Legend of Inti Raymi
The legend of Inti Raymi says that the ancient Inca were afraid the sun would disappear completely as days grew shorter in the weeks leading up to the winter solstice. To keep the sun from leaving the universe entirely and to continue to bring warmth and life to their crops, the Incas enacted a majestic ceremony, imploring the Sun God to stay.
On the same occasion, the Sapa Inca (paramount leader) is reaffirmed as supreme ruler of the empire, and the sun is confirmed as the supreme deity that supports harvests and keeps the population alive.
Celebration of Inti Raymi today
Inti Raymi is the most well-known festival in Peru and brings thousands of tourists from all around the world to Cusco during the festivities.
This impressive ceremony, honoring the Sun God, is said to have taken place on the 21st of June in Incan times out of the fear that the Sun God would abandon them on the day of the winter solstice.
Inti Raymi takes place annually around the 24th of June (the day of the southern hemisphere winter solstice) exact dates vary every year.
The ceremony starts in the morning at Coricancha (the Temple of the Sun) and then proceeds to the main square of Cusco, the Plaza de Armas (the Haucaypata, in Inca times). Around noon, the participants follow the huge parade to Sacsayhuaman, an ancient Inca ruin above the city, where the main part of the festival takes place.
With the beautiful scenery of the ruins and a stunning view over the city of Cusco, national and international tourists witness the colorful presentation of traditional dances, ancient costumes and the worship ceremony of the sun. The events at Qoricancha and the Plaza de Armas are open to the general public, and viewing space is on a first come, first serve basis.
The Peruvian government also sells tickets for the viewing space at Sacsayhuaman for better seating to witness the ceremony. Visitors who don´t want to pay for seating can set out blankets on the hills around the site. Many people often reserve spots with their blankets in the early morning hours, passing the time with a nice family picnic while waiting for the parade to arrive.