Bustling crowds, traditional Peruvian music and dancing throughout the streets, grandiose costumes and vibrant theatricality are hallmarks of one of South America’s biggest festivals, Inti Raymi, the Quechua name for the “sun festival.” This traditional Inca celebration, held on June 24 each year, is still commemorated today with modernized re-enactments that draw fascinated onlookers from all over the world. For a firsthand experience of this colorful and vivacious festival, plan to book your accommodations as far in advance as possible.
Traditionally, Inti Raymi is an Inca ceremony intended to honor the god Inti, the god of the sun (Inti= Quechua for “sun”), one of the most respected and exalted deities in Inca culture. Lasting for nine days, Inti Raymi was the most important of four other ceremonies celebrated in Cusco as it not only honored Inti, but also the new year in the southern hemisphere.
In the years Inti Raymi was celebrated (between the 15th and 16th centuries), there were processions in which the Inca Emperor was carried by pallbearers in an ornate golden chariot while others dressed in elaborate costumes depicting condors, snakes and other native creatures. Ritual dancing and animal sacrifices were conducted to ensure a good crop. The last traditional Inti Raymi ceremony took place in the early 16th century, after which it was banned by Spanish conquistadors for violating their Catholic faith. The ceremony that is celebrated today is a little more theatrical and has cut out the animal sacrifice portion.
Faustino Espinoza Navarro and indigenous actors re-introduced the festival in the form of historical re-enactments in 1944. These representations of the ceremony have taken place every year since on June 24 at Saksaywaman, only a short distance from where it was originally held. Today visitors can enjoy the vibrant re-enactments, beautiful Peruvian music, traditional dancing, some of the world’s most delicious cuisine, and of course the costumes and theatrical display of Inti Raymi that offer a unique perspective on Inca culture.
This festival is almost two months away- contact one of our tour consultants to incorporate Inti Raymi into your tour of Peru this summer!