Inca Summer

Machu Picchu, Peru

When I’m planning where to go next on a next photo trip, a festival is often the best reason to single out a destination from the many. I just had dinner with photographer Fred Roberts who’s recently back from the greatest human gathering on the planet, the Maha Kumbh Mela eight-week Hindu festival held every 12 years in India. Twenty million people! I’m not sure that I can wrap my brain around the concept of a population twice the size of the Los Angeles basin in one place, over six weeks, standing room only.

Pisco, Islas Ballestas, Peru

Far more accessible to Americans, far more downsized but still colorful, is the upcoming Inti Raymi festival in Cuzco, Peru, that celebrates the summer solstice June 24th. It’s an example of a very manageable festival for photographers. The festival itself, carried out at the town’s Plaza de Armas and nearby Sacsayhuaman (Inca) ruins, is colorful but canned. The real pleasure is the population of locals that come to view the pageant and parades. Festivals like Inti Raymi provide photo opportunities for two very basic reasons: 1) people, especially woman, tend to dress for the special occasion in their finest traditional dress and 2) photogenic people tend to be distracted by the festivities and lost in the spirit of the gathering, so they either overlook cameras pointed at them, or consider photographers and tourist to just be part of the event. My best memories where waking up at first light in Cuzco and making the hike up the hill to Sacsayhuaman before the crowds assembled. It was a time to mingle with local pilgrims getting a start to their day, preparing cooking pots of stews and fried foods to sell to tourists, or arriving early to claim their cheap seats atop the big Inca stones.

Ica, Peru

I came for the Inti Raymi, the high Andes and the rest of the Inca sites on the way to Machu Picchu, but was equally surprised and captivated by what I didn’t expect about the other landscapes of Peru: the Sahara-like dunes of Ica in the south; the pyramids of pre-Inca civilizations in the north; the penguins on the rock islands of Parracas; the reed-boat fisherman at Huanchaco and more.

A few practical advantages: Lima is a relatively affordable flight from major U.S. cities compared to other South American destinations. The Inti Raymi is well-timed for an early summer vacation for families.

The weather at this time of year is very pleasant. Peru is currently encouraging photographers and adventure travelers to visit our country. Here’s a special website to visit:

Pisco, Islas Ballestas, Peru

Inti Raymi, Peru