Mystic sacred city, considered the capital of the Tahuantinsuyo Empire with a great historical and architectural legacy. Surrounded by green valleys with imposing tourist attractions, culture, tradition and faith still dormant. Known as the navel of the world for being the political and territorial center of the Inca Empire, the department of Cusco shows a striking geographical variety from natural mountain ranges and reliefs, to rivers like the Urubamba.
The city of Cusco, located in the Andes mountain range at 3 399 m.s., was declared the Historical Capital of Peru, being an impressive sample of high Inca engineering whose main tool was stone. As well as places like Choquequirao, Sacsayhuaman, Qenko, Tambomachay, Ollantaytambo and especially Machu Picchu, architectural jewel built with the wisdom of the ancient Incas that served as political, religious and administrative center of the time.
The Inca citadel, located in the middle of the tropical rainforest, at about 2,430 meters above sea level, was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1981 and a new wonder of the modern world in 2007, it is a fantastic architectural complex built in the time of the Inca Pachacutec in the middle of a great variety of flora and fauna.
Cusco is under the macro-climatic influence of large masses of air coming from the south eastern jungle, as well as the Peruvian-Bolivian Altiplano winds that are rather cold and dry, as well as those coming from Patagonia, entering through the south-eastern zone and that generally involve climatic events of a larger scale. On the other hand, the local winds that are generated in its valleys and plains have the function of distributing heat and humidity throughout the day. The average annual temperature fluctuates between 10.3 ° C and 13 ° C (between 50.54 ° and 52.34 ° Fahrenheit); but these temperatures vary according to the area.
Cusco has a very rugged relief. The mountain ranges that start from the central and eastern Andean chain have worn materials that have been eroded by the rivers of the Atlantic slope and by the action of the pp. This is the case of vilcabamba, ausangate and vilcanota. To the east, the central area, the Vilcanota mountain range separates the waters that flow to the Amazon from the waters that flow to the Amazon from the Titicaca. Only to the north of the region the relief is jungle turns smooth and with hills.
Minimum 532 masl (Pilcopata)
Maximum 6384 meters above sea level (Nevado del Ausangate)
How to get to Cusco
The city of Cusco can be reached by the following means:
- Lima - Arequipa - Cusco: 1 650 km of route, with a duration of 24 hours approx. by bus This is the most recommended route to get to this city.
- Lima-Nazca-Puquio-Abancay-Cusco: 1 105 km (21 hours by car approx.).
- Puno - Cusco: 384 Kms, 6 hours by car.
There are daily air transport services that operate from Lima to Cusco (1 hour and 15 minutes) and from Arequipa (1 hour)
Another recommended air route to reach the city of Cuzco is: Arequipa - Cusco, which lasts 30 min. approx. of flight.
There is a railway network linking the cities of Arequipa - Juliaca - Puno - Cusco and Quillabamba. From Puno to Cusco is a section of 384 km (10 hours)
Attractions within the city
- Plaza de Armas: In the times of the Incas it was called "Awqaypata", Quechua word meaning place of the warrior. It was an important ceremonial place where the Inti Raymi or Fiesta del Sol was celebrated every year.
- Cusco Cathedral: On the facade and interior dominates the Renaissance style, with an interior decoration very rich in carvings in cedar and alder. The chorus and the pulpit stand out for their beauty. It conserves an important collection of paintings of the Cusco school and objects of embossed silver.
- Temple of the Company of Jesus: The cover, type "altarpiece", is decorated with towers of medium height and its stone walls have been carefully worked. When entering the temple they emphasize the main altar of three bodies and salomónicas columns, the wooden pulpit and numerous altarpieces.
- San Blas Neighborhood: Conformed by narrow, steep streets and beautiful colonial style houses. It is known as the Artisans' Quarter. Many families offer accommodation in their homes.
- Temple of San Blas: Built in 1560 during the colonial period, it conserves a Baroque pulpit that constitutes a masterpiece of work and carving of wood, attributed to the indigenous artist Juan Tomas Tuyru Tupac.
- Temple and Convent of Santo Domingo and Koricancha: The Koricancha, according to the chroniclers, was one of the most impressive buildings of Cusco Inca; inside walls were covered with gold plates, was the main temple of the Sun God. The Spaniards built on the original construction, towards 1534, the church and the Dominican convent, which collapsed as a result of the earthquake of 1650, was rebuilt around 1681. The convent has a valuable gallery with paintings from the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries.
- Temple and Convent of Merced: The church, of Baroque style, was built between 1657 and 1680. The sacristy keeps its most precious treasure, an impressive custody in gold and precious stones of 1.3 meters high and 22 Kg of weight, crowned by a large pearl in the shape of a mermaid, considered the second largest in the world.
- Temple and Convent of Santa Catalina: Its architecture corresponds to the last stages of the Renaissance, with arches of Roman style. Inside, the traces of the original construction can still be seen. It has an exhibition hall of mural paintings, goldsmith work, textiles, sculptures and altarpieces.
- Casa del Inca Garcilaso de la Vega: It is currently the headquarters of the Regional Historical Museum, which brings together a collection of canvases from the Cusco school. Larco Museum of Pre-Columbian Art: Gathers, in its 11 halls, 450 works from 1250 a.C. until 1532 AD They were selected from a universe of 45 thousand objects belonging to the Larco Archaeological Museum collection in Lima.
Attractions outside the city
- Archaeological Park of Sacsaywaman: The complex includes 33 archaeological sites, of which the best known is Sacsayhuaman. It would have been a construction of a religious nature, but due to its location and style it was considered by the Spaniards and chroniclers as a military building.
- Qenko archaeological complex: Qenko or "labyrinth" is considered a sacred place where ceremonies possibly honoring the Sun, the Moon and the stars were officiated. Puka Pukara Archaeological Complex: The complex has numerous enclosures, interior plazas, aqueducts, watchtowers and roads; It would have served as a tambo or place of rest and lodging.
- Archaeological Complex of Tambomachay: It would have fulfilled an important religious function linked to water and to the regeneration of the earth.
- Inca Trail to Machu Picchu: It is one of the most important trekking routes in South America. In the route there are numerous streams and courses of waters of glacial origin. Among the twelve archaeological sites that can be seen include Qoriwachayrachina, Patallaqta, Runkuraqay, Sayacmarca, Phuyupatamarca, Intipunku, Intipata and Wiñayhuayna.
- Hanging Bridge of Q'eswachaka: Bridge 33 meters long and 1.2 meters wide from where you can see the Apurímac River canyon in all its splendor. It is woven during three days, every second Sunday of June, by about 1000 comuneros that use ichu and chachacomo braided straw. The task, of pre-Inca origin, employs traditional techniques in the midst of ritual ceremonies and dances performed by the inhabitants of the area.
- Pisac Town: Known for its handicraft market and Inca archaeological sites among which you can see an irrigation system, an astronomical observatory, a solar clock or Intiwatana and andenería.
- Archaeological Park of Choquequirao: Choquequirao "cradle of gold" could be one of the lost citadels in the valley of Vilcabamba, where the Incas took refuge from 1536. The complex consists of nine stone architectural groups, with hundreds of platforms, rooms and irrigation systems.
- Town of Paucartambo: The town is widely known as the setting for the Feast of the Virgen del Carmen, a religious celebration of colonial origin, in which the waste and the joy of dances and comparsas give an extraordinary tint to one of the greatest manifestations of faith in Peru.
- Tres Cruces: Natural viewpoint at the limit of the Manu Biosphere Reserve. Place where the so-called white ray occurs, a phenomenon that occurs when the sun rises on the horizon. Light passes through the humid atmosphere and distorts as if through a prism.
- Archaeological Park of Pikillaqta: Pre-Inca city whose apogee is estimated between 800 and 1100 AD, in the period corresponding to the development of the Huari regional confederation. It constituted the entrance door to the Sacred City of the Incas.
- Tipón Archaeological Complex: According to the legends, it was one of the royal gardens that Wiracocha built. Made up of twelve terraces, flanked by perfectly polished stone walls and huge terraces, canals and ornamental waterfalls that, with the flora of the place, constitute an impressive landscape.
- Lucre Wetland - Huacarpay: One of the most important ecosystems in Cusco, due to its great biological diversity, where resident, migratory and occasional birds can be appreciated. Composed of four permanent lagoons, the wetland provides a large amount of food and shelter to various species of endangered and endemic birds, being possible to identify more than 120 species of birds during most of the year.
- Town of Maras: It was an important town during the viceroyalty; this is demonstrated by the church and the houses that still conserve the shields of indigenous nobility in their facades. Currently its main economic activity is agriculture.
- Archaeological site of Moray: It is believed that each terrace reproduces the climatic conditions of different ecological zones, where 60% of vegetable species, three thousand varieties of potato, corn, etc. were produced.
- Town of Yucay: According to the legends, it was owned by the Inca Huayna Cápac. Since ancient times it was considered a very important center of hydraulic technology and agricultural production. In the place the Palace of the Inca Manco Sayri Túpac is appreciated.
- Archaeological Park of Ollantaytambo: Built during the Inca period as a fortified area that includes a temple, platforms and an urban sector. It was an important administrative center that probably also fulfilled military functions, as its walls and turrets show. There are also traces of ancient roads and aqueducts.
- Rainbow Mountain: At 5,200 meters above sea level, at the top of the Andes mountain range, there is a mountain that has it all: incredible colors, indescribable landscapes and a unique ecosystem in the world.
Festivities and Events
Feast of the Saint San Sebastián
The image of San Sebastián was taken to Cusco a few years after the Spaniards arrived in Peru, and quickly became the patron saint of the Indians. Thousands of parishioners gather to feast and accompany the image of San Sebastian, which runs through the main streets of the region and is guided by priests, sacristans, district authorities and mayordomos. She is also accompanied by colorful dances from the region and other areas along with her faithful devotees.
Date: January 20
Carnivals of Cusco
The day of Carnival begins very early with games that use water and mistura as the main elements that are released by men and women of different ages. It is traditional in Cusco to see groups of cusqueños mixed with national and foreign visitors who delight with all this festivity.
Date: From 1 to February 31
Purified Virgin of Canincunca
Dedicated to the Purified Virgin of Canincunca, the celebration lasts eight days, as part of the celebration there is an artisan, agricultural and commercial fair. Also a colorful procession accompanied by dances from the region.
Date: February 2
Señor de Torrechayoq
In the middle of the 20th century, the cult of a cross that had been placed in the middle of the snow began, it is said that passers-by and travelers passing near the cross had dreams in which the Lord told them about the intense cold that made in the place, the comments reached the ears of the parish priest of a nearby community, who made all the arrangements for the transfer of the cross to Urubamba where his cult grew to appoint the Lord of Torrechayoc, patron of the province of Urubamba
Date: From May 1 to May 27
Lord of Choquekillka
The festival of the Lord of Choquekillka is one of the most important in the Sacred Valley and, like most Andean festivities, is more than a religious manifestation, it is the expression of a living syncretism that is repeated every year. During the festival a wooden cross is worshiped with the face of Christ who is dressed with glittering detentes and multicolored costumes, this festivity was declared Cultural Patrimony of the Nation.
Date: From May 19 to 22
The origin of the festival dates back to Inca times, when they took their mummies in procession; Then, the conquistadors decided to replace them with images of virgins and Catholic saints. At the moment it is a multitudinous religious celebration that is realized in the Place of Arms, being the Chiruhuchu (cold food) the representative dish of the occasion. Date: From May 30 to May 7, 2018 Lord of Qoylluriti: It is a Christian-Andean divinity that is worshiped in the region of Cusco and that annually congregates a crowd of people who make a pilgrimage to their sanctuary, located in the Sinakara snow mountain carrying their offerings. The path is accompanied by a procession, fireworks and the symbolic market of miniature crafts.
Date: May 26 to 29
The religious festivities of Easter in Cusco highlight the Catholic - Andean fusion of the country, being the central day on Holy Monday, due to the multitudinous procession of the Lord of the Earthquakes, Patron Saint of Cusco, which is carried out in the Plaza de Armas. A day before, Palm Sunday is celebrated, commemorating the death and resurrection of Jesus through the Eucharist in the Cathedral Basilica from 9 in the morning. On Holy Friday, thousands of parishioners gather at the Plaza San Francisco to witness the traditional Via Crucis that culminates in the Cross of the Pope, located in Sacsayhuaman. In parallel, the Hampi Rantikuy or fair of medicinal plants that are sold by farmers from far away places is held in the same square.
Q'eswachaka is the last Inca bridge in use, this bridge has survived so many generations for more than 500 years, and is almost in its original state and thanks to the decision of the 04 Andean communities, which showing their living culture they repeat techniques and ceremonies of pure Andean origin, reproducing year after year this wonderful event, as a paradox in time and showing the authenticity of our culture. For three days they will renovate the Inca bridge of Q'eswachaka.
Date: From June 7 to 10
The Inti Raymi, which translated from Quechua means "Fiesta del Sol" is one of the most important festivities of the imperial city of Cusco. This marvelous spectacle realized in the esplanade of Sacsayhuaman has like aim to pay homage to the Sun God, supreme symbol and of adoration in the Inca culture. Currently, about 750 actors participate, who represent their ancestors with the same fervor of centuries ago.
Date: June 24
Festivity of the Blessed Virgin of Carmen
- 07/15: Entrance of the 19 dances, burning of castles and fireworks (night)
- 07/16: Central Day, mass of celebration, procession of the Virgen del Carmen
- 07/17: Pilgrimage to the cemetery, blessing of the Virgin on the Carlos III bridge, guerrilla in the main square
- 07/18: Watatiyaykuy, last blessing of the Virgin, Cacharpari
Date: From July 15 to 18
- Sale and exhibition of Niños Manuelitos, imagery, woodwork, leather, stone; artistic cherry, sculpture and decorative ceramics
- Sale of elements for the assembly of Cusquenian births
- Contest: different artisan pieces presented in the different categories are evaluated and qualified; the winners are recognized and awarded
Date: December 24
Gastronomy and Drinks
The city of Cusco has a wide range of typical dishes, a great heritage of their ancestors. Tasting these delicious dishes is a way to get to know the city. Among its main dishes are:
- Spicy potato with fried guinea pig.
- Timpo or puchero.
- Chicharrón with mote.
- Chuño cola.
- Olluco with meat.
- Guinea pig or rabbit.
- Stuffed hot pepper.
To drink it is recommended the authentic Andean drink, the traditional chicha de jora, of course you can not leave the city without having tasted the delicious and refreshing local beer.
Traveling to Machu Picchu with kids
16 March 2019
Machu Picchu is amazing, magical, mysterious, it is the ideal place to visit with children. It is hidden between the Huayna Picchu and Machu Picchu mountains, and is located right in the middle of the Amazon jungle brow and the Andes mountain range. It was buried for 400 years until - the children love this story - Hiram Bingham came to the ancient Inca city of Machu Picchu, "guided ...« read more »
Salkantay Trek Devastation and Animal Exploitation
30 January 2019
Many travelers and bloggers describe the beauty of the Salkantay Trek route. However, this blog is to describe the bad influence of irresponsible tourism as well as to give some advices.
The Salkantay Trek used to have one of the loveliest natural routes worldwide. It also has been considered as an alternative trek to the Inca Trail. Its tour operators used to bring personal tents, dining tents and toilet tents ...« read more »
Responsible Tourism Tips for your Inca Trail
24 January 2019
Machu Picchu is a unique place in the world, not only is it a beautiful stone city, it is the perfect synchrony between what man and nature can do. Machu Picchu is the proof that the hand of man can do great things without this signifying a conflict with nature. All of this makes taking care of and preserving it a task not only of the authorities of Peru ...« read more »
Inca Trail permits
18 January 2019
If the 2019 limit was set to travel to the Inca Trail, you must make your plans as soon as possible. Book your Inca Trail permits 2019 online 6 months in advance. There are only 500 spaces available per day, approximately 200 are assigned to tourists and 300 to porters, cooks and guides.
If the number of spaces is exhausted, you will have to choose another date. If the permits ...« read more »
Inca Trail Porters
18 January 2019
There are only 500 permits every day to do the traditional Inca Trail, for Porters, Tour Guides and Cooks including. Trekkers usually finish this 43-km long trail in 4 days or 3 days. Most of them consider the Inca Trail as their lifetime experience and personal ambition fulfillment. It is hard to overcome the contentment of completing the hike and visiting the magnificent Inca citadel of Machu Picchu. Anyway, ...« read more »