Date: June 24.
The Winter Solstice in the southern hemisphere and the local harvests are the driving force behind the greatest, most majestic pre-Hispanic ceremony to render homage to the sun.
Today, the Inti Raymi festival evokes the splendid Inca ritual of yore, being carefully scripted by Cusco professors, archaeologists and historians. The central event is acted out on the esplanade below the imposing fortress of Sacsayhuamán, 2 km outside the city of Cusco, easily reached by car or on foot. There, step by step, thousands of actors enact a long ceremony giving thanks to the sun god, Inti.
The Inca ruler is borne on a royal litter from the Koricancha, or Temple of the Sun to the Huacaypata, the city's main square, where he commands the local authorities to govern fairly. Then all the Inti Raymi participants set out for Sacsayhuamán, where the ceremony calls for the sacrifice of two llamas, one black and one white. The llamas' entrails and fat are handed to a pair of high priests: the first, the Callpa Ricuy, examines the intestines to predict what sort of year lies ahead; while the second priest, the Wupariruj, makes his predictions based on the smoke that wafts up from the burning fat.
The high priests' predictions are then interpreted by the Willac Umo, the lord high priest, who bears the news to the Inca. Finally, at sunset, the Inca orders all to withdraw from the site, and the entire city breaks out into a festivities that will rage for several days.