- Carnaval, Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, and Uruguay: The week before the start of Lent, Mardi Gras is celebrated in many towns in Argentina, although to a much lesser extent than in neighboring Brazil. In addition to Rio's incredible party, Salvador puts the emphasis on participation: The action is out on the streets with the blocos, flatbed trucks with bands and sound systems leading people on a 3-day dance through the streets. Barranquilla, Colombia's fourth-largest city, boasts the world's second-largest Carnaval after Rio, and here you can enjoy many events such as the parade of floats, the crowning of Miss Carnaval, and African-inspired dances. Carnaval is celebrated throughout Uruguay with a passion topped only by Brazil. Montevideo spares no neighborhood parades, dance parties, and intense Latin merrymaking.
- Festival of the Virgen de la Candelaria, Bolivia and Peru: The Virgen de la Candelaria is one of the most beloved religious icons in Bolivia. On February 2, parades and parties erupt in Copacabana in her honor. The festivities, which are some of the liveliest in Bolivia, combine a mixture of Catholic and ancient local influences. Puno, perhaps the epicenter of Peruvian folklore, imbues its festivals with a unique vibrancy; their celebration of the Virgin is one of the greatest folk religious festivals in South America, with a 2-week explosion of music and dance, and some of the most fantastic costumes and masks seen anywhere.
- New Year's Eve, Brazil and Chile: Join up to a million revelers on Copacabana Beach for one of the largest celebrations in Brazil; fireworks, concerts, and the religious ceremonies of the Afro-Brazilian Candomblé make for an unforgettable New Year's Eve. In Chile, Valparaíso rings in the new year with a spectacular bang, setting off a fireworks display high above the city's shimmering bay for the throngs of visitors who blanket the hills. Pablo Neruda used to spend New Year's here, watching the exploding sky from his home high on a cliff. The yearly event is absolutely hectic, so come early and plan on staying late.
- Inti Raymi, Ecuador and Peru: June 24 to 29, the fiestas of San Pablo, San Juan, and Inti Raymi (a sun festival celebrating the summer solstice) all merge into one big holiday in the Otavalo area. For the entire week, local people celebrate with big barbecues, parades, traditional dances, and bonfires. In Peru, it takes over Cusco and transforms the Sacsayhuamán ruins overlooking the city into a majestic stage.
- Mendoza Wine Harvest Festival: The first weekend of every March, Argentina's Malbec region celebrates the bumper harvest with wine, women, and song. Parades, concerts, and a carnival-like atmosphere culminate in a grand open-air spectacle of music, dance, and fireworks.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.