The city of Cusco is located in the Andean highlands in southern Peru. It was capital of the Inca Empire, and today it is considered the main touristic destination of the country.
Cusco is a stunning example of the Incas engineering techniques that dominated stone, with archeological sites such as Choquequirao, Sacsayhuaman, Kenko, Tambomachay, Ollantaytambo and Machu Picchu.
The main attractions of Cusco are:
Machu Picchu Historical Sanctuary
Its name means “Old Mountain”. It has also been called the “Lost City of the Incas”. The archaeological site is divided into two sectors, stretching over approximately 20 hectares. One sector was focused entirely on agriculture, with terraces up to 4 metres high that appear to hang off the steep mountain slopes. The other sector, the urban part of the citadel, has various buildings and plazas in perfect harmony and perfectly distributed.
Plaza de Armas or Main Square
In Inca times, it was an important ceremonial site, where the Inti Raymi or Festival of the Sun was celebrated each year. It was also the site where Francisco Pizarro proclaimed the conquest of Cuzco. With the arrival of the Spanish, the plaza was transformed: they built stone arches and erected the buildings that still surround it to this day.
The Renaissance style dominates the façade and the interior, which features particularly exquisite carvings in cedar and alder. The choir and the pulpit are both remarkable for their beauty. It houses an important collection of paintings from the Cuzco School and silver-embossed objects.
San Blas Neighbourhood
It is known as the artisan’s neighbourhood, it has steep, narrow streets and lovely colonial-style houses.
Sacsayhuaman Archeological Site
The complex comprises 33 archaeological sites, the best known of which is the Sacsayhuaman Fortress.. The building qualifies as a cyclopean construction due to the size of its stones, some of which weigh between 90 and 128 tonnes. On 24 June each year, the fortress is the setting for the Inti Raymi or Festival of the Sun.
Ollantaytambo Archeological Complex
It was built during the Inca period as a fortified area, including a temple, terraces and an urban area. It was an important administrative centre that probably also fulfilled military functions, as suggested by its walls and turrets. Traces of ancient paths and aqueducts are found here.
Inca Trail to Machu Picchu
It forms part of the network of Inca trails (Qhapaq Ñan). This is one of the most famous trekking routes in South America. On the trek, hikers can see numerous ravines and waterways flowing from glaciers.
The Sacred Valley
It is a journey that includes visits to several villages located on the banks of the river Urubamba:
- Urubamba: it is the largest town of the valley; it has modern hotels and restaurants.
- Pisac: It is known for its traditional market and Inca archaeological sites.
- Yucay: Since ancient times, it has been considered a very important centre of hydraulic technology and agricultural production.
- Chinchero: The colonial church, with beautiful Cuzco school paintings, is a highlight. On Sundays, a fair is held in which traders and farmers exchange their products through a system of bartering.