Colourful dances, tradition and cheerfulness. The small desert town with currently about 800 inhabitants usually receives more than 250,000 visitors every year in the second week of July, who celebrate Chile’s patron saint, the Virgen del Carmen, for one week. La Tirana is one of the largest and most colourful folk festivals in the country.
During this religious festival, the streets of La Tirana are filled with colour and joy, and dance groups present dances such as the Antawara, Chunchos and Diabladas, for which they prepare year round. July 15th is the height of the festival ; on this day, groups of dancers make bonfires, and at midnight music played by hundreds of bands, the ringing of bells and fireworks indicate that the day of “La Chinita” (as the patron saint is usually called) has arrived.
The roots of the festival lie in the indigenous traditions of the Atacameños, Aymaras and Quechuas, who lived here before the arrival of the Spanish. After colonisation, the religious component of the festival was supplemented by the Catholic faith, and a unique synthesis of indigenous and Christian elements developed. The Fiesta de La Tirana is a remarkable example of the appreciation and preservation of indigenous culture in Chile. It shows the deep connection between indigenous peoples and their religious heritage and has become an important cultural event that strengthens the identity of the region and celebrates Chile’s cultural heritage.
If you want to join in next year, have in mind that the festival begins on July 10th, 2024. The best way to get to La Tirana is via Iquique.