Welcome to Cusco! This is the historic capital of the Inca Empire that lasted from the 13th until the 16th century Spanish conquest when the capital was moved to Lima. In 1983, Cusco was declared a UNESCO World Heritage site and has become a major tourist destination, attracting over 2 million visitors per year. Cusco is also the epicenter of many Incan archeological sights as well as the gateway city to Machu Picchu.
Watch the behind the scenes vlog:
Music Credit: Chris Felix | All videos shot with iPhone 6 | Editing: iMovie
Arriving in Cusco:
Cusco has a high altitude of about 11,000 feet, so it is recommended to rest for about a day or two before embarking on any hikes or adventure tours. As soon as I landed at the airport, I felt out of breath as if I had just finished running. The altitude is so high that our hotel provided oxygen and free coca tea. After resting, we hit the town to photograph this extraordinary city.
Here are the most instagramable sites:
1. Plaza de Armas
The city tour of the Inca Royal City of Cusco starts in the very impressionable Central Square, known as the Plaza de Armas, which is surrounded by a beautiful stone arcade. Plaza de Armas is also the city's center point for activity, including performances, music, and fútbol parades.
In the Plaza is the Cathedral, which is exceptional because of its contrasts of styles. The outside façade is in Renaissance style, in contrast to its Baroque and plateresque style of its interiors. The first cathedral built in Cusco is the Iglesia del Triunfo, built in 1539 and the basilica was constructed using the stone extracted from the blocks of Incan fortress Saksaywaman.
2. The Church of the Society of Jesus
The Church of the Society of Jesus, (commonly known as the Jesuits), is highlighted by its carved stone façade and its large altar carved in cedar, plated in gold. It was constructed in 1576.
3. The Covent of Santo Domingo
This church is built above the most important Inca Temple, the Temple of the Sun, or Koricancha, as it is known in the Inca language Quechua. Gold laminas or sheets covered the original Inca Temple walls.
Near the City of Cusco, I visited the extraordinary Inca Fortress/temple Sacsayhuaman. This site is made up of three gigantic terraces, superimposed in a zigzag form, and surrounded by enormous walls of rock, some of which are up to 300 meters in length. The stone walls of Sacsayhuman remarkably have no mortar, and were constructed to fit together like puzzle pieces using pressure to secure them in place.
Qenqo, was a religious center formed by a singular flowering of calcareous rock. It has underground galleries and a semicircular amphitheater with a series of stone seats.
6. Puca Pucará
Puca Pucará or the Red Fort was military base made up of stone stairways, terraces, and walls. Nearby is Tambomachay, well known as Baths of the Incas, a place dedicated to the cult of the water, formed by aqueducts, channels and small cascades worked in the rock.
7. Museo de Arte Precolombino
We visited Museo de Arte Precolombino which has an impressive collection of indigenous crafts, jewelry, and ceramics drawn from all regions of pre-Columbian Peru.
Inca ruins of a prominent 15th-century temple that once had walls & floors covered in pure gold. The site also includes gardens and a beautiful view of Cusco city.
This Inca site with canals, waterfalls & aqueducts is thought to have been built to worship water.
10. Baby Alpacas
Around the city, you will see women wearing traditional dress holding lambs and baby alpacas (or were they llamas?). For a fee, you can take photos with them and even hold the baby alpaca/llama too.
What are your favorite sites to see in Cusco?
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We are two adventurous young professionals who turned our passion for travel into a blog to help others travel more.