The Virgen del Carmen or Our Lady of Mount Carmel festival is celebrated from July 15th to July 18th every year in a small and picturesque town called Paucartambo, 110 km from Cusco city. Thousands of local, national and international devotees get together for this celebration.
The celebration starts on July 15th in the afternoon with fireworks, dances and ringing of bells. The dances represent the combat between the highlands’ Q’olqas and the Chunchus from the west that compete for the love of the Mamacha del Carmen. These dances are performed by twelve local groups with colorful costumes that portray the celebration with a bonfire, races and stunts. From 10:00 p. m. the music band and the steward get ready to serenade Our Lady. The celebration ends with fireworks.
The main day of this festivity is July 16th and it starts at 05:00 a. m. with a dawn mass. At 10:00 a. m. the main mass is celebrated with beautiful chants from the Qollas and Qhapac negros. Once the mass is over, the celebration continues with music bands and dance groups that go out to the streets and squares joyfully throwing dolls and miniature pieces of furniture from the balconies. At 3:00 p. m., the procession that goes around the town starts with Our Lady on the processional platform being followed by devotees and dancers.
The “bendición y guerrilla” (blessing and guerrilla) is celebrated on July 17th. After the blessing of the mass, the troupes head towards the cemetery chanting to remember the deceased dancers. There is another procession in the afternoon that crosses the famous Carlos III bridge. Once the procession is over, people head once again to the square where the celebration continues with music and dances.
On the last day, Our Lady of Mount Carmel is placed in the baptistry to carry out the traditional “ocarikuy” where kids and teenagers get a blessing.
On July 19th the image of Our Lady returns to its altar and is dressed in her everyday clothes. The ceremony takes place with the presence of devotees, dance groups and musicians.
Continuing the route out of Paucartambo for 59.4 km, we will arrive at the Tres Cruces viewpoint (3,800 ma. s. l.) where we can see one of the most beautiful sunrises in the world. Taking one night for this activity is worthwhile.
Paucartambo is a very small town so it has very few accomodations for tourists. It is advisable to book well in advance. There are some local families that offer beds for rent. It is also advisable to hire a travel agency for the celebration and for the visit to Tres Cruces to watch the sunrise.
The temperatures tend to be very low in this area during this season, so it is necessary to bring warm clothing such as jackets, gloves and bonnets.
Add to your trip Cusco, Sacred Valley and Machu Picchu.
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