Festivals & Events in the Azuero Peninsula
Residents of the Azuero Peninsula seemingly live for festivals, and here they are more lively than anywhere else in the country. The following are the major festivals, but the list is by no means comprehensive. Check the ATP tourism board's website at www.visitpanama.com for information about all events taking place during your visit.
February: Carnaval kicks off the Friday before Ash Wednesday and continues until the following Tuesday in this nationwide event -- and it's at its rowdiest and most colorful here in the Azuero.
March/April: Semana Santa's most colorful celebration is in La Villa de Los Santos and Guararé.
Late April: Feria Internacional del Azuero in La Villa de Los Santos. As at a county fair, this features animal displays, food stalls, and drinking.
June: Festival Corpus Christi in La Villa de Los Santos. This village explodes with activity for the 2-week festival known for its elaborate dances led by men in devil masks.
July 20 to 22: Festival Patronales de La Virgen de Santa Librada in Las Tablas. This festival is famous for its Festival de la Pollera on July 22, which showcases the region's most beautiful polleras and elects the year's "Queen of the Pollera."
September 24: Festival de la Mejorana in Guararé. This nationally famous folkloric festival sees hundreds of dancers, musicians, and singers converging for a week of events and serious partying.
October 19: Fundación del Distrito de Chitré in Chitré. A large festival with parades celebrates the founding of the city.
November 10: Grito de la Villa, or "Cry of Independence," in Villa de Los Santos. Commemorates this national independence holiday with parades and music.
Party On! Carnaval in the Azuero Peninsula
Some say the only thing that Panamanians take seriously is Carnaval, and here in the Azuero, especially in Las Tablas, it's celebrated with a fervor unseen elsewhere in Panama. For old-timers who lament that Carnaval has marched toward vulgarity in Panama City, the festival in the Azuero has maintained its folkloric traditions. It begins the Saturday before Ash Wednesday and continues for 4 days with dancing, drinking, music, and parades. The atmosphere is enlivened by the famous rivalry between Calle Arriba and Calle Abajo (High Street and Low Street, respectively), whereby the town is divided into two groups that try to outdo each other with the fanciest costumes and floats, and even their own queens, who are specially chosen for the event. Other highlights include the parade of the polleras. Be forewarned that mojaderos, guys who spray passersby with water from pistols, garden hoses, buckets, and even fire hoses, are out before noon, so be prepared to get drenched.
Carnaval is a tremendously enjoyable cultural and party event, but keep in mind that in Las Tablas it is also a raucous and sometimes disorderly event that might be too much for some people. For this reason, many tourists opt to lodge elsewhere and visit Las Tablas for the day. Or, for a low-key version of Carnaval, head to a quieter town such as Pedasí or La Villa de los Santos. Note: Hotels in Las Tablas and Chitré, and many others around the Azuero, sell 4- and 5-night Carnaval packages at prices that are about double the standard rate. You will need reservations at least a month in advance, and most hotels will expect you to pay 100% upfront.
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.