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The beginning of the new solar year on 24 June coincides with one of the largest events in South America: the spectacular Inti Raymi festival in Peru. In the glory days of the Inca Empire, this was the most important celebration of the year. The celebration in honour of Sun God Inti was commemorated in the sacred city of Cuzco. Today, like hundreds of years ago, the event portrays the eternal matrimony between the sun and humans.
The Inca Empire was once the largest empire in the world. The sun played a very important role in the life of the Incas. They would ring in the new year after the shortest day of the year. That means on 24 June. This event at the beginning of the new solar year is also known as the winter solstice. This occasion is still marked with a large celebration. There was a time when Inti Raymi was forbidden. Writer and actor Faustino Espinoza Navarro, also known as the saviour of Inti Raymi, reconstructed the celebration as realistically as possible. And since 1944, the annual event has been attracting throngs of tourists.
In the days prior to the celebration, Cuzco hosts various exhibits around the city and there are performances at Plaza de Armas, the main square. But the real start of the festival takes place in Coricancha, the Temple of the Sun. The lucky actor who plays the role of Sapa Inca, the Emperor, will offer his first tribute to this Sacred Day and the Sun God. This happens in Quechua, the language of the Incas that is still widely spoken in Peru. Then Sapa Inca will be seated on an impressive golden chair and carried via the Plaza de Armas to the famous ruin of Sacsayhuamán, on top of a hill overlooking the city. Followers in the procession make music, dance and pray. They toss flowers and women with brooms sweep away the evil spirits. The story continues at the ruin. Accompanied by drums, Sapa Inca, various priests and actors dressed as snakes, pumas and condors perform a spectacular play that lasts several hours.
You are not the only one keen to visit Inti Raymi! In addition to hundreds of actors, there are thousands of tourists and Peruvians who wouldn’t want to miss this event for the world. Book your stay in Cuzco well in advance. You can also reserve a seat at the ruin of Sacsayhuamán for a great view of the 5-hour long performance. Or find a spot on the hill among tens of thousands of Peruvians. The atmosphere is fabulous: the celebrating crowds, the occasional llama and delicious food.