Inti Raymi is the Inca festival of the sun. Every year on June 24th, thousands of tourists arrive to relive the Inca period in homage to Cusco’s glorious past. The following article offers advice on how to get the most out of this traditional festivity.
Inti Raymi is without doubt the largest and most famous of Cusco’s festivities. Hotels are booked up months in advance and as the long-awaited day approaches the final rehearsals are completed and the last minute touches are added to the impressively colorful costumes. To fully enjoy this fiesta, it is important to understand how events unfold from one hour to the next.
9.00 a.m. Koricancha, ancient temple of the sun: People begin to reserve the best spots from the early hours of the morning, and you’ll find stools for hire at S/10 Peruvian soles. If you book through a travel company, they will send staff to reserve a good spot. The spectacle starts at 9 a.m., but if you want a good position you’ll need to get there by 7 a.m. at the latest. The first part of the ceremony lasts for around an hour.
10:30 a.m. Plaza de Armas [Main Square]: You’ll need to decide if you want to watch events from the Koricancha or Plaza de Armas because if you opt to follow the procession you won’t have a good place from which to watch the second ceremony, which lasts for around thirty minutes. If you arrive at Koricancha and there’s no space, we advise you to go on to the Main Square and wait. Here the spectacle lasts a half hour.
1:30 p.m. Sacsayhuaman archaeological site: This is without doubt the main event, with traditional music, drums, trumpets, seashells, dancers and hundreds of actors in typical costumes. The four suyos or regions of the Inca Empire arrive to attend the festivities. An entrance ticket is required for this part of the spectacle. These are sold by travel agencies or can be acquired directly from EMUFEC (the Cusco Municipal Festivities Company. Entrance tickets are issued with the holder’s name. Once they’ve been purchased under the holder’s name and passport number, they are non-transferable. You’ll need to log on to the website intiraymi.org.pe, enter your information, including your passport number, and then purchase your ticket once you’ve been directed to the relevant page. The best views are available from the blue and orange spaces, at a cost of USD 150 (USD 75 for children). The more affordable places are found in the green areas at a cost of USD 100 (USD 50 for children). These green entrance tickets are offered to Peruvian visitors for USD 45, and they sell out very quickly.
If you don’t have an entrance ticket, you can do what most people do, which is to walk up through San Blas (along the streets Tandapata or Pumacurco), up the series of steps, and enter the Inca fortress, where you can look for a place to sit on the hillsides. The good thing about Inti Raymi is that the festival takes place in a central area, in the lower part of the archaeological site. Sitting on the higher parts of the hillsides, you’ll have a panoramic view from a distance. The only drawback is the mass of people who attend the event; if you stand up and block the view, those behind will complain loudly. You’ll find there are plenty of people selling food and drink. In fact, the whole event is more like a fiesta than a sacred religious ceremony.
At Sacsayhuaman, the principal ceremony takes place on the main stage. This ceremony begins with the chicha [corn beer] rite. This is followed by the sacred fire, the traditional sacrifice of a llama, and the blessing of bread during the sankhu ritual. The ceremony ends with what is known as the Q’ochurikuy, in which all those present are invited to express their joy and euphoria. The event ends at around 3:30 p.m.
3:30 p.m. Return to Cusco: After the event, those in attendance return on foot to the center of Cusco. This takes a while, but with good humor and patience you’ll arrive at your final destination with a little of the faith and popular joy felt during such festive moments. That night on the Main Square the dancing and processions will continue.
A few final tips:
- Take a bottle of water and some snacks because the ceremonies can be delayed…
- Plan to move around on foot. Cusco becomes very congested during these events and it is best to walk rather than use a vehicle.
- Take along as few things as possible and keep an eye on your belongings.