Inti Raymi – The Feast of the Sun
The Inti Raymi is a festival celebrated since the time of the Incas. Every winter solstice (June 22), the Incas knew that the sun was closer to the earth. To honor the god Inti, a massive festival was held with music, food, dance, chicha and food for everyone. Today this party is restored by the inhabitants of Cusco. Every June 24, a massive staging takes place with many aspects similar to the Inca sun festival. Know your story!
- The festival of the sun, the god Inti
- When is Inti Raymi celebrated?
- The Inca Wawa Inti Raymi
- The Inti Raymi from Cusco
- The Inti Raymi show: Coricancha, Plaza de Armas and Sacsayhuamán
- Map of the Inti Raymi show in Cusco
- How to get around during Inti Raymi?
- Photos: this is the Inti Raymi
- Frequently asked questions about the history of Inti Raymi
How much does the Inti Raymi cost?
The Inti Raymi show in Cusco is on three stages: Coricancha, Plaza de Armas and Sacsayhuamán. In the first two, access is free for all. In the third case, access is restricted with a tourist ticket. This ticket can be purchased on your own or included in a tour through a tourism agency. The tourist chooses the best option for his trip.
The festival of the sun, the god Inti
- During the time, the sun (Inti in Quechua) was considered the supreme god.
- For the worship of this god, the Incas built an imposing temple in the heart of the city of Cusco (the capital of the Tahuantinsuyo empire).
- This temple was called Coricancha (temple of gold). The Incas adorned the fine walls of this temple with sheets of gold and precious stones. For the Incas, the worship of the sun was related to the gilding of gold.
- Thus, within the Inca calendar, the winter solstice (June 22 approximately), a great festival was held where offerings were made to the sun, located closest to the earth that day.
- The main stage of this festival was the Coricancha, the temple of the sun, which that day received the Inca emperor himself. This festivity was called Wawa Inti Raymi and today, after more than five hundred years, it is still celebrated in the city of Cusco, the historic capital of the Inca empire.
When is Inti Raymi celebrated?
- This festival in honor of the sun is celebrated every year precisely during the winter solstice in the southern hemisphere, JUNE 24.
- This festival is one of the most important events in Cusco (capital of the Inca empire), since it coincides with the anniversary of the city and because it attracts thousands of visitors from all over the world.
The Inca Wawa Inti Raymi
- Many chroniclers say that around 25,000 people gathered in Cusco to celebrate the Inti Raymi festival.
- The celebration was held every June 22, during the winter solstice in the southern hemisphere. It is presumed that it began in the 15th century but that its peak was achieved under the government of the Inca emperor Pachacútec (the builder of Machu Picchu).
- During the festivity, the Inca and his family, the nobles, priests and heads of the Inca empire would meet at Coricancha and Huakaypata (current Cusco main square), to witness a huge celebration in which even ancestral mummies were brought from nearby temples and shrines.
- The chronicles indicate that the festivities lasted nine days or even more. In total, more than 40 thousand people met, between citizens of Cusco and retinues of the four suyos (four corners of the empire).
- The objective of the ‘Fiesta del sol’ was to vindicate the sun god as the highest Inca deity, as well as to demonstrate the power and organization of the Inca empire.
- It is said that at least 200 llamas were sacrificed during the festivities. Thus, the Huakaypata was tinged with blood and abundant chicha (sacred Inca drink made from fermented corn).
- The chronicles also point out that on that day the mummies of the Inca rulers were carried in procession through the streets of the city.
- The festivities took place from sunrise to sunset. There were special dances and the burning of coca leaves in large quantities. The Inti Raymi was the biggest festival of the annual calendar in the Inca civilization.
The Inti Raymi from Cusco
- In 1944, the artist from Cusco wrote the modern script for Inti Raymi based on the chronicles of the 16th and 17th centuries. Since then, with increasing fervor, a staging has been carried out to pay homage to the Inca ancestors of Cusco.
- The modern re-enactment of Inti Raymi celebrated today still retains all its majestic glory, although without the procession of the mummies of the Inca rulers or the sacrifice of animals (a re-enactment of llama sacrifices is made).
- The celebrations begin in the morning on the open esplanade in front of the ancient Inca temple of the sun, the Qoricancha or Coricancha. Then, the ceremony continues with the arrival of representatives of the four suyos of the Inca empire: the collasuyo, the contisuyo, the antisuyo and the chinchaysuyo.
- The Inca sapa or Inca emperor opens the festivities by invoking praise to the Sun (Inti). This ceremony is performed to the rhythm of music produced live with Andean instruments such as the pututo, the quena, the zampoña, the tinya and more. The royal entourage follows him a short distance to Cusco’s Plaza de Armas.
- Next, in the Huacaypata or Plaza de Armas of Cusco, a ceremonial reading of the sacred coca leaf is carried out, to see what the Tahuantinsuyo has in store for the following year. This ceremony is also to the rhythm of Andean music.
- The final part of this recreation takes place in Sacsayhuamán. It is here where thousands of spectators from all over the world gather to appreciate the ancient celebration. Dressed in the traditional way, the Inca offers his last words in Quechua (language of the Incas), before the supposed ritual sacrifice of a llama. The festival ends with the sound of horns, panpipes, and skin drums.
The Inti Raymi show: Coricancha, Plaza de Armas and Sacsayhuamán
- The Inti Raymi show in Coricancha – The Inti Raymi on the Coricancha esplanade begins at 9 am. It is the first show, free for everyone, although with a choice of seats for an extra cost. The Inca makes an offering to the sun, together with his entourage, relatives, priests and representatives of the four suyos. The show lasts approximately 40 minutes.
- The Inti Raymi show in Plaza de Armas – The Inti Raymi in the Plaza de Armas (Huacaypata in Inca times) starts at 11 am. It is the second show, free for all people. Due to this, a large number of people form (there are no seats available for anyone). The Inca and the high priest read the coca leaf auguring a good future for the Tahuantinsuyo empire. The coya (wife of the Inca), the royal family and their entourage (region) surround the square honoring the sun, to the rhythm of live Andean music. The show lasts 40 minutes on average.
- The Inti Raymi show in Sacsayhuamán –The Inti Raymi in Sacsayhuamán is the third and most important spectacle. It begins at 2 pm on the esplanade of the fortress, where approximately 3,750 seats are available (limited availability). Hundreds of actors and actresses worship the sun in a magical ceremony of music and dance. More offerings are made to the sun and the ceremony concludes with a march around the audience. The show lasts 2 hours on average. The entrance is with tourist ticket.
Map of the Inti Raymi Sacsayhuaman show – Cusco
How to get around during Inti Raymi?
- On June 24, the entire center of Cusco is closed to regular traffic, this includes taxis and public transport buses. Only approved tourism vehicles have the authorization to transport tourists from Cusco to Sacsayhuamán.
- In case you come on your own, you will have to walk around 40 minutes, from the Plaza de Armas of Cusco to the Sacsayhuamán fortress.
- The bus station is on the main street of the town: Hermanos Ayar avenue. You can get there on foot (the town is small, there are no taxis).
- The streets closed for the celebration of Inti Raymi include El Sol avenue, Plaza de Armas, Plateros street, Saphy street and Don Bosco street, although other peripheral access roads to the center may also close. Also note the large increase in crowds and street vendors.
Frequently asked questions about the history of Inti Raymi
1.What is Inti Raymi? When is it celebrated?
The Inti Raymi is a religious festival of Inca origin that continues to be celebrated in the city of Cusco every June 24.
2. Why is Inti Raymi famous?
The Inti Raymi is famous for its Inca origins. This famous staging conveys the Inca rituals in Cusco today like no other.
3. What time is the Inti Raymi in Cusco?
The Inti Raymi takes place in three settings: the Coricancha, the Plaza de Armas and Sacsayhuamán. The show in Coricancha starts at 9 am. The show in Plaza de Armas, at 11 am. The show in Sacsayhuamán at 2 pm and ends at approximately 4 pm.
4. How much does the Inti Raymi show in Sacsayhuamán cost?
In Sacsayhuamán there are three types of tickets: the green zone costs $106 (general), $165 (red zone) and $164 (orange zone). Prices are referential and may vary each year.
5. Visit Inti Raymi with a tour or on your own?
The bus trip from Aguas Calientes to Machu Picchu is uphill through the Hiram Bingham highway. The journey takes 30 minutes where the visitor will appreciate the abundant vegetation that surrounds the Inca City. Once at the entrance you must present your printed entrance tickets.
6. Cuánto cuesta alquilar una butaca para el Inti Raymi en Coricancha?
El Inti Raymi en Coricancha es libre para todos. Sin embargo, por un costo adicional, los turistas pueden agregar asiento butacas por un costo de 37 dólares (general).
7. Can I get seats for the Inti Raymi in the Plaza de Armas of Cusco?
No, the Inti Raymi show in the Plaza de Armas of Cusco is free for everyone. However, there are no seats so all tourists must watch the show standing up.
8. What to wear for Inti Raymi day (June 24)?
If you visit Cusco for Inti Raymi (June 24) you should bring comfortable clothes, comfortable shoes, a hat, a windbreaker jacket, sunscreen, snacks, rehydrating drinks, as well as an identity document and cash.
9. Are there many people at the Inti Raymi? Can I get lost?
Yes, on June 24 the city of Cusco looks crowded for the Inti Raymi celebration. If you travel through the historic center of Cusco, it is recommended not to be separated from your group of friends, family or partner. This especially if you are traveling with children.
10.What is the history of Inti Raymi?
The Inti Raymi originated in the 15th century during the Inca times. However, it was the Inca Pachacútec who formalized the Wawa Inti Raymi. However, in the 16th century it was suppressed when colonialism arrived. In 1944 the script for the modern Inti Raymi was created by the Cusco artist Faustino Espinoza. Since then it is the most important festivity in Cusco.
Advice from people who have been there
“All very natural“
“I bought my ticket to the orange zone two weeks before, and I went first to the coricancha and then to sacsayhuamanan at noon, there were many dances and actors representing the 4 suyos of the Inca tawantinsuyo. The first level staging, I would return one and a thousand times more...“
By Ticket Machu Picchu – Last updated, May 3, 2023