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Category Archives: Festivals

UNUSUAL URUGUAY FOR CHRISTMAS?

Punta del Este

Even during summer, it is never too early to plan for the winter hols. With Christmas and New Year 6 months away, it is a good time to secure flights and hotels. Consider Uruguay. It´s about time this little gem nestled between Argentina and Brazil came into the spotlight. A small country but has around 660 km. coastline along the River Plate, the world´s biggest estuary. In the bustling capital Montevideo, enjoy strolling through the lovely old town and dining in fine restaurants. A few hours away, lies Uruguay´s oldest city, Colonia del Sacramento. Founded in 1680, it feels like stepping back in time. The city has a charming colonial ambiance, and old classic cars abound like in Havana. Jose Ignacio, a small coastal town, is an international jet-setter destination and Punta del Este is the must-see for beach lovers. Further north the coast becomes wilder and ideal for nature lovers.

The classy Hyatt hotel Carmelo Resort & Spa, on the banks of Rio de la Plata. It has holiday packages with activities: yoga lessons, Spa, bikes, tennis courts and daily activities at the kid´s club. The packages are subject to a minimum of 3 (Christmas) or 4 (New Year) consecutive nights. More information and rates on request. Contact us for travel ideas and itineraries.

Latin America’s most colourful festivals

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The world is full of colourful festivals and none come as colourful as those in Latin America. While Carnival in Rio de Janeiro, the world’s largest street party, is perhaps the best known (and for good reason), there are plenty of festivals throughout the continent and throughout the year. Here are 11 of our favourite festivals to look out for.

Carnival

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Carnival is celebrated throughout the towns and villages of Brazil and the rest of Latin America, but the largest and best known is the celebrations in Rio de Janeiro. With millions of people hitting the streets in February, it’s the largest street party in the world. The city hosts over 500,000 foreign tourists who come to enjoy famed parade of colourful dancers and musicians in the sambodrome.

Tango championship

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Buenos Aires plays host to the annual World Tango Championship. This famous dance originated in the 19th century in the nightclubs around the district of River Plate. It’s quickly becoming one of Argentina’s most valued culture exports with more enthusiasm into the tango around the world than ever before. During the festival, every bar, ballroom and milonga throughout the city comes alive with dancers and the sound of tango music. Held in August, it’s one of the best times to visit the city.

Day of the Dead

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Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) is often confused with Halloween as the dates are very close. However, the event which is celebrated throughout Mexico stems from an Aztec festival that honours the goddess Michacacihuatl. Mexicans believe that the souls of lost loved ones return to earth on the 2nd November to be with their family once more. Families visit the graves of lost ones to pay their respects and leave food and drink.

Inti Raymi

Another famous festival in Peru which sees thousands of people descend upon Cuzco to take the pilgrimage to the ruins of Sacsayhuaman. The festival lasts for nine days between the winter solstice and the Inca New Year. Inti Raymi means ‘Sun Festival’ in Quechuan, and that is exactly what this festival is about. Honouring the sun god and hoping for the quick return in the darker days as well as a good crop and harvest in the coming months. It’s now the second largest festival in Latin America with well over 200,000 visitors last year.

Qoyllur Rit’i

Q’oyllur Riti is one of the least know and intriguing festivals in the Andes. A combination of Pre-Columbian fertility ceremonies and Catholic processions with colorful dancers and Andean panpipe music make this festival special. The main ceremony is held at the foot of Mount Ausangate. At almost 5,000 metres above sea level, the temperatures plunge to below freezing at night. That doesn’t stop worshippers from turning up to gather at the shrine which is said to be where the infant Christ appeared to a young Indian boy.

Flower festival

August sees the annual flower festival called La Feria de los Flores in Medellin. The colourful fair is attended by visitors from all over the world who eagerly descend upon the ‘City of Eternal Spring’ to see the huge flower festivals, parades, dance performances and theatre. Each year the displays and events get larger and more impressive. The event was original planned for one year in 1957, but was such a success it’s now an annual fixture.

Tapati Rapa Nui festival

Easter Island has few cultural connections with Chile and more with the Polynesian islands that surround it. During Tapati Rapa Nui festival, the ancient ancestral traditions are recreated. These include Takona (body painting), singing competitions, Haka Pei (where people slide down the cliff on a banana tree) and Tau’a Rapa Nui (sports on Rano Raraku volcano). It’s one of the most interesting festivals anywhere in the world as well as being one of the most remote.

Santa Semana

Like Carnival, Santa Semana (Holy Week) has celebrations throughout Latin America (as well as many other parts of the world). One of the most colourful is Antigua in Gautemala. This pretty colonial town comes alive with colour. Intricate designs using petals and coloured sawdust carpet the cobbled streets. These are destroyed by bare-footed, purple-robed men carrying statues of Jesus and the Virgin Mary. Other excellent places to celebrate Santa Semana include Quito in Ecuador and Copacabana in Bolivia.

To visit any of the above festivals or any place in Latin America contact one of our travel experts on +(0) 207 407 1478 or email us here. Alternatively, can view some example tours here.

Join the Fiesta de la Tradicion in Argentina

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A couple of hours east of Buenos Aires in the heart of the Pampas is the town of San Antonio de Areco. Since 1939 the town has played host to the Fiesta de la Tradicion, the oldest Gaucho festival in Argentina. Celebrated in November, this is one of the liveliest festivals in the country. Traditional dancing and music play a big part throughout the week, but most visit to see the impressive gaucho demonstrations and bronco riding. The parade attended by gauchos dressed in bombachas is a must. If this doesn’t sound quite like your thing, it’s worth visiting for the food alone. Huge asado barbeques cooking beef in the traditional way over fire takes place at the Parque Criollo each day.

Set in the peaceful countryside outside of San Antonio de Areco, the charming six room La Sofia Estancia is the perfect place to stay during your visit. It’s the personal touches like one to one polo lessons, beautiful food and wine that make this Estancia so special. Spanish colonial elegance and traditional style accommodation are the hall marks of the Estancia.

Select Latin America are running a package between the 6th and 8th November 2015 combining at stay at La Sofia Estancia with visits to the Fiesta de la Tradicion. During this two night package you can get involved in the activities of the festival, watching the gaucho demonstrations and parade, whilst also spending some private time away from the crowds, walking in the countryside, learning gaucho riding techniques and polo.

For more information about the festival, Estancia or package get in touch with us.

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Mistura Food Festival in Lima

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If you happen to be travelling in Peru in September we highly recommend the 8th edition of the ten-day Mistura Food Festival in Lima and the biggest food festival in South America. A wonderful mistura of Peru’s diverse culinary landscape, highlighting what is one of the world’s great but largely undiscovered cuisines. If you consider yourself a foodie, this is the place to be.

Peru can be roughly split into three different culinary areas – the highlands and Andes, the coastal region and the Amazon. Each has its own distinct set of flavours only made more varied by the introduction of Japanese, Chinese, African and other communities that have played their part in the evolution of Peruvian cuisine. If this is your first time to Peru, there is no better a starting point to get a good hold over the different food the country has to offer. On top of the more common (but nonetheless delicious) ceviches and pisco sours, there is plenty more to get your teeth stuck into.

Held in Exposition Park, the festival is expecting around a half a million people to visit including many top chefs from around the world. It is open each day from 9am until 11pm. This year it runs from the 4-13 September 2015. For more information visit mistura.pe.

To begin your gastronomic tour of Peru get in touch.

Meet us at the Birdfair

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We are pleased to announce Select Latin America will be having a stand at the Birdfair taking place at Rutland Water Nature Reserve 21 August to 23 August 2015.

Described as the birdwatcher’s Glastonbury, Birdfair encompasses the whole spectrum of the bird-watching industry whilst at the same time supporting global bird conservation.

There are lectures, events and celebrities and hundreds of stands selling the latest products for wildlife enthusiasts.

This will be our 15th year, find us at Marquee 7 Stand 36. Our experts will be on hand to help plan your next wildlife adventure and our new brochure will be hot off the press.

This year David will also be doing a presentation – ‘Galapagos; A visitors Guide to these Enchanted Islands’ which will be on the 23th August in Lecture Marquee 3 between 3.30-3.50 pm
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We hope to see you all there.

August kite flying festival in Villa de Leyva

Photo credit: Colombia Festiva

Photo credit: Colombia Festiva

During August the UNESCO town of Villa de Leyva in Colombia sees strong winds making it the perfect time for the Kite Flying Festival. Locals and tourists gather for three days to fill the sky with colourful kites. Throughout the festival there are plenty of competitions to keep everyone exciting including team flying, long-distance and night flights as well as contests for kids.

The festival dates back to the 70s when it was created to celebrate the Battle of Boyacá and since then it’s been a fixture ever since. If you want to visit you’ll need to book up fast – over 70,000 people are expected to attend this year.

Celebrating Christmas Latin American Style

Argentina

Argentina ChristmasFlickr/N i c o l a

Christmas in Argentina has is heavily influenced by Europe and North America although there are a number of differences. Argentines lay more emphasis on Christmas Eve, attending mass before returning home to celebrate and eat dinner together. As the festival falls in their summer, dinner is often eaten al fresco with a particular focus on barbeques. Panettone, traditional Italian sweet bread filled with crystallized fruits is also particularly popular.  Christmas spirit and celebrations are held all the way through to the 6th January, called Three Kings Days. On the 5th evening children leave shoes outside the front door which are filled with gifts to be opened the next morning.

Bolivia

Bolivia ChristmasFlickr/Rowan Robinson

With over 90% of the population Roman Catholic it’s no wonder that Christmas is such an important time in Bolivia. Like Argentina, Bolivians tend to visit mass before returning home for celebrations which often last until the wee hours of Christmas day. Traditionally picana, a stew made from roasted pork, lamb and veal, is eaten and hot chocolate and pastries are served in the morning.  The nativity scene plays an important role at Christmas with almost every home using one as the centrepiece decoration.

Brazil

Brazil ChristmasFlickr/Alison Johnstone

Like most South American counties, many Brazilians visit midnight mass. It is often referred to as Missa do Galo (rooster) due to the time they arrive back home. A huge dinner is served when returning that includes ham, turkey, vegetable and fruit, often washed down with glasses of fizz. Papai Noel (Father Christmas) brings gifts to children and fireworks are let off throughout the night. On Christmas Day many families have a lie-in or visit the beach (remember it is their summer) before going back to church in the afternoon. Interestingly the word for turkey in Brazil is ‘Peru’.

Chile

Chile ChristmasFlickr/Nicole Rogers

Chileans visit midnight mass less than other counties, although it still plays an important role in religious traditions. Most Chilean families stay awake and enjoy a late dinner on Christmas Eve before opening presents at midnight. Traditional meals include turkey and depending on the area, lamb, pork or beef, which is usually barbequed. Cola de Mono (monkey’s tail), a drink made from milk, coffee and aguardiente (fire water) is particularly popular. Christmas Day is a relaxed affair with more food, family and friends, often in the countryside or at the beach.

Colombia

Colombia ChristmasFlickr/Mario Carvajal

The official start of Christmas celebrations in Colombia is the Day of the Candles on the 7th December, although decorations are often put up well in advance. Throughout the country candles are places everywhere from street corners, driveways and balconies which illuminate the cities and towns. Christmas Eve is the most important day in the calendar with large gatherings of families and friends who stay up late for present opening and parties which often last until sunrise on Christmas Day.  Presents are given to children by the baby Jesus rather than Santa Claus.

Costa Rica
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Costa Ricans like to decorate their homes with tropical flowers during the Christmas season. The nativity scene is also an important element of the decorations. After midnight mass on Christmas Eve, Costa Ricans return to their homes for food, drink and celebrations. Traditionally tamales made from grounded corn, vegetables and meat wrapped in a plantain leaf are eaten. Eggnog, made from egg, milk, cinnamon, nutmeg, coconut and rum, is drunk.

Ecuador

Ecuador ChristmasFlickr/Matt Lingard

Although celebrations are held throughout December, the most important is the Pase del Niño Viajero (the travelling infant child) on Christmas Eve. This all day event with parades shows the journey of Joseph and Mary and other biblical characters, with local carols sung by neighbourhood parties. Homes are decorated with a crib; the figures surrounding the manger often are made of painted bread dough that are only made in the town of Calderon. A traditional meal is eaten after midnight, whilst Christmas Day is often spent quietly recovering from the festivities. For a country that produces sugarcane, sweets are abundant everywhere.

Guatemala

Guatemala ChristmasFlickr/Gabriel White

The mix of Catholicism brought by the Spanish and ancient Mayan culture make for some interesting Christmas traditions. For nine days before Christmas, religious processions with statues go through the streets of Guatemala. These often turn into festive street parties with punch, food, dancing and music. German immigrant influence brought the Christmas tree which is now very popular as decorations at home. Children open gifts on Christmas morning whilst adults don’t exchange gifts until New Year’s Day. During Christmas celebrations many people dress in a hat called a puritina.

Mexico

Mexico ChristmasFlickr/Doug Knuth

Like Guatemala, the festive season starts nine days before Christmas Day when Mexicans go from door to door to symbolise Mary and Joseph looking for shelter. Often they are invited inside to break a piñata, a bag filled with treats. Although presents are given to children on Christmas Day, they receive further gifts on the Feast of the Epiphany on the 6th January. The Three Wise Men will fill the children’s shoes with sweets, nuts and money to signify what baby Jesus was given in the bible.

Peru

Peru ChristmasFlickr/Rainbowasi

Like most other countries in Latin America, for Peruvians the most important day of the festive season is Christmas Eve, sometimes referred to as Noche Buena or Good Night. Mass is usually at the slightly earlier time around 10pm, after which families return home to a feast of turkey, tamales and fizzy wine. For desert Peruvians usually eat a Peruvian fruit cake called paneton. After the children have opened their presents and gone to bed, the adults usually have long parties that last through to the morning.

Latin America is an amazing place to visit all year around. Start planning your 2015 adventure today.

Q’oyllur Riti Festival Peru

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Q’oyllur Riti is one of the most intriguing festivals in the Andes, combining Pre-Columbian fertility ceremonies and Catholic processions with colourful dancers and Andean music. Said to be the greatest indigenous pilgrimage in the Americas. Each year just before Corpus Christi the people of the district of Ocongate in Peru perform a ritual based on the image of Christ. The main ceremony is held at the foot of Mount Ausangate, at 4,700 meters (15,416 feet), above sea level, where temperatures often plunge below freezing. The ritual brings thousands of pilgrims, including shepherds, traders and the merely curious who gather at the shrine. Legend has it that the infant Christ, dressed as a shepherd, appeared to a young highland Indian boy, Marianito Mayta  who died, and the image of the Lord of Qoyllur Rit’i appeared on the stone. Qoyllur Rit’i also means Lord of Star Snow. Another interpretation is that it is worship of the Pleiades star constellation that reappears in June and signifies the upcoming harvest. More than 10,000 pilgrims climb to the snowline, accompanied by dancers in full costume as various mythical characters following stone cairns, built along the way, to atone for their sins. An elite group of sturdy queros set out for the mountaintop, at 6,362 metres (20,867 feet), in search of the Snow Star, reputedly buried within the mountain. On their way back down they haul massive blocks of ice on their backs for the symbolic irrigation of their lands with holy water from the Ausangate mountain. Video.

ORURO CARNIVAL BOLIVIA

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The Carnival of Oruro is a religious festival dating back more than 2000 years that takes place in the highlands of Bolivia. Originally an indigenous festival, the celebration merged with a Christian ritual around the Virgin of Candelaria, which takes place in February. The traditional ‘Llama llama’ or ‘Diablada’ became the leading traditional dances of the festival. It is one of UNESCO’s Intangible Heritage of Humanity. The modern festival demonstrates the ongoing pagan-Catholic blend common in the Altiplano region. The carnival starts with a ceremony dedicated to the Virgen del Socavon. Marching bands compete simultaneously in the greeting to the Virgin the grotto of Pie de Gallo. The highlight of the festival is the three day and three night parade of 48 groups of folk dancers over a four kilometre route to the sanctuary of the tunnel. In different regions of Bolivia and Peru, the locals wear colourful masks and dance to the rhythm of lively music, liberally inebriated by aguadiente, the local firewater.

Day of the Dead

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flickr/carmichaellibrary

Day of the Dead (Dia de los Muertos) is often confused with Halloween as it closely follows the holiday. Its true origins stem back to the Aztec festival that honours the goddess Michacacihuatl, also known as Lady of the Dead. The 1st November is traditionally the Dia de los Angelitos or Day of the Little Angels where the infants and children that has passed away can be remember. The 2nd November is the Day of the Dead. Mexicans believe that on these days the souls of lost loved ones return to earth to be with their family once more.

Individuals celebrate the holiday in different ways. Some grieve or mourn; others use the day as a light hearted way of reflecting on lost relatives. A typical symbol of the Day of the Dead are the Catrina figures – skeletons dressed in formal clothing, originating as a parody poking fun at the upper class Mexican female. Other traditions involve reciting short poems called calaveritas that highlight the funny moments shared with the deceased in the past.

The way Mexican’s celebrate varies from region to region. The cemetery tends to play a large role in the celebrations with offers of favourite food and drinks of the deceased left at the graves.  Colourful events and celebrations are often accompanied by music, costumes, food and drink and involve both adults and children.

Good places to see the celebrations are San Miguel de Allende, Oaxaca, Mixquic in Mexico City or Patzcuaro in Michocan. To visit the day of the dead celebrations in 2014 or any part of the Mexico please get in touch.

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