The heart of the old Inca empire has a wealth of Inca ruins, Spanish treasures and historic architecture to explore.
Travel bucket list idea:
Festival of the Sun
Cusco, Cusco Region, Peru|
Travellers from all over Peru and the world descend on Cusco every 24 June for the Festival of the Sun, which marks the Winter Solstice. Still known by its Inca name Inti Raymi, it has been celebrated in some form for centuries.
The festival begins the night before with processions and makeshift stalls in the Plaza de Armas. Dancing parades move off from the Qorikancha temple at 10am, processing to the fort at Sacsayhuaman, where there is a full-scale re-enactment of an ancient Inca sun ceremony.
If you want to avoid the crowds, settle into one of the second-floor restaurants around the main square. Late in the afternoon the procession will come to you.
One of the most interesting parts of Inti Raymi is the impromptu dance party that takes place in Cusco’s main square after the official party is over – definitely worth staying for.
Getting there & doing it
After parties the night before, the event begins in earnest in Central Cusco at the Qorikancha, at 10am. Dancers and promenaders parade through the streets up to Sacsayhuaman fortress where the ceremony takes place.
As this is an all-day event, it is possible to visit both the unticketed promenade and the ticketed ceremony in the fort. To do so you’ll need to negotiate crowds in the streets and prearrange tickets for the event in the fort itself. The easiest way to do this is via a local travel agency (or your travel agent back home) – who can organise the whole day for you with tickets for seats at the ceremony at the fort, and set meeting points along the way during the promenade for lunch and coordinated entry.
If you prefer to go it alone, then tickets for the ceremony in the fort should be bought at least three months in advance to ensure a place.
If you miss the chance at a seat for the ticketed event, all is not lost – it’s possible to join the locals in the public areas on the ramparts at Sacsayhuaman, where folk from all over Cusco arrive to hang out, share food and see the show. But it can be very hard to get a good view.
Reserved seats can be purchased in advance through Cusco travel agencies as part of a package that includes transport. Hotel concierges can also secure tickets. Ideally reserve at least three months in advance.
When to do it
The festival takes place on the 24th June each year.
Destination guides including or relevant to this experience
A land of spectacular deserts, high mountains and rainforests that teem with wildlife, Peru is also home to an array of dramatically situated pre-Colombian ruins, including Machu Picchu.