Grapes. Yellow underwear. Lentils. Fireworks. It may seem like an uncanny combination, but these items are staples for celebrating New Year’s in Peru. If you’re thinking about ringing in the new year in Peru, read on to learn how and where to celebrate in true Peruvian fashion.
Celebrating like a local: New Year’s traditions in Peru
Let’s start with the basics. Fireworks are a nearly universal way to welcome in the new year. But when it comes to Peru, you can expect to hear fireworks and firecrackers days before the clock strikes midnight. In fact, it’s common for kids to play with firecrackers between Christmas (another big firework event) and New Year’s. So long story short, pack earplugs if you want to catch some sleep in the days leading up to New Year’s Eve. They’re going to be loud.
Peruvians also celebrate the new year by embracing colors. In the weeks leading up to December 31st, street vendors’ stalls turn yellow, with every nook and cranny covered in yellow clothing. But there’s one clothing item you’ll see more than anything else—yellow underwear.
So, what’s with all the yellow? Peruvians believe it brings prosperity and good luck. However, don’t be surprised if you also see some green and red clothing mixed in there—they represent the wish for wealth and love, respectively.
One of the most popular New Year’s traditions to attract wealth is to fill your pockets with lentils. Dried lentils work just fine (and prevent a mess). However, some Peruvians eat cooked lentils at midnight for good financial measure.
You’ll also encounter markets boasting a higher ratio of grapes than any other fruit. That’s because one of the most popular New Year’s Eve traditions in Peru is to eat twelve grapes. The grapes represent each month of the new year, and you’re supposed to say the month as you eat them. Some people perform this tradition before their New Year’s Eve meal. Others eat them beneath a table at midnight, and others simply have a bowl of grapes on a table to eat at their leisure.
Where to celebrate New Year’s Eve in Peru
You can encounter Peruvians celebrating New Year’s Eve in just about every corner of the country, right down to the smallest towns. That said, many places have their own twist on New Year’s celebrations. So, below is an overview of some popular destinations.
Party it up in Cusco
The Plaza de Armas in Cusco is an iconic New Year’s Eve destination in Peru. It becomes alive at night with people watching fireworks, drinking, and spending time with friends and families. Bars and clubs stay open until close to dawn, catering to hard-core partiers.
Just make sure not to go too wild if you’ll be traveling from Cusco to Machu Picchu or Cusco to Puno the following day. You might regret ordering that extra pisco sour as you wind through the Andes Mountains!
Watch fireworks from the beach in Mancora
Mancora isn’t famous for being a New Year’s beach destination compared to Rio de Janeiro. However, it has an array of lively beach parties for people who venture to its northern shores.
Alternatively, spending New Year’s at Playa Bonita, Mancora, and other hotels further away from downtown, offer a more tranquil New Year’s getaway. To arrive in Mancora, you can travel from Piura by land or fly into the Talara airport.
Hike up a volcano in Arequipa
Arequipa isn’t a stranger to New Year’s Eve parties in Peru, many of which occur around the Plaza de Armas. However, if you’re looking for a unique way to ring in the new year in Peru, consider booking a trek up the El Misti Volcano. After all, how cool would it be to say that you watched Arequipa’s fireworks from over 15,000 feet at the El Misti Volcano base camp?
As a bonus, if you plan on visiting Machu Picchu, the hike will make traveling from Arequipa to Cusco a breeze since you’ll already have acclimated to a higher altitude.
Keep it laid-back in Lima
If trekking up a volcano isn’t your idea of New Year’s fun, hop on a flight or bus from Arequipa to Lima to experience Peru’s capital like few tourists have—in a quiet state. Every year, thousands of Peruvians take advantage of their vacation time to travel from Lima to Cusco or Lima to Huaraz, among other destinations, for the new year.
The result is a city with almost no honking horns, packed sidewalks, or street vendors. So, consider making a reservation at a world-renown restaurant like Central. Then, return to your oceanfront hotel to watch fireworks over the water at midnight.
A note on booking your accommodation
Many hotels in Peru require a minimum night stay during New Year’s. Typically, the minimum stay is three nights. You can expect the price for those nights to be higher than booking the same duration on non-holiday dates.
Some of the most common destinations with a minimum night stay during New Year’s are Cusco, Paracas, and Mancora. Almost all 4-star and 5-star hotels in these destinations offer New Year’s packages, which often include a New Year’s Eve dinner and other perks in addition to the minimum night stay.
If your travel plans don’t allow for three nights in a single destination, I recommend looking for accommodation at a budget hotel, 3-star hotel, or Airbnb.
Ready to celebrate New Year’s in Peru?
Pack your yellow underwear and a bag of lentils—spending New Year’s Eve in Peru is an unforgettable experience. Although we covered some of Peru’s most common New Year’s traditions here, there are dozens more to discover. So, you just might want to mark Peru in your calendar for the next few years to experience them all.