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Cusco, Peru:

Cusco

Huayna Picchu mountain in Machu Picchu, Cusco, Peru

Cusco city is the historic capital of the Inca Empire, the largest pre-Columbian civilization from 1438-1533. It is located in southeastern Peru, on the Andes mountain range, with an altitude around 3,400 meters (11,200 ft).

 

Machu Picchu is the most famous archaeological site of Cusco, an international destination, and one of the New 7 Wonders of the World.

Cuzco, the historical capital of Peru, the oldest city in the Western hemisphere

Cusco, also spelled Cuzco, from their official language Quechua, Qosqo means the “navel of the world”- a name the Incas or Inkas (ruler or lord) gave to the capital of their empire Tahuantinsuyu  "Land of the Four Regions", which spread south to Chile and Argentina, and north to Ecuador and Columbia.

Colonial-era houses, with red-tiled roofs, in Cusco, Peru

Cusco is a well-preserved city with great evidence of a rich and complex history. There is an interesting mix of Spanish colonial architecture, Inca walls and modern nightlife. Cuzco has a high indigenous population that can be seen with their traditional clothing and hear their Aymara and Quechua languages on the streets.


THE SIGHTS - RUINS

MACHU PICCHU

Machupichu view from the Sun Gate, Cusco, PeruThe ruins of Machu Picchu, meaning "Old Peak", is the major Inca archaeological site of Cusco. It is located on the Andean mountain range above the Urubamba river, at 2,430 meters high (7,970 ft) and can be reached on foot by the Inca trail or by train.

 

The Inca Trail is one of the most famous treks in the world not only for the beautiful scenery you walk through, but also for reaching Machu Picchu from the Sun Gate.

This historic citadel, which may have been a sanctuary, a secret ceremonial city or an astronomical complex, is one of the most enigmatic ancient sites in the world. Surrounded by agricultural terraces, it is often referred to "The Lost City of The Incas", for it was recently discovered in 1911 by Hiram Bingham.

 

 

Huayna Picchu
The eternal guardian of the sanctuary, the Wayna Picchu, which means "Young Mountain", is the mountain that towers above the ruins of Machu Picchu and it has the shape of an Indian face carved in the mountains. It is possible to climb the Huayna Picchu, where you can admire the impressive views of the citadel of Machu Picchu.

Machu Pichu symbol of the Inca Empire, Cusco, Peru

The ruins are divided into two main sections: the Urban and Agricultural Sections. The agricultural area has terraces on the slopes of the mountains and the urban area consists of hundreds of structures: palaces, temples, sanctuaries, residences, parks, and baths.

 

Machupicchu urban area ruins near Cusco, Peru

It’s primary archaeological buildings are: the Intihuatana Temple of the Sun or solar observatory; the Room of the Three Windows, dedicated to the Sun God Inti with its typical trapezoidal windows; the Main Temple and the so-called Condo Sector.  

 
The Intihuatana stone, which means "Hitching Post of the Sun", is known as the sacred "solar clock" to the Incas. This astronomical observatory or calendar measured time (solstices and equinoxes) through the light and shade effects and served as a Rock Altar. The Sacred Square, the largest of Machu Picchu, was a ceremonial Center and it is surrounded by three temples: the Main Temple in the center, the Temple of Three Windows on its right and the Sacristy.

 

Inca Stonework

Machu Picchu ancient Inca agricultural terraces near Cusco, Peru

The buildings have the classical Inca architecture of huge granite blocks polished, carved and cut so precisely that they join and interlock together perfectly without the aid of mortar beds. The walls have the classical inclination inward balanced with the trapezoidal shape of doorways forming an anti-seismic structure that has resisted several earthquakes. It is still a mystery how they moved and placed these enormous blocks of stones.

 


Aguas Calientes: thermal baths
Aguascalientes is the nearest town of Machu Picchu. It has thermal springs coming out from the rocky mountains with curative powers, restaurants and souvenir shops.

 

 

 

Archaeological ruins around Cusco

Sacsayhuaman

Saksayhuaman ruins near Cusco city, Peru
2 km northeast of Cusco rises the walls of Saqsaywaman, the closest ruins of the city. The complex consists of 33 archaeological sites, being Saksayhuaman the most famous one. This, in fact, could have been an important religious center in Inkan times called the "House of the Sun", but due to its location and type of construction was considered a military fortress by the Spanish. It consists of three platforms that communicate with each other through stone doors and steps, being "the Sun Gate" the most famous one.

Q’enqo
Qenko means "zigzag" or "Labyrinth", and is considered a sacred place where rituals, sacrifices and ceremonies were performed in honor of the Sun, Moon and Stars. There is an underground temple dedicated to the Pachamama, a sacrifice table and zigzag channels for the flow of chicha (fermented corn beer) or blood. Kenko offers examples of rock art carved in geometric reliefs patterns, puma design, steps and seats.

Tambomachay

Tambomachay Incan archaeological site near Cusco, PeruTambomachay means "resting place" and it might have played an important religious function in the worship of water.

 

The temple has a magnificent three-story hydraulic system, aqueducts, canals and a water source called "Baños del Inca" that maintain a constant flow of clean water. It is said that by drinking the water of the waterfall you’ll return to the place.

Puka Pukara

Puca Pucara Archaeological Complex near Cusco, PeruPuca Pucara means "red fortress" and it is an archaeological complex 7 km northeast of Cusco. Its numerous venues, plazas, aqueducts and roads could have served as an inn or resting place of the Inca soldiers while he enjoyed his baths in Tambomachay.

 

For its fortified appearance and strategic position on the hill, it is called a "fortress" and is believed to have served as "headquarters" (toll checkpoint, or point of care).


 

The Sacred Valley of the Incas

Sacred Valley of the Incas - Urubamba river, Cusco, PeruCusco city is surrounded by numerous ruins along the Sacred Valley since part of the Inca Empire spread along the fertile Urubamba river. The Sacred Valley is the region that extends from Ollantaytambo to Huanca, including places like Pisac, Ollantaytambo, the terraces of Moray, Yucay and Calca.

 

The Urubamba River, also known as Wilcamayu or Vilcanota, means "Sacred River" and it is the lifeblood of the region. The valley was sacred to the Incas because of its rich land for agricultural production on terraces, with more than 5000 types of potato. Today it remains an exuberant agricultural region that still supply the city of Cusco with its products such as maize, fruits and vegetables.

Ollantaytambo

 Ollantaytambo andenería Inca system (platform system)
Built as a fort in the Inca period, it has a temple, an urban area and platforms. This fortress was an important administrative, agricultural, religious, and most likely military center for its walls and towers. There are agricultural terraces carved into the hillside and dwellings.

 

Ollantaytambo archaeological site with agricultural terraces

Pisaq
The small village Pisac, famous for its traditional market, is also an archaeological site located on top of a mountain. Appreciate the panoramic views across the valley from the top of the Pisac ruins and the Incan agricultural terraces on the slopes of the mountains.

Chinchero

Chinchero Inca Ruins in the Sacred Valley of Peru
The small village of Chinchero, located high up in the mountains, offers panoramic views of the Sacred Valley of the Inca, few terraces and ruins. The Main Square is famous for its giant stone wall with ten trapezoidal niches, where a traditional market is held every Sunday, smaller than the one in Pisac.

Adventure Activities
Urubamba river rafting in Cusco, Peru

Besides ruins, the Urubamba Valley offers all kinds of activities: hot springs, hiking, climbing, rafting, paragliding, mountain biking, horseback riding, jungle trips, kayaking, and rafting down the Urubamba river with exciting rapids level II, III and VI.


Cusco City Attractions

The Plaza de Armas (Main Square)

Cusco Baroque-style cathedral was built on the foundations of the palace of the Inca Wirachocha
The Main Square has been the scenerio of many important events in the history of Cusco. Here you can find: The Cusco Cathedral, the first catholic temple to be built in South America; La Compañía de Jesús church with baroque facade, and El Triunfo church. There are plenty of tour companies around the Plaza de Armas, souvenir shops, stores, restaurants and bars.

Qorikancha & Santo Domingo Convent
Qoricancha, Temple of the Sun, in Cusco, PeruKoricancha is believed to have been the largest sanctuary of the Sun god of the Inca Empire. It was named "The Site of Gold" for all the temple walls were covered with gold. The Sun Temple, dedicated to the god Inti, was the main part of the complex. There were other temples, dedicated to Andean deities such as the moon, stars and rainbows.

On the foundations of the Korikancha structure it was then built the Convent of Santo Domingo, being the impressive stonework all that remains today.

Hatun Rumiyuc Street
The narrow pedestrian alley Rumiyuc Hatun ("The Mayor Rock") is the most visited street by tourists. It runs from the Plaza de Armas to the district of San Blas, where you can appreciate the "Stone of Twelve Angles", a huge wall with admirable Inca stonework, famous for its perfect assembly of its corners.

San Blas neighborhood
It is the most picturesque point in the city full of artisans, craft workshops and shops. This steep, narrow streets area has a square, the oldest parish in the city, and old Spanish houses built on Incan foundations.

Museums: Inca Museum housed in the Admiral’s Palace, Pre-Colombian Art Museum, Santa Catalina Convent and Art Museum, Regional History Museum (Casa Inca Garcilazo de la Vega), Natural History Museum, Archbishop’s Palace / Religious Art Museum (built on the foundations of the of Inca Roca Palace, Contemporary Art Municipal Museum Palace, Koricancha Archaeological Museum, Popular Art Museum, Qosqo Center of Native Art.

Churches: Cusco Cathedral, La Compañía de Jesús, El Triunfo church, Santa Catalina Convent and Art Museum, La Merced Church, Cathedral of Santo Domingo, Church and Convent of San Francisco.

More Sites: Monumento Pachacutec, Palace of the Incas, Temple of the Sun, Temple of the Virgins of the Sun.

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