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Inti Raymi Festival in Cusco

Written by: Incatrailhikeperu May 6, 2022

If you are visiting Cusco in June, there’s no doubt you’ll hear about the festival of Inti Raymi. You will likely hear about it whenever you visit, to be honest.

It was the most important of all the Incan festivals because it represented the winter solstice and was their celebration of the New Year. It used to take place in the main plaza in the city and the first one in 1412.

The ceremony included an animal sacrifice to the Pachamama (Mother Earth). After the Spanish invaded, they banned Inti Raymi and any other celebration of the like. However, in 1944, the people of Cusco decided to reenact their first performance of this celebration, which we still enjoy in this day and age.

On the 24th of June every year it is celebrated at the archaeological site of Sacsayhuaman. Tourists and locals alike gather to watch the festival take place. It’s an excellent experience to make you feel as though you are being swept back into the time of the Incas and to give you a good idea of how life was like back then.

Pachacútec, who was in charge of ordering the construction of Machu Picchu, established this celebration around 1430 and, despite having been prohibited by Viceroy Francisco de Toledo with the arrival of the Spanish, in 1944 Faustino Espinoza Navarro, through the story of the Inca Garcilaso de la Vega, was in charge of writing, directing and representing the reconstruction of the Inti Raymi celebration.

Currently, to commemorate the festivity , a hundred actors wearing typical Inca clothing gather at the ceremonial fortress of Sacsayhuamán and perform a representation of what was originally the invocation of the sun by the Inca.

The celebration begins in the Coricancha Temple (today the Convent of Santo Domingo) with the greeting to the sun. After this, the Inca and the mayor of Cusco meet in Haucaypata to finally carry out the central ceremony to the north of the city on the esplanade of Sacsayhuamán at more than 3600 meters above sea level.

Inti Raymi as one of the great traditions of the Inca Culture , gives tourists every June 24, the possibility of enjoying songs, characters with typical clothing and native music.

Inti Raymi Festival: the biggest festival in Cusco

Who was Inti & Why was he Important to Peruvian History?

Inti is the most important God in the Incan Religion. He represents the Sun and is often portrayed as a human face on a golden disk. The sun is the most important figure in Inca Religion as it is the giver of life.

Other important figures are: Mama Quilla, the goddess of the Moon (often represented as a silver disk with a human face, Apus, who are the spirits of large mountains, Pachamama, who is mother earth, and a host of other Gods.

Offerings are made to the gods in the form of Quintus, typically three coca leaves held together. Often when hiking in Cusco, it is expected that you will leave a Quintu as an offering to the Mountain Apus, as well as a small stack of stones, also known as an Apu.

In Incan culture, it is very important to please the Gods as they are what provide the ever-important things such as fertile earth, the sun, and protection. And so, the Inti Raymi festival celebrates the gods in order to please them.

Where is Inti Raymi Celebrated?

Inti Raymi is celebrated in Cusco, Peru. The festival begins at Qoricancha, considered to be the belly button of Cusco and where the world receives its nurture from. There is then a parade that passes through the city, stopping at the main square and continuing to Sacsayhuaman, the fortress that overlooks the city.

It’s important to note that the Incas believed Cusco to be the center of the world, as well as the city being in the shape of a puma- one of the sacred animals (the others begin the condor and the snake). The parade takes place from the belly button to the head of the puma.

  • Coricancha – The Temple of the Sun or Coricancha, from the early hours of the day, begins the Festival of the Sun. This representation takes place in the so-called golden garden. It begins with the appearance of the Inca. The first rituals offer coca leaves, llamas, alpacas and more. The staging is free. You only have to go to El Sol Avenue from the early hours of the day. The staging begins at 09:00 am and lasts an average of 45 minutes.
  • Plaza de Armas – The historic center of Cusco is the nerve center of the Fiesta del Sol celebrations. The Plaza de Armas is cordoned off. The Inca is carried on a litter by eight servants and performs the so-called Coca Ceremony. There is a platform for tourists who purchased their ticket. However, most visitors have to watch the staging of the ritual standing up. The ceremony begins at 11:00 am and lasts approximately one hour.
  • Sacsayhuaman – The Chuquipampa esplanade in the Sacsayhuaman fortress  is the main stage of the Inti Raymi representation. This place was very important during the Inca period. Today, access to the public is only allowed with an entrance ticket. There are 3 platforms or grandstands for tourists. The staging begins at 13:30 and lasts almost two hours.

How much does it cost to see the Inti Raymi Festival?
Tickets to Inti Raymi are sold online. There are 3 stands distributed on the Chiquipampa esplanade in Sacsayhuaman: a central stand and two side stands.

The Inti Raymi show on the Sacsayhuaman esplanade does have a cost that goes from 180 to 240 dollars depending on the seat you choose.

On the other hand, the Inti Raymi shows in the Coricancha and the Plaza de Armas in Cusco are free for everyone.

The costs include the guide service, food and transportation. Children under 12 years old have special discounts.

The Inti Raymi in Sacsayhuaman is only allowed to visitors with an entrance ticket. The performances in Coricancha and the Plaza de Armas of Cusco are allowed to the general public without an access ticket.

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