Every year, on June 24, Cusco celebrates the Inti Raymi or Fiesta del Sol. This festival is in honor of the Inca God called ‘Inti’. Inti was the creator of everything that exists according to the Inca civilization. Pachacutec Inca Yupanqui founded the celebration. He was the ninth Sapa Inca and also one of the greatest conquerors of the Empire. The Inti Raymi was the most important religious ceremony during the time of the Inca Empire. And that is why together with Machu Travel Peru we have prepared a small article where we delve into the subject. Learn a little more about the history and context of Inti Raymi.
This is one of the most iconic and emblematic Andean celebrations that are enjoyed throughout the year. Therefore, a holiday that you cannot miss. Also, visiting the beautiful Imperial City during the Inti Raymi season is a marvel!
Everything you need to know about the Andean festival of Inti Raymi
- Regarding the Inti Raymi
- A little bit of history
- The original festival
- What the celebration is about
- Reasons not to miss the celebration
- Tips to enjoy Inti Raymi
REGARDING THE INTI RAYMI
This festival is celebrated during the winter solstice in the southern hemisphere, where the Andean New Year also begins. The Inti Raymi celebrations last 9 days. During those days the Incas celebrated with music, colorful dances, processions, and even animal sacrifices offered to the sun. Many of these sacrifices were to ensure good harvests for the year. In addition to giving thanks to the Pachamama (Mother Earth) and paying tribute to the first-born of the Sun, the Inca.
Inti Raymi continues to be celebrated majestically as a unique and incomparable ceremony. It attracts thousands of visitors from all over the world every year. Especially to people interested and very enthusiastic about exploring the ancient Inca life. You will be able to know the richness of our culture and our distinguished archaeological heritage. All while you admire our majestic landscapes. That is why Cusco is, without a doubt, the most visited Peruvian city. And not just for its colorful and vibrant ancestral festivals, but for many other interesting reasons too. One of those reasons is the many tours in Peru that you can experience around.
A LITTLE BIT OF HISTORY
When the Spanish invaded the capital of the Inca Empire, the Catholic priests prohibited the ceremony. The priests tried to prohibit the Inti Raymi claiming that it was pagan. But despite this, the Incas continued to celebrate the Inti Raymi in secret, hidden from the Spanish authorities. Later, in 1944, the first reconstructed ceremony based on the chronicles of Garcilaso de la Vega took place. From that period until now, a theatrical performance of the Inti Raymi has been held in the Sacsayhuaman Fortress, 2 km from the main square of Cusco.
This ceremony gives a real interpretation of the stories about the heyday of the Inca and particularly the performance of Sapa Inca. The Sapa Inca was the Inca emperor who was carried on a golden chariot. To learn more about the history of the city, you can take a look at the different hotels in Cusco. Many of the different hotels were established on old Spanish mansions. Whose foundations belong to historical buildings and of great importance for the Incas.
THE ORIGINAL FESTIVAL
The original Inti Raymi celebration was a bit more bloodthirsty affair than modern celebrations. We have to bear in mind that numerous sacrifices took part to honor and satisfy the Sun God. It is believed that the Sapa Inca, along with his best warriors and nobles, fasted for three days. Then they painted their faces and wore headdresses made from deer heads. The Inti Raymi participants would toast to the God Inti with Chicha while sacrificing black llamas. Omens were given for the coming year with these sacrifices. Interestingly, traditional sacrifices also included young children. They sacrificed a child for each of the four corners of the Empire.
Today, Inti Raymi celebrations are far from what they were in ancient times. Today the celebration could be considered as a theatricalization of what was used to be seen previously. Keep in mind that these traditions were rarely passed down in writing. So the dramatizations are just a rough interpretation of what they were before. It is advisable to enjoy these celebrations after a Cusco city tour. In this way, you will be able to fully understand the Inca culture and the traditions that shape the Andean country.
WHAT THE CELEBRATION IS ABOUT
Every year, the Inti Raymi begins in the exterior gardens of the Qoricancha. These can be seen full of musicians, dancers, Acllas (They are women chosen to serve and worship the Sun God with their sweet voices, singing Andean songs in Quechua). Also, you will be able to notice priests. They are all dressed in colorful outfits and you will see some locals wearing animal costumes. These costumes can be snakes, pumas, and condors. These animals symbolize the underworld, the earthly world, and the celestial world, according to Inca mythology.
The ceremony goes through different places in the Cusco tourist map, such as the Plaza de Armas. Although the Inti Raymi begins in the Coricancha gardens, the procession continues to the Plaza de Armas and later goes to Sacsayhuaman. Sacsayhuaman is where the major celebrations take part. Then everything ends with a procession back to Cusco. You will notice that the best way to enjoy, experience, and learn more about the meaning of this holiday is to be with the local people. This exchange can give you a better understanding of the mythical origins of this ceremony and of Cusco itself. The Inti Raymi festivities end with a procession back to Cusco, while the priests pronounce blessings on the people.
REASONS NOT TO MISS THE CELEBRATION
There are many reasons not to miss the Inti Raymi. This is one of the most mythical and iconic festivals in Cusco. It’s celebrated on June 24, and during the following days, you can see a very vibrant Cusco. It is in June where Cusco receives more tourists than the rest of the year. So you can have the opportunity to meet people from all over Peru and the world!
If you plan to visit Sacsayhuaman, it can also be a good excuse to take part in the celebrations there. You will be able to appreciate each of the artists in an impeccable representation. Most of the actors and actresses who take part in the dramatization are natives of Cusco. Also, you will hear Andean songs in the ancient language of Quechua. In conclusion, you will have a greater understanding of our beautiful culture and different traditions. An opportunity worth experiencing and one of the best things to do in Cusco.
TIPS TO ENJOY INTI RAYMI
June is high season in Cusco, so it is advisable to think about reserving your tours and accommodation in advance. As with other events or archaeological sites in Cusco, it is advisable to reserve your ticket well in advance. The celebrations that take part in the Plaza de Armas and Coricancha can be observed for free. Just have in mind that large crowds of people are surrounding the places. So if you don’t get there early, you may not have the best spots. The Sacsayhuaman fortress is where a stage of the celebration takes part. This part is only accessible if you have your entrance ticket.
Keep in mind that within the Sacsayhuaman complex there is a wide variety of seats to choose from. You can choose front row seats to reserved chairs on the slopes of the mountain. But if you’re on a budget, don’t worry. You may still be able to appreciate the performance but from further away. The hills that surround Sacsayhuaman are freely accessible and allow visualization of the celebrations. There are many free things to do in Cusco. But for a small additional price, you can enjoy Inti Raymi much more closely.
“THE INTI RAYMI URGES US TO CREATE DELIGHT INSIDE AND TO ENABLE OUR LIVES TO MIRROR OUR INTERNAL BLISS.”
As you will understand, this celebration is not something to go unnoticed. Cusco is revitalized in this emblematic time. And its colors, traditions, and beautiful legends take shape with the different celebrations. Being part of the Inti Raymi, you will be able to understand in greater depth the themes that shape the daily life of Cusco. Together with Machu Travel Peru, we hope we have been of help. If you want to enjoy these celebrations on your next vacation, you can consult with our advisors. Our team will be excited to help you make the trip of your dreams come true.