This week marks the annual celebration of Inti Raymi, one of the largest festivals in South America. A tradition started centuries ago by the Incan Empire, the festival honours the sun god, Inti. The festival was originally held in the days around the southern hemisphere’s winter solstice, when the sun is farthest from the earth, with the Incan people praying for the sun god’s return.

Inti Raymi is commemorated throughout the Andes, but the most elaborate celebrations are held around Cusco, the former capital of the Incan Empire. Although the festival was banned during Spanish rule of the region, it’s been recreated each year since the 1940s, with actors portraying the historical figures involved in the traditional ceremony.

On June 24th, the streets of Cusco explode with dancing and singing, vivid traditional costumes and lively parades. The revelry culminates with a procession carrying a man portraying the Emperor of the Inca Empire up to the ruins of Sacsayhuaman on a golden throne, where the sacrifice of two llamas, to bring good fortune in the coming year, is realistically reenacted. Thousands of people from around the world come to Cusco to watch this unique cultural event.

Want to share a cool snap you took on vacation? Email jessica.huras(at) for a chance to be featured in our next Hot Shots.