Three unmissable festivals in Chile’s northern capitals

Far away from central Chile’s many summer cultural celebrations, the northern reaches of the country have a handful of big events that anybody passing through would be silly to miss.


Arica – Fuerza Del Sol: Carnival Andino (Feb. 11 to Feb. 13)

One of the northernmost cities before Chile’s border with Peru, the seaside town of Arica bursts into an explosion of indigenous color, as inhabitants of all around the mountainous region converge to celebrate their indigenous roots.

Last year more than 80,000 people partied in the town for the three nights of festivities, which begin in the afternoon and carry on until the early hours. The streets filled up with 5,000 dancers from the north of Argentina, Bolivia, Peru, Ecuador and Chile. More than 50 troupes also attended the event.

Similar to other carnivals, such as many in Brazil, participants chose a beauty queen in Fuerza De Sol, who should most accurately represent the beauty of the local people of the region.

For pictures and details of the event, visit

Iquique – Andean Week (Feb. 7 to Feb. 13)

Andean Week, held in Iquique in the second week of February, has two key events: a carnival and a smaller, lesser-known side event. The first needs no explaining. The second is less known even to Chileans – an exposition and gathering of the different faces of Andean culture, where you can get to know everything from traditional medicines to local and regional foods.

Last year around 7,000 people attended the event, which is organized by the Chilean government’s National Corporation for Indigenous Development (CONADI).

The carnival takes place in Iquique’s Parque Balmaceda, and the side event will be held in the former Cavancha stadium.

For more information, visit

Copiapó – Fiesta de la Virgen de la Candelaria (Jan. 7 to Jan. 8)

Call it luck or divine intervention that the Copiapó miners escaped alive, but one thing that certainly kept them going during their hellish 69 days underground was their rock-solid Catholic faith.

And each year in January a feast for the patron saint of miners, the Virgin of Caldelaria, attracts thousands of the faithful to Copiapó from the surrounding region.

The festival dates back to 1778, when muleteer Mariano Caro saw the image of the Virgin Mary in the mountains. The miracle attracted thousands of pilgrims, prompting a sanctuary to be built in 1800. Over time the festival has become an indisputable leader in popular religious gatherings in the region.

No matter your faith, however, this is an unmissable insight into the culture and people of Chile’s most famous mining region.

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