Guatemala’s Famous Cultural Festivals and Fairs

Guatemala is a Central American country full of diverse history, culture and tradition, with a wealth of unique festivals and fairs taking place all year round throughout the country. With a mix of ancient Mayan ceremonies, colorful folkloric festivals, religious celebrations and more, here are some of the best festivals to plan your trip around, whether you’re a traveler or a local seeking a bit of fun and excitement.

Overview of Guatemala’s Major Cultural Festivals and Fairs

Guatemala is home to some of the most exciting festivals and fairs in Central America. All year round, locals and visitors flock to experience a range of elaborately planned events where they can take part in religious rituals, music, art and dance. Here’s a summary of some of the country’s popular festivals and fairs.

• Fiesta de Santa Semana & Semana Santa (Easter): A religious event where people commemorate Jesus Christ’s death and resurrection. The dates change annually, with processions accompanied by music and prayer taking place throughout the week.

• Fiesta de Santiago (July): An annual festival in the village of Santiago Atitlán, this event is marked by colorful processions around the village’s perimeter, as well as traditional dances and wood carved masks.

• Day of the Dead (November): An important event for local Mayan communities, this festival welcomes the coming of the dead in ceremonious celebrations, with altars and traditional food and drinks set up throughout the town.

• Festival of Santiago (December): Another traditional festival to celebrate the patron saint of Santiago Atitlán. Held on December 25th, the event is accompanied by traditional music and dancing.

• Feria Nacional de las Flores (April): A week-long event held in La Antigua, the country’s former capital city. Expect to find colorful flower displays, Folkloric dancers, music and traditional foods.

• Feria de Artesanías de Chichicastenango (May): A week-long event where visitors can buy handmade items and listen to traditional music, along with dances and other cultural traditions.

• Dia de la Independencia (September): A national celebration to mark Guatemala’s independence from Spain. Expect to find food, floats, parades and fireworks.

• Feria del Mango (June): An event in the town of San Miguel Chicaj, celebrating the local mango harvest. Visitors can enjoy the local archaeological sites, traditional foods like Quesadillas (flat cut mangoes) and local dance performances.

• Los Desfiles de la Epifanía (January): An elaborate procession in Quetzaltenango to wish a happy new year, with colorful processions, floats and traditional costumes.

• Festival Internacional de Gaiacol (July): An event where firefighters from across the country come together to compete in a variety of events such as competitions, concerts, parades, and more.

Events for Mayan Culture and Traditions

Guatemala is home to many Mayan communities, which continue to practice their ancient customs and traditions each year. Here are some of the best festivals for visitors to experience Mayan culture in all its beauty.

• International Mayan Fair: An annual event held in Quetzaltenango, the fair has been the gathering place for many Mayan communities from across the country and Central America since 1985. Local and international visitors are invited to join the celebrations that include cultural demonstrations of traditional music, dance, food and art.

• Semana Santa in Chichicastenango: A holy week event that draws thousands of people each spring to experience traditional Mayan rituals and customs, with parades and traditional dances. Visitors can also appreciate a beautiful view of the sacred lake, Atitlán and a procession of the Virgin of Nativitas.

• Festival del Maíz: An event held in Chimaltenango that celebrates Guatemala’s most important crop, maize. This festival is held to honor the various gods for their abundance of maize in the region. Expect to find colorful parades, traditional markets and delicious local dishes.

• La Semana Vieja: An event held in Cobán, Alta Verapaz, La Semana Vieja is a symbol of unity in Mayan culture. Traditional Mayan customs, music, dance and costumes mix with Catholic rituals and parades, with daily celebrations and a highlight on the main day, Saturday.

• Ceremonia Ah-Canil (May): This special event, held in Cobán, is one of the most important festivals in all of Central America, a veneration of the god, Ah-Canil. Visitors can witness Mayan rituals, processions and offerings made to the god.

• El Baile de la Conquista (November): A reenactment of the Spanish invasion of Guatemala, this festival can be found in Chichicastenango, with traditional Mayan dances, costumes and flags.

Events for Music and Dance

When it comes to music and dance, Guatemala has plenty to offer. Here are some of the country’s best festivals to experience the best of local culture with a mix of traditional and more modern genres.

• Feria de Música Española (February): With a host of styles ranging from flamenco, Andalusian and traditional Spanish music, this festival combines typical dances, music and costumes to celebrate the Spanish influences in Guatemala.

• Feria de la Música Jazz (March): International and local jazz bands descend on La Antigua for three nights of music. Visitors can listen and dance to traditional gypsy jazz, bebop, funk and more.

• Guatemala City International Music Festival (April): Since the 1960s, this annual multi-genre music event has seen local and international talent perform, with a host of musical styles like blues, jazz, soul, rock and folk.

• Chichicastenango Folk Association Dance Festival (July): Held in Chichicastenango, this multi-day event brings over 10,000 dancers, a mix of locals and visitors, to the small town. With colorful traditional dances and costumes, music and more, it’s a great chance to experience the best of Mayan culture.

• Desfile de Orgullo LGBT (June): An annual LGBT parade in Guatemala City, celebrating diversity and equality. Join the marching band and dancers for one of the most vibrant musical spectacles in Central America.

• GuateRockea (July): An annual indie rock and alternative music celebration. Music fans from across the country come to take part in a festival that brings in over 50 bands from all over Latin America.

• Fiesta de los Diablitos (August): With its origins in the Mayan tradition, this celebration marks the beginning of harvest, with strong rhythmical drumming, masked dancers and costumed musicians who, according to tradition, battle against the devil.

• Coatepeque Music and Art Festival (October): A two day event celebrating music and art, with a wide range of electronic, soul, pop and rock, with live performances and art exhibitions.

• Xela Live (November): A two day annual indie music event in Quetzaltenango that hosts some of the best local talent from across the country and Central America.

Guatemala is a vibrant and diverse country full of unique cultural festivities throughout the year. Whether you’re a traveler, a local or simply interested in Mayan traditions, these are just some of the many festivals, fairs and celebrations to enjoy in Guatemala. Whether it’s traditional dance and music, religious rituals or historical celebrations, locals and visitors flock to take part in these unique and colorful gatherings that celebrate Guatemala’s cultural heritage.