The Inti Raymi, also known as the Festival of the Sun, was the most important celebration of the Inca Empire. It takes place every June 24 in the city of Cusco and is dedicated to the sun god Inti. The festivities involved feasting, dances, music, and animal sacrifices to thank Inti for the year's harvest and to ask for his blessing for the upcoming one. But, did you know that it was once forbidden to be considered “pagan”? Today, this festival brings together thousands of people, including artists and tourists from all over the world.

Keep reading to learn more about the Inti Raymi.

What is Inti Raymi Festival?

The Inti Raymi, or Festival of the Sun, was the largest and most significant festivity during the Inca Empire. It was a religious celebration dedicated to the Sun God, Inti, who was the most revered deity in the Inca Religion. The main ceremony was held during the winter solstice to mark the beginning of the year.

According to Inca tradition, Inti Raymi was created by the Inca Pachacutec in 1430 BC to celebrate the first day of the New Year in the Inca calendar. Today, the Inti Raymi is celebrated every June 24th in Cusco, the former Capital of the Inca Empire. The modern ceremony is a theatrical representation of the ancient rituals, with hundreds of artists dressed up in colorful costumes to emulate the Inca times. 

Why June 24? — This is the shortest day of the year and the beginning of the winter solstice in the Southern Hemisphere. On this day, the sun is farthest from the earth, and the Incas celebrated it to plead for the return of the sun and longer days.

Inti Raymi Festival | TreXperience

Approximately 25,000 people, including actors, dancers, and musicians—typically dressed well—perform different activities outside the Coricancha complex, Sacsayhuaman, and the Main Square of Cusco.

Many speeches are delivered during the festival in Quechua or Runa Simi, the Incan language. Quechua is a unifying and widely spoken language, and it's one of three official languages in Peru.

| Learn more about the Language of the Incas

Inti Raymi during Inca Times

During the time of the Inca Empire, the Inti Raymi was celebrated at the winter solstice on June 21st, the shortest day of the year in terms of daylight; it was a time for the Inca to honor the sun god, Inti, who was a central figure in their religious pantheon. The festival took place in Cusco, the capital of the Inca Empire, and would last for nine days. It involved fasting, sacrifices, processions, dances, and a great feast. Only the Inca and his wife, the Coyas, priests, and nobility were allowed to participate in the ceremonies, but the celebrations were public.

The festival began with a procession in which the Inca, carried on a golden throne, led his people from the Coricancha, or Temple of the Sun, to the Sacsayhuaman fortress outside of Cusco. The Inca were followed by nobles and priests, all dressed in their finest clothes and many carrying golden objects symbolizing the sun. Once at Sacsayhuaman, the Inca would start a new fire using a mirror to catch the sun's rays. This new fire was then spread to all the temples and shrines in the empire, symbolizing the rebirth of the sun.

Animal sacrifices, typically llamas, were made to the sun god, and priests examined their entrails to predict the future. There were also dances and songs to honor Inti, and the festivities concluded with a large feast where maize (corn) beer, known as chicha, was drunk. The festival was a time for the Inca to thank Inti for the year's harvests and to ask for his blessings for the coming year. It also reaffirmed the bond between the sun god and the Inca, who were considered his living representatives on Earth.

Inti Raymi during Inca Times
Mommy is being carried. Image: Guaman Poma Chronicles
Inti Raymi during Inca times | TreXperience
There's a controversy over when the Inti Raymi was celebrated. Image: Guaman Poma Chronicles

Inti Raymi Today

The original date of the Inti Raymi festival was closely tied to the winter solstice in the Southern Hemisphere, which falls around June 21st. The Inca, who deeply understood astronomy, held the festival to mark the shortest day of the year and the beginning of the sun's return to a more favorable position in the sky.

However, the festival's exact date was changed to June 24th, as this date had been declared "Day of the Indian" by the administration of President A. Leguia. In addition, June 24 was a non-working day due to the celebration of San Juan (the Catholic feast day of St. John the Baptist), which facilitated the public's attendance.

The modern Inti Raymi festival starts in the morning at the Qoricancha, the ancient Inca Temple of the Sun, now part of the Santo Domingo Convent. Here, actors play out the first part of the ceremony, with an actor representing the Sapa Inca (the Inca emperor) paying homage to the sun.

The procession then moves to the main square, Plaza de Armas, where the Sapa Inca calls on the blessings of the sun. The final and main part of the festival takes place in the afternoon at the large, open-air fortress of Sacsayhuaman, just on the outskirts of Cusco.

Inti Raymi

At Sacsayhuaman, the ceremony follows the traditional rituals as closely as possible, with prayers, offerings, and a simulated llama sacrifice (no actual llamas are harmed in the modern celebration). This grand spectacle is conducted entirely in the Quechua language, the language of the Incas, and the performers wear traditional Inca clothes.

While the festival is a theatrical reenactment rather than a religious ceremony, it is still a significant cultural event. It attracts tourists and helps Peruvians connect with their Inca roots and celebrate their heritage. It's a festival filled with color, music, and dance and one of Peru's most important traditional celebrations.

Inti Raymi – A Cultural Heritage

Despite the creeping in of globalization, the Inca's descendants have successfully preserved their cultural expression with pride. On March 2nd, 2001, the Inti Raymi Festival was declared a Cultural Heritage of the Nation, and it's now organized by the Provincial Municipality of Cusco.

The Inti Raymi has also become a major tourist attraction in Peru, drawing visitors from around the world. This not only supports the local economy but also raises international awareness and appreciation of the rich cultural heritage of the Andean people.

Why should you visit the Festival of the Sun?

Inti Raymi is celebrated in the city of Cusco, which is a major destination for history lovers due to its culture, museums, archaeological sites, natural beauty, and extremely friendly people. During the festival, thousands of people, including both locals and tourists from around the world, gather to walk through the fascinating streets of Cusco and witness the amazing staging of the Inti Raymi.

This festival offers a great opportunity to experience the city’s authentic art and folklore performances. Here are some other reasons why you should not miss the Festival of the Sun:

1. Cultural Experience

Attending the Inti Raymi festival provides a deeply enriching cultural experience. As one of Peru's most significant traditional celebrations, the festival allows visitors to immerse themselves in the rich heritage of the Andean people and their Inca ancestors.

2. Spectacular Performances

The festival includes vibrant and colorful performances, with hundreds of performers adorned in traditional Inca costumes and jewelry. The theatrical reenactment of ancient rituals is a grand spectacle involving music, dance, processions, and even a simulated llama sacrifice. You'd be happy to know that there are no real sacrifices anymore.

3. Historical Significance

The festival takes place in historic locations in Cusco, including the ancient Inca Temple of the Sun (Qoricancha), the city's Main Square (Plaza de Armas), and the Sacsayhuaman archaeological site. This allows visitors to explore these significant sites while experiencing the festival.

4. Beautiful Scenery

The festival takes place in and around Cusco, a city that sits high in the Andes Mountains. The city and its surroundings offer breathtaking scenery; the festival is an excellent reason to visit this beautiful part of the world.

5. Meet New People

This event attracts visitors worldwide, making it a great place to meet and interact with people from diverse cultures and backgrounds. It also provides a chance to connect with the local people and learn about their customs and way of life.

6. Photographic Opportunities

With its colorful costumes, dramatic performances, and historical settings, the festival offers fantastic opportunities for photography lovers.

Inti Raymi
Scene of a llama sacrifice at Sacsayhuaman

What to Expect during the Inti Raymi Festival

There are two ways you can experience the Inti Raymi in Cusco: 1. You can book seats in advance, which will give you access to the designated areas of the event. 2. You can watch the event while standing among the visitors; being with the locals will give you a better understanding of the importance of this event.

Places you can visit during the event:

  • At Qorikancha (Temple of the Sun):

Although there is no official seating for watching the festival at Qoricancha, there are plenty of standing rooms. The festival takes place in the gardens just outside of the temple, which offer mesmerizing and fascinating views. You only need to arrive early for the best views and an excellent beginning!

Inti Raymi Opening Ceremony | TreXperience
Inti Raymi Opening Ceremony at the Qoricancha. Photo: Walter Coraza
  • At Cusco Main Square:

Though cordoned off for the festivities, you’ll still find space around the colonial arcades to view the enthralling ceremony. Due to the limited space in the plaza, you need to be prepared to stand in crowds.

Tip: If you plan to see the Inti Raymi, arrive at a pre-booked table with a balcony and other best vantage points at a local cafe or restaurant. Enjoy the drink, and watch from there!

Inti Raymi PLaza de Armas | TreXperience
Inti Raymi at Plaza de Armas. Photo credits to Warner Rios
Inti Raymi Dances at Plaza de Armas | TreXperience
Inti Raymi at Plaza de Armas. Photo credits to Warner Rios
  • At Sacsayhuaman:

Locals who can't afford high prices choose to watch Inti Raymi from two hills that overlook the festivities. The best and most effective way to watch the ceremony is to book through a local guide and enjoy grandstand seating, which is sold on a priority basis, or you can join local Peruvians and view the festival from two local parks.

Inti Raymi Sacsayhuaman | TreXperience
Inti Raymi at Sacsayhuaman. Photo credits to Warner Rios
Musicians at Inti Raymi | TreXperience
Musicians at Inti Raymi. Photo credits to Warner Rios

Inti Raymi Itinerary

  • 9:00 am - Beginning of the Festivity in the Temple of the Sun, Qoricancha

Here, the Inca, La Qoya, and the Royalty salute the god Inti, invoking the ceremony's success. "Oh, sun god, our father! Powerful Sun of eternal happiness, warm source, the principle of life! From this, your sacred mansion in Cusco, where you live with the Moon, Lightning, and Thunder, your children of the Empire of the Four Regions, greet you reverently on your jubilee day”.

  • 10:30 am - Cusco Main Square

Once the first part of the Inti Raymi in the Qoricancha is finished, the Inca, his Royal Entourage, and the Imperial Army go in a procession to the Plaza de Armas through old Inca streets such as Loreto Street, and it arrives right at Aucaypata. The Ñustas, Aqllas (chosen women), and the entire imperial army are already positioned in the Plaza de Armas to wait for the Inca. Here, the Inca, as the highest ruler of the empire, performed the Coca ceremony and invoked the Apus.

  • 1:45 pm - Chuquipampa or Sacsayhuaman Esplanade

After the Coca ceremony in the Plaza del Aucaypata, the cast heads towards the esplanade of the archaeological park of Sacsayhuaman, where around 80,000 people and approximately 3,500 tourists who purchased their seats in the stands installed on the esplanade await the central ceremony.

Prepare to be in the crowds and bring everything you need for the day, including plenty of food, water, and sun protection! It's first come, first served!

 

Book Inti Raymi Tickets 2024 | TreXperience

Inti Raymi FAQs

What is the Inti Raymi festival?

Inti Raymi is a traditional Incan festival that celebrates the Sun God, Inti. It is held annually on June 24th in Cusco, Peru. The festival involves music, dancing, processions, and ritualistic ceremonies.

When is the Inti Raymi festival celebrated?

Inti Raymi is celebrated annually on June 24th, which is around the time of the winter solstice in the Southern Hemisphere.

Where does the Inti Raymi festival take place?

The festival takes place in Cusco, Peru. The main ceremonies are held in the fortress of Sacsayhuamán, which is just outside of the city.

How long is the Inti Raymi?

The festival lasts for one day only (June 24th). The ceremony starts at 9:00 at Qoricancha and ends around 3:00 pm at the Sacsayhuaman esplanade.

Why is the Inti Raymi festival celebrated?

Inti Raymi is a religious ceremony of the Inca Empire in honor of the god Inti, one of the most venerated deities in the Inca religion. It was the celebration of the Winter Solstice - the shortest day of the year between sunrise and sunset.

What happens during Inti Raymi?

The modern Inti Raymi festival involves a reenactment of traditional Inca rituals, including a procession, music, dancing, and feasting. The most important part of the event is the theatrical representation of ancient rituals performed at the Sacsayhuaman archaeological site.

Was Inti Raymi banned?

The Spanish conquerors banned Inti Raymi in the 16th century due to their efforts to convert the indigenous people to Catholicism. However, the festival was revived in the 20th century and is now celebrated as a cultural event.

How can I attend the Inti Raymi festival?

To attend the Inti Raymi festival, you need to travel to Cusco, Peru, around June 24th. You can watch the processions and ceremonies for free, but if you want a seat in the main viewing area at Sacsayhuamán, you will need to buy a ticket.

Where to buy a ticket for the Inti Raymi?

You can buy your Inti Raymi ticket at the Teleticket website. The prices vary depending on the location and the type of seats you will choose.

Can tourists attend Inti Raymi?

Yes, tourists can attend Inti Raymi. In fact, it's a major tourist attraction in Cusco. However, visitors are asked to respect the cultural significance of the event.

What does Inti Raymi mean to the people of Peru today?

For many Peruvians, especially those of indigenous descent, Inti Raymi is a celebration of their cultural heritage and a way to connect with their Inca roots. It's also an important event for promoting tourism in the region.

How can I best experience Inti Raymi?

To experience Inti Raymi, plan to visit Cusco in late June. The festival is free to watch in the streets, but ticketed seats are available at the main ceremony site in Sacsayhuaman. Booking in advance is recommended due to the popularity of the event.

Is the Inti Raymi festival safe to attend?

Yes, the Inti Raymi festival is generally safe to attend. However, like any large public gathering, attendees are encouraged to be aware of their surroundings and take standard travel precautions.

Can I take photographs during the festival?

Yes, you can take photographs during the festival. However, it's important to respect the performers and other attendees by not disrupting the ceremonies.

What should I wear to the Inti Raymi festival?

As the festival takes place in winter, it's a good idea to dress in layers. The mornings can be cool, but it can become quite warm in the afternoon sun. Comfortable shoes are also recommended as you may need to stand or walk for long periods.

What is the history of the Inti Raymi festival?

The Inti Raymi festival was a religious ceremony of the Inca Empire that has been revived in modern times. It was originally celebrated by the Inca, their nobles, and their subjects in the city of Cusco. With the Spanish conquest, the festival was banned for its pagan roots but was revived in the 20th century and is now one of Peru's most popular festivals.


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