The best destinations in Latin America to enjoy Halloween

This post is also available in: Español

Even though this year we’re not going to be able to celebrate Halloween like we’re used to, due to all the restrictions governments are setting all around the world and the need to keep social distance, we can still enjoy Halloween and start planning for next year’s Halloween. If you’re planning to be in Latin America towards the end of October, or want to discover some terrifying destinations all 365 days of the year, in this post we’ll tell you about how Halloween is celebrated in South America and what are the best destinations to celebrate it, plus some spooky stories and myths about this day.

Halloween Celebrations in South America

Traditionally, Latin Americans celebrate the Day of the Dead, on the 1st or 2nd of November, depending on the country. But that doesn’t mean Halloween isn’t celebrated at all in South America.

The 31st of October is the Day of the Criollo Song (Día de la Canción Criolla, in Spanish) in Peru, and Ecuador also celebrates the Day of the National Coat of Arms (Día del Escudo Nacional) on this day. However, these celebrations are both overshadowed by the pumpkins and scary costumes everywhere, which are gaining popularity every year.

Day of the National Coat of Arms parade in Ecuador

In fact, every year there are more and more Latin American countries that join in the celebrations of the traditionally American holiday. Especially the younger ones like to celebrate the night of the 31st of October with costume parties and going door-to-door trick-or-treating. In South America, this very special night is known as The Witches’ Night (La Noche de Brujas).

Terrifying destinations to experience Halloween in Latin America

Island of the Dead Dolls and la Conchita Church in Mexico City, Mexico

In the outskirts of Mexico City we can find the Island of the Dead Dolls, which currently has over 1000 dolls hanging from their trees. Legend has it that a little girl drowned in the Xochimilco canals – where this island is located. A few weeks later the caretaker of the island, Don Julián Santana Barrera, found a doll floating in the water, and as a sign of respect for the girl he hanged it on a tree.

Dolls hanging from a tree

Little by little more dolls were found over 50 years, until one day Don Julián’s lifeless body was found in the same spot where the little girl passed away. Visitants say that, sometimes, you can hear a little girl’s whispers encouraging you to get closer to the water, so if you decide to visit this island… be very careful. Don’t say we didn’t warn you!

If you’re craving even more paranormal activity in Mexico City, you can visit the Santa Catarina Neighborhood, in Coyoacán. It is said that, at night, you can see the Conchita Monk rounding the church plaza among a cloud of ashes. Do you dare visit him?

Humberstone and Death Valley in Chile

You probably know that, when you visit Chile, some of the must experiences are a trek through Torres del Paine or a visit to the Easter Island, but… have you heard about Humberstone and its dark past?
In the Atacama desert we can find an old ghost mining town. It’s Humberstone, named after a British chemist who immigrated to Latin America in 1875 to exploit saltpeter, known in the time as “white gold”. (If you want to know more about this precious substance, you can’t miss a visit to the Uyuni Salt Flats, in Bolivia, very close to the Peru border).
The workers, however, were overworked and lived in very bad conditions, and had no contact with the rest of the country. Saltpeter was very important for the Chilean economy, but during the First World War the British banned all imports on this substance, and in little time it stopped being needed.

Old train in Humberstone
Nowadays, Humberstone, like many other mining towns in the area, is a ghost town. But, thanks to the dry desert air it has stayed well-preserved, so we can still wander its streets and visit the theater, the church or the hotel like we’re in the golden era of saltpeter. If we’re lucky, we might even have a nice conversation with some of the old townies…
Yes, you read that right. Many visitors say that they can feel the presence of the miners who died for that white gold, and hear their moaning near the mines. But a few go as far to say that they talked to people who looked like they came from a different time, and only realized what really happened when they took a step back and watched them disappear into thin air.
5 hours from Humberstone we can find San Pedro de Atacama, so why not combine Humberstone with a visit to the Death Valley – which isn’t as horrifying as its name suggests (it comes from a wordplay with the word Marte, Mars in Spanish, similar to Muerte, Death in Spanish) but its red, extraterrestrial rocks will leave you with an open mouth anyway.

Villa Epecuén ruins and the Ecological Reserve in Buenos Aires, Argentina

In the south of the province of Buenos Aires, in Argentina, we can find the ruins of Villa Epecuén, an upscale touristic town built towards the middle of the XX century. But a little while after its construction, the entire town was left completely covered by water after a heavy flood.
After being fully underwater for two decades, one day all water completely evaporated, with no logical explanation, which led to all kinds of myths and legends to be created around the mysterious town. But legend or not, visitors are always shocked after watching the horror in Villa Epecuén’s streets and buildings, and some even claim they heard screams from the beyond.

Old slaughterhouse in ruins in Villa Epecuén

If you’re interested in nature, apart from trekking on Perito Moreno in your trip to Argentina, you might want to visit the Ecological Reserve of Buenos Aires to wind down after visiting Villa Epecuén. With 350 hectares of green zones and over 2000 plant and animal species, it’s the perfect place to escape from the spirits of the beyond.
But be careful, because among all those different species, it’s impossible to know what all of them are. As the story goes, there’s an animal living in the river shore, with rat characteristics and dog size, that feeds on human flesh and follows those who are just taking a nice stroll around the Reserve. There’s nothing confirmed about this monster, but we recommend staying alert if you decide to walk around the habitat of Reservito

Saint Francis Catacombs and Matusita House in Lima, Peru

You might have planned a trip to Machu Picchu, but… have you ever thought about visiting the Peruvian catacombs? If you’ve never visited any catacombs, it’s one of those experiences you have to have once in your life, even if you’re not really a fan of paranormal or creepy stuff. The Saint Francis Monastery (Basílica y Convento de San Francisco, in Spanish) has, underneath the chapel, a series of corridors that connect several chambers containing the mortal remains of the members of the Franciscan order members in Lima.

In these chambers we can find skulls and all kinds of bones dating from the XVII century, and an impressive ossuary that’s 10 meters deep. The catacombs will take us through a dark and enigmatic journey charged with a very strange energy… do you dare visit it?

Sculpture with human remains in the catacombs of San Francisco

After leaving the insides of this church and going back to the light of day, what better plan than visiting the most enchanted house of Latin America? Yes, we’re talking about the Matusita House, located between the avenues of Garcilaso de la Vega and España. This is a very important stop, since the old wall of Lima used to be here, and the main jail of the city, also known as the Panóptico of Lima, right in front of the house.

There are many stories that try to explain why this house is enchanted, but the fact is the Matusita House has a few victims, including a priest who tried to exorcise it or a television showman who wanted to film the inside of the house, but didn’t succeed. Nowadays, the first floor of the house is a bank office, and the second floor, where all the paranormal activities happened, is uninhabited and closed to the public, presumably to protect it. But word has it you can still see the shades of the ghosts living in the house, and even hear their desperate cries from the street.

We hope these 4 destinations to celebrate Halloween in Latin America have inspired you for your next adventure.

What are your plans for Halloween? We’re planning to spend the entire day looking for even more dark destinations for next year.

Lily

Lily is happy with a backpack on her back. Every year she travels through one country in Latin America and has repeated several times, especially Peru where she says she feels at home (although she says the same about Argentina, Chile and Bolivia).

She loves ceviche, hiking and Sunday picnics with her friends, although whenever you ask her, she's always planning her next destination.

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