Humans across the globe, have always had shared moments of joy and celebration. And the universal celebration of winter solstice remains one of them.
Cultures from across the world, from China to Scandinavia, and Arizona to Japan, the return of the sun is celebrated and welcomed in some way or the other. Peru’s version of this celebration is called Inti Raymi.
So what does this celebration look like? And how is Inti Raymi celebrated now?
Let’s start at the very beginning.
What is Inti Raymi?
The Inca belief was that they were the children of the sun. And so Inti Raymi was celebrated as a tribute to the sun god Inti. This began during the Inca times, where thousands of people would meet at Cusco to celebrate the shortest day of the year, from dawn till dusk.
Priests, nobles, and the headmen would congregate at Haucaypata (Plaza de Armas) where ancestral mummies were collected from temples and shrines around Cusco. Llamas, and sometimes even young children were slain and sacrificed, in the hope that the sun god would return and bestow the people with prosperity and abundance.
To prepare for this day, people would often begin a fast, as their own sacrifice to Inti. Then, on the day of Inti Raymi, they would congregate at the Plaza de Armas to welcome and receive the sun.
It was perhaps, the most important festival celebrated at Cusco. People drank chicha, or Inca beer, danced, made their sacrifices, and shared a universal appreciation for the sun, acknowledging it as the highest of divine powers.
The very first celebration was said to be held in 1412, continuing each year until 1535. However, after that, with the oncoming of the Spanish colonists and their Catholic priests, all festivities were banned in Cusco.
However, as you must know, the Inca festival is still celebrated today. So, how at what point did it resume after the Spanish colonization?
The Revival of Inti Raymi in Peru
While some sources suggest that elders began celebrations in 1928, others point to 1944 for the revival of Inti Raymi. It was in 1944, four hundred and nine years after the last festival, Faustino Espinoza Navarro, a Peruvian actor, and philosopher Humberto Vidal Unda, began the first official reconstruction of the festival.
This was brought upon by the works of Spanish colonialist, Garcilaso de la Vega, who documented all of Cusco’s festivities during his time in Peru. Together, with fellow indigenous actors, they brought to life the religious ceremony, inspired by these texts. The festival is based on the ancient known as the Wawa Inti Raymi put on by the Inca empire.
It was an attempt to revive lost traditions, morals, and to create new ones.
How and Where Is Inti Raymi Celebrated Today?
Today, Peruvians from all walks of life prepare and plan for the festival months in advance. Whether it’s costume designing, dances, or other theatrics, everyone is involved in their attempt to pay homage to this ancient Incan celebration.
On the day of the celebration (24th June), the procession begins at Qorikancha one of Cusco’s most incredible constructions. The Sapa Inca, which is the portrayal of the Emporer, starts the celebration with a speech to the crowd and then Inti, the Inca Sun God. The day continues at the Plaza de Armas and other important sites of the Incan times. These places represent what’s left of the beautiful Incan stone architecture. Additionally, the Sapa Inca is the most highly coveted role for people participating. Sapa Inca means “the only Inca” in Quechua.
The festivities of the day involve music, dance, intricate costumes, masks, and a lot of excitement. As a traveler to Peru, it’s an experience that’s definitely worth having!
Attending the Inti Raymi Festival as a Tourist
While attending a cultural celebration in a foreign land can be fun, it does require a lot of planning. Keep in mind the crowds, the chaos, and the excitement and you’ll know that an impromptu visit is not the best option.
There’s a lot to see in Peru, and we recommend you plan your other vacation activities around the festival, for a complete and fulfilling experience.
Here’s what you need to prepare.
Timely Hotel Reservations
Inti Raymi is a popular festival and draws tourists from all across the world. While this is an amazing way for cultures to meet, it also means that you need to get your flight tickets and book your hotels well in advance.
Some hotels might even increase their charges to make the most of the peak season. However, working with a travel or tourism agency can be a great way to access affordable deals.
Where to Watch
Planning your route is important. If you come early you can even familiarize yourself with the various monuments and locations along the Incan trail without the crowds.
Viewing is free at both, the Qorikancha as well as the Plaza de Armas. Since these spots allow free viewing, they’re also the first to get full. To make the most of your experience come as early you can.
Additionally, if you want a closer, more comfortable look consider investing in tickets for the Sacsayhuaman or using a tour guide such as Cachi Life for an Inti Raymi tour to guide you along the way.
Safety and Comfort
As with any crowded area, keeping an eye on your belongings is crucial. Make sure to wear comfortable clothing and do not carry anything expensive with you if you can help it.
Keep your pockets empty and hold your bags tight, across your shoulder if you need to carry one. It can get hot, and exhausting so be sure to carry a bottle of water and hydrate before you attend.
Plan a Fulfilling Trip to Inti Raymi in Cusco Today
Want to experience Inti Raymi in all its modern-day glory? We definitely recommend it. However, there is also a lot more than these festivities to experience in Peru.
If you’re planning a visit to this culturally vibrant country, but don’t know where to start do check out this page for more guidance on tours and expeditions.
Peru Travel Podcast: Dates you Should Know: Independence Day and Inti Raymi
Dates You Should Know: Independence Day and Inti Raymi
Peru has quite a few important dates that we recently just passed. The Inti Raymi celebration takes place every year on June 22 which coincides with the Winter Solstice. There is also Peru Independence Day which falls every year on July 28. Finally, August first is Pachamama Day where we celebrate Mother Earth. These are some of the biggest celebrations of the year. However, this year was a bit of a downer due to Covid-19. Therefore we give an update on the situation in Peru and what we are planning going forward.
TIME-STAMPED SHOW NOTES:
- [00:49] Before we jump into today’s episode please rate, review, and subscribe to the Peru Travel Podcast!
- [00:55] Kevin has moved out of the studio and now it’s just Dave and his dogs.
- [01:41] Today is Pachamama Day and what that means and how to celebrate Mother Earth.
- [03:08] October 1 is important for those looking to get Inca Trail permits.
- [04:02] Why we’re deciding to do the Inca Trail in January during the rainy season.
- [05:26] What is this Inca Trail vlog we’re planning?
- [05:37] What is June 22? The Inti Raymi celebration.
- [06:04] History of sacrifices during historical Inti Raymi.
- [06:46] The three locations of Inti Raymi in Cusco.
- [07:38] The Plaza de Armas has a procession as the second step of the celebration.
- [08:05] When did Inti Raymi get banned?
- [08:30] The two Peruvians who started Inti Raymi in 1944.
- [09:36] The Peruvian Independence Day or Fiestas Patrias is July 28.
- [1:07] How Peru came into existence during the 1500s from the Spanish.
- [12:20] The fight for independence against the Spanish.
- [14:15] How Peru celebrates Independence Day today.
- [17:25] February 1st the Inca trail closes for the month.
- [17:30] May 1 is Labor Day in Peru.
- [18:01] Covid-19 update from Peru.
- [20:31] The Machu Picchu ebook is coming which will help to support David and his family in Peru during Covid-19 and the reduction of travel.
- [22:01] Planned expansion to Bolivia.