Qoyllur Rit’i: ceremony at the foothill of the snowy peak

Terra Explorer
December 16, 2020

Can you imagen taking part in one of the most important three-day celebration in Cusco, camping under the stars, and appreciating a fantastic number of dancers dressed up with colorful clothing? If you are looking for one of the best places to visit in Cusco and out of the ordinary activities, we are sure that you’ll love Qoyllur Rit’ i.


Terra Explorer invites you to learn about this incredible ceremony, ideal for all adventure tourism lovers.


Photography by José Antonio Rosas


What is the meaning of Qoyllur Rit’i?


It comes from two Quechua words: Qoyllur “star of the sunset or dawn” and Rit’i “snow.” Therefore, Qoyllur Rit’i can be interpreted as a snow star or bright snow.



 When is it celebrated?


It is a three-day festival usually celebrated at the end of May or in the first days of June, coinciding with the full moon. This year the celebrations will be held from June 6 to 10.


In 2004, both the festival and the sanctuary of Qoyllur Rit’i were declared cultural heritage of the nation. And in 2011, the pilgrimage to the sanctuary of the Lord of Qoyllur Rit’i was registered by Unesco as Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity, because it is a holiday that contributes to promoting the identity and continuity of the community in the one found.


Where does it take place?


It is celebrated at the foothill of snowy Ausangate in the town of Mahuayani, district of Ocongate, province of Quispicanchis, Cusco.


How did this holiday originate?


The Lord of Qoyllur Rit’i


According to the stories shared by the inhabitants of the area, it all started with two young children. According to legend, one of them was Jesus Christ himself.


In 1780, Manuel, a mestizo boy, met Mariano, a Quechua boy who was in charge of his family’s cattle. Both became very good friends.


Mariano’s father went in search of his son, and when he found him, he noticed that his cattle had increased. As a reward, he made his son look for new clothes for Manuel. Because the garments worn by the latter were made based on a cloth worn by the Bishop of Cusco, he decided to send a commission led by the parish priest of Ocongate.


The pastor tried to catch Manuel, but he was transformed into an image on a stone. Mariano died of the impression in the same place and was buried under the stone in which Manuel was last seen.


The stone under which Mariano was buried became a meeting point for indigenous devotees. Over time and with the arrival of Christianity, the religious authorities ordered to place an image of Christ, and it began to be known as the Lord of Qoyllur Rit’i.



The pilgrimage and festivity


This is the most important holiday in the Andes, celebrated by indigenous people from all over Peru and which aims to celebrate the reappearance of the constellation of the Pleiades, known as Qullqa in Quechua, which is associated with the beginning of the harvest and the new year.


For the Incas, the Pleiades were a source of life, while in the Andean villages of the southern hemisphere, the new year is marked on the winter solstice in June. It is a holiday celebrated thousands of years ago and brings together about 10 thousand pilgrims.


During three days, a large group of dancers with colorful skirts, accompanied by musicians with drums and flutes, take part in this celebration that unites both Catholic and indigenous beliefs.


Taking part in this holiday requires excursions to the mountains, camps under the stars, and the fortune of appreciating processions and massive folk dances both morning and night, creating a unique and pleasant atmosphere that fascinates all who have had the opportunity to witness it.


“Being at Qoyllur Rit’i is a magical experience. It is like moving to a different world, full of mysticism, fervor and beauty. It’s something we should all experience at least once.” – Jose Antonio Rosas


What does Terra Explorer offer you?


Enjoy a hike to the snowy Ausangate, one of the most important snowfalls in the Peruvian Andes, designed for families or people who do not want to cover very long distances.


For four days, you will have the opportunity to make this hike through unique landscapes such as snowy peaks and mountains, camping under the stars and at the foot of an intense blue lagoon, and you can even enjoy a swim in the hot springs of Pacchanta. Do you dare to live a new luxury adventure with Terra Explorer?


In Terra Explorer we have incredible destinations for you. If you want to be part of our adventures and know Peru authentically and spectacularly, get in touch with us, and we will help you design the trip of your dreams!

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