New Years in South America: Top 6 places to celebrate

New Years in South America: Top 6 places to celebrate

October 30, 2018
By Ashley Winder

Heading to South America for the New Year holidays? Are you wondering what to do or where to go? Well, we can tell you, there is a range of options depending on your New Year’s celebratory style. All you have to do is choose.

From the beaches of Uruguay to the mountains of Peru, there is something for everybody in this list. You can spend your holidays dancing the night away or relax with your drink of choice and enjoy the fireworks with locals. These Top 6 Destinations in South America for New Years won’t disappoint anyone heading this way!

[While this list is numbered, there is no particular order of which celebrations to attend.]


6. Rio de Janeiro, Brazil


We have to start the list off with the biggest and best New Years Eve celebration in South America: Rio de Janeiro. Not only is it considered the best NYE in this neck of the woods, but it’s also considered one of the best in the world! Rio’s NYE celebration can almost rival its own Carnival celebration in terms of size and grandeur.



Flickr/Leandro Neumann Ciuffo

It’s Rio. You can expect huge crowds, samba dancing, and parties that spill onto the street for this holiday. Get your inner Latina/o flowing and dance to the beats of local and live music throughout the city.

For the main event, you can head to Copacabana Beach, where the energy of the coming New Years seeps out of the locals and tourists alike. This beach is also the prime location to view the spectacular firework show that is almost unrivaled in South America.


Brazilian Traditions: In Brazil, wearing white is traditional to bring in the New Years. It is also common to find locals throwing flowers in the ocean to honor Yemanjá, an Afro-American goddess of the sea/water.

As the clock strikes midnight, Brazilians in the ocean will be jumping seven waves while making seven wishes. Feel free to join if you have seven wishes up your sleeve! A few other lucky number seven traditions include: eating seven grapes for abundance and chewing seven pomegranate seeds for prosperity.


While here don’t forget to check out our LocalAventura tours in beautiful Rio de Janeiro!


5. Punta Del Este, Uruguay


Do you have an inner Beyoncé that is dying to come out for New Years? If yes, then Punta Del Este is probably where you want to spend your celebrations. If you like glitz, glam, exclusive parties, and a luxury experience, head on over to this beach town.

This increasingly popular New Year’s destination is filled with millionaires and celebrities who party in exclusive seaside mansions. If this is up your alley, keep in mind that these are invitation-only events that will need to be booked in advance, so plan ahead!


Alternatively, you can head over to the coastline (Our Lady of Candelaria Harbor) with the average locals, grab some beach chairs, relax, and enjoy a prime spot for the fireworks. Not only do you get the calm atmosphere, but you get free music that trails in from the night clubs in surrounding neighborhoods.

Don’t get too comfortable in your beach chairs though! After the fireworks end, locals don’t tend to hang around. Not when you have the famous La Barra neighborhood hosting 24-hour casinos and night long dance parties calling your name.


Over in nearby Montevideo, there is a strong New Years tradition called The Cider War Festival (Guerra de Sidra). If you are in the Port Market at midnight, you are fair game to having cider, beer, and water thrown on you. However, feel free to laugh it off and reciprocate!


While in Uruguay – check out some awesome LocalAventura tours here.


4. Buenos Aires


You can’t go wrong with spending New Years in Buenos Aires. This city brings on the New Year in a more relaxed and traditional method than its neighboring countries. Since the holidays fall in the summer, it is common to find locals at the beach, swimming, BBQing, and spending time with friends and family.

For evening festivities, Puerto Madero is the main fireworks headquarters. So be sure to find a spot looking in that direction, or head there and enjoy live music, summer night, and of course, the generous amounts of beer and other alcoholic drinks.


If you are so inclined, check with your hotel or local restaurants as they offer special New Years themed dinners with authentic menus, live music, tango shows, and cocktails. Don’t forget to eat a Pan Dulce from a traditional Argentinian bakery! These sweet breads containing dried fruits are quite the New Years tradition.


Fun Argentinian Tradition: If possible, plan to wear pink underwear to bring in the new year. Bonus points for being new and received as a gift for Christmas.


Have time to spare in Buenos Aires? LocalAventura offers a HUGE range of tours in and around this unique city. From tango lessons to a polo experience, and everything in between, we’ve got you covered.


3. Cartagena, Colombia


Even during non-holidays, Cartagena is one of the most picturesque cities to visit with its cobblestoned streets, Caribbean breeze, UNESCO World Heritage status, beach-side access, colorful buildings, and great year-round weather.


Flickr/JD Lasica

Fireworks are launched over the water, so you can set up a table and chairs with family and friends with an ocean view. Don’t forget to include twelve shafts of wheat for the dinner table. This tradition ensures an abundance of food in the year to come.


Colombians (among other Latin American countries) have a strong tradition used to get rid of bad vibes called ‘Años Viejos” or “Old Year”. The tradition consists of building dolls or effigies, dressing them in old rags or clothes and decorating their faces to mimic unpopular cultural figures, national or international personalities, many of which are associated with politics. These dolls have no size limit and are stuffed with paper and fireworks. Neighborhoods often create their own doll display and compete against other neighborhoods. At midnight, these dolls are set ablaze to bring in the new year.


Flickr/Jow Ross

Additionally, if you think everyone has headed off on holiday with their suitcases at midnight, don’t be alarmed. This tradition of walking around the block with a suitcase is the hope or wish to travel more in the new year. As always, feel free to grab your suitcase and join in!


2. Valparaiso, Chile


Need to tick two things off your bucket list? How about spending New Year’s Eve in South America and whilst also visiting a UNESCO World Heritage Site? We don’t see why not!


Valparaiso is so much more than Chile’s oldest port city. It also hosts one of the biggest New Year’s Eve firework shows in Latin America, clocking in at 25 minutes of constant fireworks. This is second only to Rio’s massive firework display.


Flickr/David Lohr Bueso

You can celebrate Chile’s three day New Years celebration in a multitude of ways. Dinner on yachts is gaining popularity for the unique experience and prime vantage point for the firework display. Large hotels and restaurant chains organize dinners and exclusive parties for the New Years celebration. But don’t forget to make a reservation well in advance to guarantee a spot!

Another option is do what locals do and gather at Plaza Sotomayor for views of the firework show. Once the show is over, don’t pack up your things just yet. It is highly popular to stick around and party until sunrise.

A Chilean New Years tradition includes writing down things you would like to change on a piece of paper and setting it afire.


Need something to do before or after the New Years celebrations? Check out LocalAventura’s numerous city and farm tours from Valparaiso.


  1. Cusco, Peru


Last, but certainly not least is a mountain celebration in Cusco, Peru. You may be surprised, but Cusco, not Lima, is the more popular New Year’s destination for this country.

Everyone tends to gather in the main square of Plaza de Armas for the nightly celebration. Don’t forget to wear yellow – which is considered a lucky color by the Incas.



Flickr/Dan Merino

Similar to Chileans, grabbing your suitcase and walking around the block is also a common occurrence here.

Safety tip: Watch out for locals pointing fireworks towards you! They don’t mean it maliciously (as they will point them at locals too). It’s just the New Years vibe carrying everyone away.


Did we give you so many options that you can’t decide? Don’t worry! We are a message or phone call away if you need any tips, guidance, or recommendations from any of our LocalAventura travel experts.


Don’t hesitate to contact us! We want to make sure your Latin American experience is the best it can be. Especially as you ring in the New Year!


Categories: Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Costa Rica, Fun, Peru, Travel Tips, Uruguay