Cusco Main Tourist Attractions

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Cusco de noche, hermosa vista de la Plaza de Armas del Cusco

City of Cusco

Discover the Imperial City of Cusco, “Navel of the World”, Humanity’s Cultural Patrimony and South America’s Archaeological Capital City, is to get to know the heart of the prominent Incan culture; a mysterious and magical world.

The traces of Incan, Colonial and Republican remains are present everywhere in the city. Its historical center, composed of squares, neighborhoods, churches, houses, streets, stairways, ornamental fountains, as well as of public and private buildings, displays a harmonious combination of three time periods, in which the Plaza de Armas (Main Square), the Cathedral, Hatun Rumiyoq Street (Twelve Angle Stone), the Temple of the Qorikancha, the city’s churches and colonial mansions, along with the craftsmen’s neighborhood of San Blas stand out, among other attrations of what was the capital city of the Incan Empire called the Tawantinsuyu.

Archaeological Park of Saqsaywaman

It is an impressive archaeological complex located only 3 kilometers from the city of Cusco, on top of a small plateau that overlooks the city, at an altitude of 3,555 m.a.s.l. During the Incanato, it was called The House of the Sun and its construction was initiated by the Inca Pachakuteq, after 1438.

The Archaeological Park of Saqsaywaman covers 3,093.80 hectares and shelters more than 200 archaeological sites such as: Altars, doorways, amphitheaters, benched terraces, fountains, paths, aqueducts and other enclosures, among which stand out the impressive Incan complexes of Q’enqo, Pukapukara, Tambomachay and the bastions of Saqsaywaman, built with cyclopean stones lapidated by the Incas.

Cathedral

The construction of Cusco’s Cathedral started in 1559, after the city’s Spanish conquest and foundation. Still unfinished, it was slightly affected by the 1650 earthquake and its construction was concluded, in 1669.

The Cathedral’s design is very ornamental, in renaissance style, and inside it, one finds the best expressions of Colonial gold and silversmithery, wood carvings in cedar and alder wood, such as the pulpit and the Main Altar worked in pure silver, as well as a valuable collection of oil canvases from Cusco’s School of Art. Therefore, the luxurious and harmonious decoration of each enclosure is quite impressive.

Temple of the Qorikancha

The Great Temple of the Sun; the Tawantinsuyu’s largest adoratory, was the Incanato’s most extraordinary and dazzling temple. According to many chroniclers, the whole territory’s gold and silver was concentrated there, as these metals would arrive in the form of offerings to the Sacred City, and Temple, given that, in the Incanato, precious metals did not have an economical value, but rather, a religious one.

The different enclosures´ edifications display an admirable architecture in their walls, trapezoidal doors, windows and niches, as well as in their finely polished stone structures, with perfect joints between them. It is said that the colossal Sacred Temple was dedicated to worshiping the Incanato’s deities, such as the Sun, Moon, Stars, Lightning, Rainbow and Water.

Historical Sanctuary of Machu Picchu

The Historical Sanctuary of Machu Picchu is located in the district with the same name, Province of Urubamba and Department of Cusco, 13? 9´ 47´´ of South latitude and 72? 32´ 44´´ of West longitude.

It was declared as Humanity’s Cultural and Natural Patrimony and incorporated in the list of the UNESCO’s Patrimony, since 1983. It is an intangible territory of the National System of Natural Areas protected by the Peruvian State, with a surface of 32,592 hectares (80,535 acres or 325.92 km²), which includes Andean and high jungle Amazonian areas, inter-Andean valleys, gorges, mountains and rivers, which form ecosystems and very varied fauna and flora, like more than 200 species of orquids that develop in its 9 life zones, going from 1,850 to about 6,270 m.a.s.l.

The Sanctuary of Machu Picchu is depositary of a great quantity of archaeological sites of Incan origin, such as Inca Raq´ay, Intiwatana, Intipata, Choquesuysuy, Chaqchabamba, Wiñaywayna, Phuyupatamarca, Sayaqmarca, Runkuraqay, Wayllabamba, Torontoy, Waynaq´ente, Machuq´ente, Q´ente, Qoriwayrachina, Pulpituyoq, Parallaqta, Palqay and the most outstanding icon; the Incan City of Maqchupicchu, Wonder of the Modern World.

The abundant and exquisite biodiversity of its different altitudinal levels, associated with the archaeological sites of great monumental and historical value, have helped increase the value of the Incan trail network wisely built by our ancestors. At present, these trails attract great admiration and preference for adventure tourism, ecotourism, culture and archaeology.

Incan City of Machu Picchu

It is located North-west of Cusco, in the basin of the Vilcanota or Willcamayu in Quechua (Sacred River, in Incan times), in the Vilcabamba Mountain Range, and at an altitude of 2,438 m.a.s.l.

Machu Picchu, the stone city, built by the Inca Pachakuteq, is now one of the Modern World’s Seven Wonders, protected by the Young Mountain; the impressive Waynapicchu, situated among abrupt mountains and almost inaccessible places, presenting a set of buildings, such as the Main Square, groups of houses, stairways, towers, walls, water fountains, where ceremonial places stand out, such as the Intiwatana (Solar observatory), the Temple of the Three Windows, the Sacred Temple, etc., and all of this built with an incredible urban harmony, in such a hostile place, demonstrating the advanced development level of Incan engineering.

The Agrarian Sector is composed of benched terraces and embankments, bordering the city and overlooking deep precipices. The city’s built surface is of 530 meters in length and 200 in width, containing 172 buildings, in its urban area. Associated to the high jungle’s landscape, Machu Picchu presents a magic, mysterious, unmatchable and unforgettable beauty.

Incan Trail to Machu Picchu

The Inca Trail to Machu Picchu, is part of the Qhapaq Ñan’s routes, the Incan Trails’ Network which covered over 30,000 kilometers, integrating the Empire of the Tawantinsuyu, from the South of Colombia, and Quito, in Ecuador, all the way to the Maule River, in Chile, Salta and Tucumán, in Argentina, including Bolivia and the Peruvian territory, uniting the coast, mountains and jungle.

The traditional route of the Incan Trail to Machu Picchu has a length of 39.6 kilometers, from the Qoriwayrachina Sector, located at Km. 88 of the Cusco / Machu Picchu railroad. The whole Trails’ network that connects the Incan City of Machu Picchu and other archaeological compounds has a construction design in strict harmony with the natural surroundings and landscape, as great stretches of the trails are ledges, at the edge of deep abysses, surrounded by exuberant vegetation, with stairs carved in live rock.

At present, there is an adequate maintenance and signalization allowing the rational and dosified access to the Incan Trail Network to Machu Picchu that runs through different ecological levels, from High Andean areas, to sub-tropical valleys, with an exuberant and varied flora and fauna. It is a very dynamic, admirable and pleasant trail, because it conjugates history, archaeology and nature.

Choquekirao or Cradle of Gold

It is situated between 13? 32´ of South latitude and 72? 44´ of West longitude, at an altitude of 3,033 m.a.s.l. on Mount Salkantay’s foothills, north of the Apurimac River’s valley, in the Province of La Convención, Department of Cusco. The only access to Choquekirao is by means of an Incan trail, from the village of Cachora, in the Department of Apurimac, in 4 day programs, with camping gear, porters and mules.

The great city built by the Incas, is an architectural wonder which presents impressive benched terraces, a Main Square or Ceremonial Square, sacred places, royal residences, aqueducts and stone buildings located on terraces, at different levels and distances, which communicate by means of stairways and paths.

The area where the city of Choquekirao is built, has an important fauna mainly composed of condors, tarucas, vizcachas, foxes, little foxes, pumas (Mountain lions), hummingbirds, bears and the little cock of the rocks; Peru’s National Bird. Among its flora, stand out giant ferns, the ichu (Altitude wild grass) and a great variety of orchids, among which the beautiful Wakanki stands out.

Archaeological Complex of Pisaq

Pisaq’s Archaeological Complex is one of the Sacred Valley’s most beautiful Incan monumental centers.

It is admirable for its colossal constructions with impeccable finish, sets of perfectly assembled symmetric benched terraces, its ceremonial centers, like the Intiwatana which must have been used to observe solar movements, for its sacred places, towers, fortified walls, its cemetery, urban sectors, stone buildings, narrow streets, stairways and aqueducts, to irrigate its agricultural and urban sectors.

In other words, it was an imposing, magical and mysterious place. It is located on top of the highest mountain that dominates the colonial locality of Pisaq, on a dry and rocky surface.

Archaeological Complex of Ollantaytambo

The Archaeological Complex of Ollantaytambo is located 90 kilometers from the city of Cusco, and one gets there by bus, in 1 hour and 20 minutes, on the asphalted road of the Íncas’ Sacred Valley’s Circuit. It is built on two mountains, in a very strategic place which overlooks the whole surrounding valley, and for its features, it is considered that it was a military, religious, administrative and agricultural complex.

This monument presents impressive buildings, with huge polyhedrons that form the walls and trapezoidal doorways of its sacred places and temple, where one can appreciate the façade composed of 6 perfectly assembled red porphyry monoliths.

Archaeological Complex of Chinchero

The Archaeological Complex of Chinchero is located 28 kilometers from the city of Cusco and is connected by means of the asphalted road of the Íncas’ Sacred Valley’s Circuit. This complex was built by Tupac Inca Yupanqui and is composed of extraordinary Incan remains and productive, ceremonial, urban architectural compounds, as well as agricultural and road networks. In the village, the Colonial style church shelters beautiful paintings from Cusco’s School of Art.

The Colonial village is next to the archaeological complex and built upon Incan foundations and walls, and its inhabitants have managed to maintain their ancestral customs. On Sundays, there is a very typical handicraft and agricultural fair, in which the old Incan exchange system is still being used.

Piquillaqta (Pre-Incan city)

It was declared as National Archaeological Park, with a surface of 3,421 hectares and it is situated in the Province of Quispicanchis, about 32 km. east of the city of Cusco. It is a pre-Incan complex, the apogee of which took place between 800 and 1100 a.D., during the time period corresponding to the development of the Wari Regional Confederation.

Piquillaqta contains around 700 buildings, 200 “canchas” (Appartments) and 504 “qolqas” (Warehouses). It is calculated that it might have had a population of about ten thousand inhabitants.

Its urban structure had a harmonious geometrical order divided in straight blocks and streets, and according to Archaeologist Mc Evan, the city had several complementary sectors: The administrative, ceremonial, defensive ones and a trail system. Its buildings had 2 and even 3 floors, with high walls made of stones jointed with mud, which were wide at their base and narrow on top.

Moray (Agricultural Experimental Center)

It is a circular construction, with more than 30 meters in depth and several concentric rings of benched terraces, inside it.

It might have been used as a kind of agricultural laboratory, as each one of the terraces presents climatic conditions of different ecological zones, showing that the Incas had an astonishing knowledge in geography, meteorology and agriculture. In the Andean cosmo-vision, Moray is considered as a magnetic center of reconnection with Mother Earth or Pachamama.

Tipón

This is an Incan archaeological complex which deserves great admiration, for its excellent hydraulic technology represented by ornamental fountains and water canals.

It possesses royal residences, gardens, terraces, benched terraces and walls. Given the water fountains´ high engineering design and quality, it is believed that it must have been an adoratory and hydraulic experimentation center.

Andahuaylillas (Sistine Chapel of America)

Andahuaylillas is a beautiful village, in which San Pedro’s Colonial Church stands out, as it is known as America’s Sistine Chapel. Built at the beginning of the 17th century, it displays golden altars and silversmith’s work, as well as oil canvases and mural paintings from Cusco’s School of Art.

The Manu National Park

The Manu National Park has been recognized by the UNESCO, as Humanity’s Natural Patrimony, and previously, the same organization recognized it as Nucleus Zone of the Manu’s Biosphere Reserve. It is situated in the South-west of Peru, and occupies territories of the departments of Cusco and Madre de Dios, with a surface of 1´909,800 hectares, divided into three great zones:

  • National Park, with 1´532,806 ha.
  • Reserved Zone, with 257,000 ha.
  • Cultural Zone, with 120,000 ha.

It possesses a huge ecological wealth, with more than 20,000 plant species, around 1,000 bird species, 1,200 of butterflies and 200 of mammals, among which stand out the jaguar, otter, 14 species of monkeys, such as the leoncito (Small lion); the smallest in the world, with a weight of 100 gr. and the maquisapa, with 9 kilos.

In the Manu, one can find the whole variety of ecological levels existing in the Amazon, due to the altitudinal variation which goes from 200 to almost 4,000 m.a.s.l. It possesses almost all of Western Peru’s subtropical ecological formations, where there are scientifically very valuable species and ecosystems which make the Manu a very much appreciated natural reserve. For example, in one hectare of tropical forest, 250 different varieties of trees were found.

One can get to the Manu from Cusco, traveling on a light plane, to the Boca Manu Aerodrome or by land, to the Pier of Atalaya, and then, continue the journey on a small motorized boat, on the Alto Madre de Dios River.

Sacred Valley of the Incas

The Sacred Valley of the Incas is one of the foreign, national and local visitors´ favorite circuits, for the cultural and natural attractions it offers, in a mild and very healthy climate.

From the traditional colonial village of Pisaq which presents a typical handicraft fair, passing by localities established on the banks of the Vilcanota River, such as Calca and Urubamba, with producers of the World’s best corn, of export quality, visiting the archaeological complexes of Ollantaytambo and Chinchero; in other words, a full day is necessary to get to know and enjoy the Sacred Valleys´ delights.

Inti Raymi or Sun’s Festivity

The Inti Raymi is a ceremonial festivity with invocations and offerings to the Sun, that the Incas celebrated with much solemnity and veneration, to worship it.

At present, it is staged in several sacred places of the city of Cusco, the main one being the Esplanade of Saqsaywaman, in an impressive artistic display, with beautiful choreographies and costumes which give a special touch to the Sanctuary of Saqsaywaman which is visited every 24th of June, by a multitude of Cusco’s inhabitants, as well as by a great number of foreign and national visitors who give a higher level to the Íncas’ most important festivity.

Warachikuy, Incan War Rite

The Warachikuy, officially declared as National Identity Festivity, equivalent to the Inti Raymi, was a warriors´ rite, for the young male Incan nobility, who were submitted to hard tests of physical dexterity, risk and courage, to step from youth to mature age. The Inca supervised the competitions which, according to the chroniclers, took place during several days, in different places, with frank physical confrontations. The winners were ranked and declared apt for war and to occupy adult men’s functions. Each year, Cusco’s Glorious National Sciences High School (Colegio Nacional de Ciencias) organizes and stages this ancestral rite, on Saqsaywaman’s Esplanade.

Santa Teresa (The new and best alternative to get to Machu Picchu)

The village of Santa Teresa, situated at the jungle’s edge, 4 hours from the city of Cusco, offers you several options of adventure tourism and recreation, in a subtropical climate and an exuberant nature, and also gives you the alternative to get to Machu Picchu Pueblo (Aguas Calientes), more easily, as it is quite close to it (10 kilometers by train and a 6 km. stretch of road).

From the city of Cusco, there are several ways of getting to Santa Teresa, combining train and bus or only going by bus, van, car, motorcycle, bicycle or hiking the Machu Picchu, Salkantay or Choquekirao Incan Trail, as well as by getting there from Quillabamba, “The City of the Eternal Summer”, as it has an excellent climate and a strategic geographical situation.

Cocalmayo is a natural paradise, in the subtropical jungle, which has all the facilities of a small resort, with its three pools of crystalline medicinal waters proceeding from the underground, which convert it in the ideal place for resting, relaxing and therapy. Its infrastructure offers you changing rooms, restrooms, showers, hydromassage facilities, pools with different temperatures, as well as waterfalls and drops, in a beautiful and fascinating natural landscape. In addition, it invites you to taste some exotic drink or an exquisite typical dish.

CANOPY “Monkey’s tail”

It is one of the newest and spectacular pure adrenaline extreme adventure activities, which consists of sliding, by means of a pulley hooked to a belt harness, on cables anchored from one mountain to another.

The emotion of gliding through the air, above mountains, valleys and rivers, at a speed of 60 km. / hour, is undescribable.

This is South America’s highest canopy, with 2,500 meters of cable, distributed in six stretches, with the longest measuring 400 meters and the highest, at more than 150 meters above the ground.

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