borne aloft in a procession to bless those present and scare demons away. The gathering ends in the cemetery to render homage to the souls of the dead. The annual Fiesta of the Virgen del Carmen is a colorful mix of Andean pre-Columbian ceremonies and Catholic religion in which masked costumed dancers relive ancient Gods and rites. This Andean religious celebration reflects the centuries-old struggle between Christianity and pre-Columbian Andean Pantheism: the Virgin is no longer just the Mother of God, she is also Mother Earth, or Pachamama. The festival also shows the never-ending battle between the forces of good and evil. This is a marvelous festivity where sixteen groups of beautifully costumed dancers (Saqras, Qhapaq Ch'unchu, Qhapaq Qolla) interpret their traditional repertoire of historical events, folklore and legends, taking the streets with their troupes of musicians all singing in Quechua.
Meanwhile "La Mamacha" is carried through the most important places of the town like the Main Square, the Church, the Carols III bridge, the Hail and the village streets accompanied by the Comparsas (the band which plays the conga during a Latin American Carnival celebration) and the entire population gathering quietly bearing candles, flowers and other offerings to ask for blessings and protection.
This celebration, both magical and surreal, has a deep religious significance, because social relations and rituals can be seen as a way of defining and maintaining the identity and customs of the Andean and racially diverse people, clearly observed in the "guerrilla" between Qollas from the Altiplano (flat lands) and Ch'unchus from the Jungle. The symbolic culmination of this festival is a sumptuous feast where two nations are disputing the love of the Mamacha del Carmen. In addition we have the great opportunity to witness a natural marvel of optical illusions at Tres Cruces de Oro (12,100ft), gateway to the Manu National Park.
This amazing natural wonder is an incredible photo opportunity, and one which your expert guide, Flavio, will help you make the most of by sharing his knowledge and experience with you to help you capture the best possible photographs. At Tres Cruces you will be able to hone your landscape and sunrise skills, while during the rest of the tour you will be able to focus on people, movement and colour as you enjoy the fantastic celebrations of the local people. Our overnight stays will also provide you with the chance to experience sunrises and sunsets in a variety of wonderful locations. Flavio creates a perfect balance between photography masterclass and top-level guided tour, to give you an experience that you will never forget. We want you to leave Peru with fantastic memories and a collection of stunning photos that you can be proud of.
Day 1: Cusco - Paucartambo
We start with an early morning transfer by private transportation from Cusco to Paucartambo village, visiting areas such as Urcos and the Ch'ullpas of Ninamarka. About 10.00 am we arrive at Paucartambo (13,200 ft), where we check in at our lodging in a shared accommodation and have a rest. Then we enjoy a walking tour with our private guide sorrunded by thousands of devotes and visitors. Next we have a buffet lunch of typical local foods.
Later in the afternoon we can observe the sixteen colorful “comparsas”, dancing in honour of the Mamacha del Carmen. After lunch a riotous firework display is held in the main square, during which the Qhapaq Qolla, the Ch’unchos and the Saqras dance wildly like some medieval vision of hell called “Fogata”. The fogata ('fire') is staged at night, a representation of Purgatory which continues with a big fiesta and serenade to the Virgen del Carmen. At around midnight, in an emotional gathering, all the comparsas meet again - this time without their elaborate costumes - to solemnly serenade the Virgin in front of the closed doors of the church. (L / D)
Day 2: Paucartambo - Tres Cruces
After breakfast we attend Central Mass following the great procession of “La Mamacha” to bless those present and scare away demons. We’ll see the different comparsas and specially the “Saqras” who occupy the rooftops and balconies of the town; these are Euro-Andean devils, dressed in vivid rainbow-colored costumes and elaborate animal masks crowned with extravagant wigs. Then we have a filling lunch.
The afternoon is free for you to enoy and explore the area at your own pace. We have dinner, and then we make our way towards the camp Tres Cruces de Oro, 40 km north from Paucartambo, which is situated on the very edge of the Andes mountains at a height of 12,100 feet. From Tres Cruces, there is a steep drop into the Amazon basin, which means the view is incredible. It’s most famous for the sunrise in the months of June and July because special climatic conditions mean that there are optical illusions. We camp the night at Tres Cruces. (B / L / D)
Day 3: Tres Cruces - Paucartambo - Cusco
We wake up before dawn and then set out to see one of the most beautiful natural phenomena in the world: the sunrise at Tres Cruces de Oro (12,100 ft), where the sun "dances" in the sky, or “plays” in the sky. We eat some snacks and return back to Paucartambo for a well deserved breakfast!
Next we attend the Blessing Mass. In the afternoon the image of the Virgin is carried through the narrow streets of the village to the venerable colonial-era bridge, Carlos III, surrounded by all those who have attended the festival, standing or kneeling, tightly-packed and respectfully silent. The Qhapaq Qolla and Qhapaq Negro address the Virgin in a moving song of farewell. The Virgin imparts her blessings on the fourth regions (suyos). At the end of the procession the spectacular “guerrilla” between the group of the Qollas of the Andes and the Antis of the jungle continues with a mock-battle in a hilarious slapstick style. This recalls the wars between Qollasuyo and Antisuyo in the time of the Incas. Finally the comparsas venture forth for the last time to dance the traditional Kachapari or farewell, closing for another year this magical festival. Return to Cusco. (B / L)