Cusco is the best place to celebrate New Year’s eve in all of South America. In fact, it is one of the top 10 places in the world to celebrate New Year’s Eve. A few hundred thousand people gather at the city’s main square (Plaza de Armas) to celebrate and it is a safe environment for tourists. Tourists from all over South America and the U.S pour into Cuzco for just this day. As the midnight approaches, the crowd swells up and completely fills the square and the revelers dance and scream «Feliz Año» (meaning happy new year) to one and another.
Yellow is the preferred color on this day, as people of Cusco have believed that it brings good luck. Wearing yellow underwear on this night will ensure that you get «lucky» with girlfriends or boyfriends throughout the year. Many people wear yellow panties and briefs over their pants hoping to spice up their love life! This has gradually become a trend in all Latin countries, but the trend started here! All the new year accessories like garlands, hats and new year goggles are sold exclusively in yellow. These accessories are cheap and cost about 2-3 Peruvian soles each (roughly US $1).
Unlike the US, you can buy and light your own fireworks here. Sale of fireworks is legal in Cuzco, and there are no restrictions on how to use them. The fireworks range from small floor crackers to a nice colorful aerial firework. You can also buy rocket sticks for 3 soles from the street vendors. These sticks contain 15 rockets that will fly continuously as you hold up the stick in the air. Bottle rockets are also very common and be careful of these little flying objects!
Public Drinking is freely permitted without any restrictions. You can buy your own choice of liquor and bring it in. If you did not bring liquor, don’t worry, Cusqueña beer is sold virtually everywhere you turn. Plenty of other beers and alcoholic beverages are sold by street vendors. If you can’t hold your bladder for long, or if you like sit down and snack, there are many bars in this square. However, the cover charge can range from 50-100 Peruvian soles just to enter these bars. It is highly recommended to reserve a balcony table in one of these bars all night as you can go back and forth for snacking and partying.
There is a free concert arranged by the Municipality of Cusco (municipalidad de cusco) and the singing begins at 9 P.M and goes on even after 2 P.M. All the popular Spanish songs are sung and bikini dancers are used to spice up the crowd. The countdown at 12 O’clock is also given by the lead singer at the concert.
Cusco is generally a very safe place and as long as you don’t pass out and always stay in well lit areas, you don’t have to worry. Remember to take registered taxis while going back to your hotels. Peruvian people are usually very friendly and helpful to the tourists.
Apart from wearing yellow for good luck, there are also many different beliefs that are in vogue here. At midnight, many people circle the square 3 times with suit cases, as they believe this will make them travel the world all year! If you want to get rid of your old habits and have a fresh start, you can ceremonially burn old clothes are books at street corners. Eating 12 grapes at midnight will bring you lots of good luck and plenty of food throughout the year. Local people also put coins at their house corners to bring lots of money into their life.
If you are a tourist planning to celebrate New Year’s Eve here, plan well in advance as the hotels get booked well ahead. Hotels cost about 250 Peruvian soles (US $100) just for this night. Also, try to book a hotel close to the main square as you can walk back after the celebrations. Most nearby streets are well lit and filled with people, so you will feel safe walking back. However, if you are not in walking distance, ask the nearby restaurants or bars to call a registered taxi.
If you ever get a chance to visit Peru, try to visit Cusco on New Year’s Eve, you will have an unforgettable night. Seeing New Year Celebrations at Cusco is as important as visiting Machu Picchu and Nazca Lines. Feliz Año!