The city of Cusco

The city of Cusco is the capital of the department of the same name in the Andes Mountains of Peru. It has an important historical past as it was the capital of the Inca empire. It also enjoyed importance during the colonial era. That is why today it has Inca and colonial temples of great value. Its main tourist attractions are the Cathedral, the Coricancha and Sacsayhuaman. Learn more about this beautiful city, one of the most visited in South America.

City of Cusco
Main Square of the city of Cusco

The capital of the Inca empire

The city of Cusco was the capital of the vast empire of the Incas, which encompassed part of the current territories of Peru, Bolivia, Ecuador, Colombia, Chile and Argentina.

The legacy of the Incas is breathed through every street and corner of the historic center of the city. The most famous constructions are the Coricancha temple, the Sacsayhuaman fortress and the Stone of the 12 angles.

The legacy of the Spanish is also visible in the squares and streets of the city. The most important temples are the Cathedral, the Temple of the Society of Jesus and the Church of Santo Domingo. There are also colonial mansions from the 16th and 17th centuries.

Currently the city of Cusco is one of the most visited tourist destinations in South America. There is the only airport in the region. That is why the city is full of 5, 4, 3 star hotels and, of course, cheap services for backpackers.

In the city of Cusco there are also the main tourism agencies of the region. From there the tours depart to other destinations such as: the Sacred Valley of the Incas, the Humantay lagoon, the Mountain of 7 Colors, the South Valley of Cusco, Machu Picchu and more.

In the city you can also find hundreds of tourist services such as bars, pubs, restaurants, cafes and more. There are luxurious and cheap options. Perhaps an excellent economic option is to eat in the popular San Pedro market.

In short, the capital of the Inca empire has enough attractions and tourist services to enjoy a pleasant trip.

Its main tourist attractions

There are several enigmas related to the Temple of the Sun. First of all, there is a debate about the type of religious ceremonies that were performed there.

  • The Cathedral – This Christian temple is the most important and largest in the city. It is just located right in front of the Main Square. It was built over 100 years, between the 16th and 17th centuries. It consists of three structures: the Basilica, the Temple of Triumph and the Temple of the Sagrada Familia. It stands out for its mestizo baroque architecture and for its colonial works of art of great value.
  • The Coricancha – This Inca temple was the most important in the entire empire. The work of its stone walls is the most perfect done by the Incas. These were adorned with gold sheets on altars dedicated to the sun. After the arrival of the Spaniards, the temple was looted. On its bases the church of Santo Domingo was built. Today both structures survive the passage of time.
  • Sacsayhuaman – This Inca sanctuary or fortress is famous for being built with the largest stones in the empire, which can weigh up to 120 tons. There the Incas performed important religious and social ceremonies such as the Inti Raymi. However, during the Spanish invasion it was the scene of clashes between Europeans and Incas. As a result, many structures were destroyed. Its imposing walls are equally impressive.
  • Qenqo – This Inca temple is located just 1 kilometer from Sacsayhuaman. It stands out for its underground structures where animal sacrifices were made. Q’inqu comes from a Quechua word that means ‘Labyrinth’.
  • Pucapucara – This Inca enclosure had a military function as the emperor’s troops rested there. It has rustic structures of up to three levels. It was part of the ‘qhapac ñan’ route. Its name translated into Quechua means ‘Red Fortress’. It is that its walls light up in that color at dusk.
  • Tambomachay – This Inca shrine was dedicated to the cult of water. This is demonstrated by its magnificent channels where the liquid continues to flow to this day. For the Incas, water provided purification of the body and spirit. Tambomachay is very close to Pucapucara.

Location, altitude, climate and more

There are several enigmas related to the Temple of the Sun. First of all, there is a debate about the type of religious ceremonies that were performed there.

  • Location – Southeast of Peru. On the eastern slope of the Andes Mountains (in the Huatanay river basin).
  • Height – 3,399 masl
  • How to get there from Lima? – Through a bus trip of 1,097 kilometers (20 hours of travel). Or through a plane trip of 584 kilometers (1 hour 20 minutes of travel).
  • Inhabitants – 437,538 people.
  • Climate – Cold temperate with maximum temperatures of 22ºC. in the day and minimum of 0ºC. at night.
  • Language – Spanish and Quechua, mostly.
  • Currency – Peruvian Nuevo Sol (S/.).

Distance to other tourist attractions

In the middle of the religious sector there is a construction that is different from the rest of the buildings in Machu Picchu.

  • Pisac – 35 kilometers away.
  • Chinchero – 33 kilometers away.
  • Urubamba – 53 kilometers away.
  • Ollantaytambo – 61 kilometers away.
  • Maras – 77 kilometers away.
  • Moray – 87 kilometers away.
  • Tipon – 27 kilometers away.
  • Piquillacta – 30 kilometers away.
  • Raqchi – 33 kilometers away.
  • Andahuaylillas – 39 kilometers away.
  • Humantay – 130 kilometers away.
  • Mountain 7 Colors – 138 kilometers away.
  • Machu Picchu – 100 kilometers away.

More information about the city of Cusco

Altitude sickness affects all visitors who come to Cusco from lower altitude geographies. To combat the symptoms of altitude sickness (headache, fatigue, nausea) it is recommended to drink plenty of water. The symptoms usually disappear after two days of adaptation to the geography of Cusco.

The most important festival in the city of Cusco is the Inti Raymi (Festival of the Sun, translated from the Quechua language). This celebration revalues ​​the Inca past. It is a gigantic staging that recreates the celebration of the ‘Wawa Inti Raymi’, established by the emperor Pachacutec in the fifteenth century. Today the people of Cusco recreate religious rituals in three settings: the Coricancha, the Main Square and Sacsayhuaman. The festival takes place every June 24.

Almost all tourists spend their stay in the city of Cusco in the area known as the ‘Historic Center’. However, the city is much larger. In total there are eight districts: Ccorca, Cusco, Poroy, San Jerónimo, San Sebastián, Santiago, Saylla and Wanchaq.

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In Machu Picchu the tour guide service is not mandatory. However, most tourists decide to go accompanied by a guide. This way they will be able to fully understand the history and importance of the wonder of the Incas.

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