Celebrate the Inti Raymi Sun Festival in Cusco this June

June is considered the best time to stop by Cusco with good reason: as the city's anniversary month, it's filled with parades, concerts, and fairs, the faithful set off for the hemisphere's largest indigenous pilgrimage, Qoyllur Rit'i, and the Inti Raymi Sun Festival packs the city. Although the festivities go on for weeks, it all builds up to Inti Raymi's main day on June 24th

It is in honor of the Inca's supreme divinity, the first day of the Incan solar calendar, and the winter solstice that Cusco explodes into color and elaborately costumed celebration every June.  The Festival of the Sun was the most important annual ceremony, supposedly dating back to the very first Inca, Pachacutec.  After a long period of prohibition spanning the Spanish colonial period and its aftermath, Inti Raymi sprung back with a force- nowadays, 50,000 spectators and more than 500 actors, dancers, and musicians participate in the festivities.  If you can't make it to the main event, don't worry- the carnivalesque atmosphere continues with dance competitions, free concerts, street fairs and parades in Cusco's main streets. 

Official Program: Friday, 24th of June 2011

08:15   The Tahauntinsuyo rainbow flag is raised in the Main Square by the 5th Mountain Brigade

08:30   Cusco's Archbishop performs Mass and the Te Deum at the Basilica Cathedral

9:00     Act I: Salute to the Sun at Qorikancha, the Temple of the Sun

Cusco travels back in time as characters of importance in the time of the Inca Empire assemble for the Incan Emperor's Salute to the Sun.  The ceremony begins amid the sounds of conch shells and traditional Andean Instruments.  Afterwards, the characters will process along flower-strewn streets to the Main Square.

10:30   Act II: Meeting of the Times at the Main Square

Epochs clash as the Inca, from a large huaca (Incan Altar) constructed in the Plaza de Armas, officially addresses the Mayor of Cusco

13:30   Act III- The Main Event at the Fortress of Sacsayhuamán

During the principal ceremony, Intí Raymi reaches its culmination with a spectacular performance steeped in tradition.  It includes the Chicha de Jora rite, a simulated black llama sacrifice, and the fire rite.  There will be dancing, jubilation, divining from llama blood and viscera, and sacred bonfires.

Tips for Travelers

  • Tickets aren't necessary to see the main ceremony at Sacsayhuamán- if you don't mind celebrating from a distance, you can grab a spot hillside local-style.  For those who want prime seating, however, there are still tickets being sold at different price levels depending on the seating area.
  • So many people come for the festivities in June/July that rooms are hard to come by.  If you can, try to reserve in advance.  Also, be prepared for price hikes in transport, lodging, and food. 
  • June is wintertime in Cusco, the weather is variable: cold in the mornings and evenings, and sunny and hot in the afternoon.  Come prepared with sunscreen and bring warm layers.
  • The streets of Cusco are more crowded now than at any other time of year- with dancers and musicians in the streets and spectators crowding the sidewalks you need to remain cautious of pick-pockets hoping to profit from your distraction.

Inca World offers an Inti Raymi tour including tickets, a guide to explain the Quechua-language proceedings, transport, and a box lunch. We also offer a 6-day program which includes Inti Raymi as well as a visit to the Sacred Valley of the Incas and Machu Picchu. We hope that you visit us in the imperial capital of the Incas this June!

Inca World Team
Publication date: 14 May 2015
Sources: <a href=" https://plus.google.com/u/0/107060027985626386869/about?tab=XX?rel=author">Carla Colon</a>

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