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As the fourth largest city in Bolivia, with a metropolitan population of over one million people, Cochabamba is a common destination for visitors to the South American country. The city is a lively, vibrant place with a strong Mediterranean feel and the prosperous new-town areas of Cochabamba are very popular with tourists. As Bolivia is a predominantly Roman Catholic country, many of the events and festivals held in Cochabamba are religious in nature, with one of the most popular being the Fiesta de la Virgen de Urkupina.
Held in Quillacollo, 14km away from the city itself, this festival is a mixture of folk festival and religious gathering, allowing visitors to see plenty of the culture and history of the country. The three-day event is held in August and begins with a day when over 15,000 dancers decked in costumes and masks dance through the streets, offering tribute to the Virgen de Urkupina. This parade is full of colour and joy, with many festivities continuing until early the following morning.
The second day is mainly focussed on prayer, with followers attending Masses in the local churches. The final day of the festival involves a lengthy pilgrimage, with many walking from the city of Cochabamba to the hill of Cavalry, where they offer tributes and prayers.
Cochabamba is a bustling and booming destination to explore at any time of the year, however visiting during this festival highlights the continuing contrasts in the country, between traditional customs and modern cities.