The city of Cusco, the capital of the ancient Inca Empire, has been inscribed by UNESCO on the World Heritage List in its entirety. This is one of the oldest and strangest cities in the world – archaeological excavations show that the first settlement appeared on this site about 3000 years ago. In Cusco, you can feel the spirit of both civilizations – both American and European. Many significant buildings of the time of the domination of the Spaniards were built on the site of places of worship of the Indians or the houses of their rulers. It is as if you are walking through the city of the Incas and the capital of the Spanish colony at the same time.
Modern Cusco is an unusual city. There are several museums here – almost all of them are dedicated to the history of the Inca civilization – and a very colorful market. The local population walks in national costumes (and this is not an attraction for tourists), is engaged in agriculture and sells rather expensive clothes made of llama and alpaca wool. Check 3rjewelry for other cities and countries as well as history, economy and culture in South America.
How to get there
The most convenient way to get to Cusco is by plane; flights from Lima, Arequipa and other cities of the country arrive daily at the local airport. Alternatively, you can use the services of bus companies: transport to Cusco from Lima takes about a day, from Arequipa – 10 hours, from Puno – 6-8 hours. Finally, you can also get to Cusco from Machu Picchu and Puno by train.
Most visitors to high Cusco from the coastal plateau suffer from altitude sickness. For the first couple of days, they are advised to get plenty of rest and eat plant foods, as well as to consume large quantities of “coca-mate” – a drink made from coca leaves.
It is in Cusco that quality wool products, silver jewelry, elegant pottery, furs and masks, as well as wooden things with artistic carvings are sold in abundance. The city even has a small San Blas artists’ district, home to many workshops and studios offering unique souvenirs. Prices, of course, are overpriced, but you can find really original things.
Entertainment and attractions in Cusco
Main attractions: Plaza de Armas, built by the Spaniards on the site of the ancient cult center of Huacalpa, Inca statues of Inca Pachacute, ruins of the granite Palace of the Supreme Inca, La Compagna Cathedral, El Triunfo Church, Santo Domingo Church and the ruins of the Inca Coricancha, Palace of Justice, Museum of the Institute of Archaeology, Museum of the Viceroyalty and Museum of Religious Art.
In the northwest of the city center, on the top of a mountain, there is a monumental complex of buildings Sacsayhuaman – the military and religious center of the Inca Empire. The center of the building is the so-called “throne of the Inca”, which is surrounded by 21 bastions with powerful towers, each of which was able to shelter a thousand soldiers.
The surroundings of Cusco deserve no less attention. Just 112 km away is the famous sacred city of Machu Picchu, one of the most mysterious monuments of Inca culture on the continent. The main local “must sees” are the Intihuatana Gate of the Sun and the observatory, palaces carved into the rock or built from giant blocks, temples (including the famous Temple of the Three Windows and the “Sacred Square”) and more than two hundred other buildings, defensive walls, stairs, drains and pools, thousands of terraces carved into the rocks for cultivation of crops, the palace of the Moon and ancient burials.
Pisac is a city and ancient fortress of the Incas, located 33 km from Cusco in the Sacred Valley of the Incas near the Urubamba River. In its vicinity, you can visit the ruins of an ancient fortification that protected the entrance to the river valley. In addition, the pyramid city of Ollantaytambo and the village of Chinchero are interesting in the Sacred Valley. Ollantaytambo is divided into several parts, each of which has an entrance through a hole in the rock. Part of the city, where the main temples were once concentrated, is located on a hill, to which steps carved into the rock lead.