How to Plan a Cusco Trip During Holy Week

Machu Picchu entry tickets are routinely sold out and what more during national holidays such as Holy Week (or Semana Santa) in Peru when Peruvians all over the country have extra time off (minimally, Holy Thursday and Holy Friday, making it an extra long weekend). Easter in Cusco and its associated Holy Week is filled with tradition, processions, and festivities. It’s a fantastic time to visit to see the local culture surrounding Easter, but get ready for crowds, traffic, and line-ups in and around the city.

Here’s what to keep in mind when planning your Peru trip during Holy Week (or Semana Santa) in Cusco:

  • Palm Sunday: Holy Week festivities start on Palm Sunday when there are generally processions and visits to churches. We’d recommend taking this morning to walk around the city on your own not only to acclimatize to the altitude, but also to see the many goings-on in the city itself. If you book a hotel in the historic center of Cusco, all the action will be within walking distance. You could also fit in a half-day Cusco City Tour for the afternoon so that you’re still within the city for the celebrations.
  • Holy Monday: Try not to plan any tours for this day as today is one of the highlights of Holy Week in Cusco. There will be a massive procession that only happens once a year, dedicated to the Lord of the Earthquakes (Señor de los Temblores in Spanish), a nationally renowned sculpture of Jesus. Devoted Cusqueños will carry this statue throughout the streets of Cusco, which is a must-see event.
  • Holy Tuesday, Holy Wednesday and Maundy Thursday: As there are less Holy Week events on these days, this would be the perfect time to see the Wonder of the World, Machu Picchu. Whether or not you choose to hike, the majority of tours to Machu Picchu from Cusco last two days with an overnight stay in Aguas Calientes, the town at the base of the mountain. Since tourists flock to Cusco during national holidays like Maundy Thursday, be sure to book your Machu Picchu tour well in advance as entry tickets are highly competitive.
  • Good Friday: There’s a unique tradition in Cusco that involves fasting all morning on Good Friday, then stuffing bellies with 12 traditional dishes of the region at lunchtime on this day. Be a part of the action by enjoying traditional Cusqueño food for lunch today. Afterwards, the Cusco Walking Tour would be a good option to walk off the gluttony.
  • Easter Sunday or Resurrection Sunday: Holy Week culminates on this final day in which there often big events to commemorate Jesus’ resurrection. It’d be worth staying in Cusco today to see the planned festivities throughout the day in the historic city center of Cusco.

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