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Winter Solstice Celebrations

This week in the Southern Hemisphere, the Earth will reach its furthest distance from the sun and celebrations coinciding with the winter solstice will take place across South America. The winter solstice marks the end of the harvest season and the beginning of the agricultural new year. The Andean people from Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia and Argentina participate in their own unique winter solstice celebrations. If you’re wondering when to travel to South America, the week before the winter solstice is one of the best times to visit. Aside from the famous festivities in Cusco, you can partake in many different celebrations across the continent.

In fear of the disappearing sun, the local people of the Andes pray to the Sun God, Inti. They pray for his return and his blessing for a bountiful harvest in the coming year. This historic celebration, Inti Raymi “Sun Festival,” spread across the Incan Empire mixing with local Andean beliefs. The winter solstice celebrations take place during the week leading up to June 24th. The winter solstice today not only celebrates plentiful harvests and connections with the Earth, but it also shows pride the pride among the different Andean cultures.

Cusco, Peru
Winter Solstice Celebrations

winter-solstice-celebrations-cusco_optOne of the biggest Inti Raymi celebrations takes place in Cusco, the historic capital of the Inca Empire. The festival begins with a reenactment of appeasing Inti in the center of Cusco at Koricancha, or the Temple of the Sun, before proceeding to the Sacsayhuaman ruins outside of the city. After the recreation, the celebration continues into the city where you will see dancers dressed in colorful traditional attire marching through the narrow streets and plazas. Festivities last for a few days and concerts continue late into the winter night. You can read more about Cusco’s celebrations here.

Otavalo, Ecuador
Winter Solstice Celebrations

Otavalo is a small indigenous village surrounded by volcanoes, located about 50 miles (80 km) northeast of Quito. In Ecuador, ritual purification in springs and rivers are an important component of the Inti Raymi celebration. It is believed to revitalize spiritual energy and their relationship with Pachamama, or mother earth. Members of the indigenous community in Otavalo begin the Inti Raymi festivities with a spiritual renewal at the nearby waterfalls at midnight. The celebrations continue with a grand march into the main plaza where members of the community and visitors sing and dance for several days.

Ingapirca, Ecuador
Winter Solstice Celebrations

Ingapirca-winter-solstice-celebrationsAnother major destination for Inti Raymi celebrations in Ecuador is Ingapirca. The Ingapirca complex is the largest set of Inca ruins in Ecuador and is located about 1-hour outside of Cuenca. The ceremonies begin as the rising sun shines through the doorway to the Temple of the Sun. Each year nearly 10,000 visitors travel to Ingapirca to witness the coming of the new agricultural year and join in the festival.

Tiahuanaco, Bolivia
Winter Solstice Celebrations

Tiwanak-winter-solstice-celebrationsIn Bolivia, northern Chile, and southern Peru, the winter solstice marks the New Year for the Aymara People and is a time to of celebration to bless the land for bountiful harvests. In 2010, President Evo Morales declared June 21st a national holiday and this June 2016 marks the 5,524th year of the Aymara culture.

Tiahuanaco is about an hour away from La Paz towards Lake Titicaca in western Bolivia. Tiahuanaco was the sacred and political center of the ancient Tiahuanaco culture. The city dates back as early as 1500 BC. Similar to Ingapirca, the festivities at Tiahuanaco get started as the first rays of sunlight pass through the Sun Gate to the east of the ruins. Food and sacrifices are offered to Inti and Pachamama to bring fertility and prosperity during the start of the new agricultural period. Festivities continue throughout the cold night, so be prepared for lots of dancing, eating, and drinking of a warm grape liquor known as signani to stay warm.

Winter Solstice celebrations are a unique and fun cultural experience in South America. Contact us today and let our travel consultants plan the perfect tour throughout South America, or look at some of our recommended South America Tours

Winter Solstice Celebrations

Martin Kaleta

Martin was born and raised in Chicago, IL before relocating to Seattle, WA. As a student of urban geography, he was captivated by the liveliness, hospitality and diversity of South American cities while studying abroad in Buenos Aires and traveling across the continent. This exposure, combined with his passion for guiding and motivating others, inspired him to help others explore South America's landscapes and cultures. Some of his favorite experiences in South America include visiting the abandoned resort town of Villa Epecuen, Argentina, discovering local music venues and bands in Buenos Aires and completing the Salkantay trek in Peru.
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