As the Winter Solstice approaches in the southern hemisphere, a sense of excitement can be felt throughout the Andes Mountains, once home to the ancient Inca tribe. On June 24, many people living in the area celebrate the Incan “Festival of the Sun”, known otherwise as the Inti Raymi. In ancient times, this festival was a major religious event celebrated in the Cusco region, featuring dancing, ceremonies, and sacrifices as well as an opportunity to enjoy the new year (as their calendar reckoned it). The festival vanished in 1535 when the Spanish moved through South America, but in the last few decades the ceremony has been revived in Cuzco, Peru – don’t worry about the sacrifices, though, because now it’s mainly entertainment.
The modern celebration of the Inti Raymi begins at Coricancha (spellings may vary), the Incan Temple of the Sun. Dedicated to the sun deity Inti, Coricancha was the most important temple in the entire empire and, despite the fact that the original temple was taken down by Spanish colonists in favor of building the Church of Santo Domingo, parts of the original temple remain. Visitors can examine textiles, mummies, and other artifacts from the era. If you’re visiting during Inti Raymi, though, you’d better be ready to wake up early; people start gathering hours before the event truly begins (usually at 9 AM or so), but the earliest visitors can still get the best seats. A number of activities are held outside, rather than within the temple itself, allowing for far more seats for visitors.
Stage Two: Huaqaypata
The festival continues with a parade to the Main Square of Cusco, Huaqaypata. Colorful outfits and traditional Incan clothing are common sights, and as with the first stage of the festival, arriving early is highly recommended in order to get a good view. The second stage begins at about 11 AM, depending on how fast the procession is moving. For those who are pressed for time, it may be better to watch this part of the procession for only a little while, because the parade isn’t stopping and it’s heading straight for the main event.
Stage Three: Sacsayhuamán
The largest and final events of the Inti Raymi take place at the sacred square in Sacsayhuamán, about two kilometers from the second stage. Many observers prefer to hike through the hills to find good spots to watch, though tickets for closer seats are available in limited numbers. Featuring further processions and re-enactments of traditional dances and worship, the festivities in this area make good use of precisely what the open field is believed to have been designed for. The third stage begins at about 2 PM, and lasts for a good portion of the day – for this reason, it is highly recommended to bring your own food.
For information on visiting Cuzco during the Inti Raymi festival, inquire with Latin Discover, where a representative can help you plan a trip to one of Latin America’s biggest and most exciting festivals. You can book a Peru Classic Tour which includes a full leisure day so that you can follow all of the Inti Raymi festivities and also visit Machu Picchu and Lima at the same time. Or Latin Discover can create a custom itinerary which will include Inti Raymi within the trip.