World Facts Index > Peru > Cusco

Without a doubt, the beauty and majesty of Cusco are unique. You only have to walk through its streets, to observe its large houses and exquisite monuments, and you are transported back into the past. Cusco really captures that magic which charms even the most experienced traveller. Join us and enjoy...

The Tourist Ticket
The best way to make the most of all the attractions in Cusco is to purchase the "Boleto Turistico" (Tourist Ticket), with which you can access the most historically and culturally important museums and churches.

In the centre of the city is the Plaza de Armas, which was reputedly laid out by Inca Manco Capac and is also called Aucaypata (in quechua: warrior square). In the square, stands the splendid Cathedral, which took 94 years to be built. Next to this, stands the Capilla (chapel) de la Sagrada Familia, recently restored; and the Capilla del Triunfo, whose walls are adorned with masterpieces from the Cusco School, such as Diego Quispe Tito´s works.

The Compañía de Jesús, the pride of the Jesuit order, is also located in the Plaza de Armas; and a block away, in Calle Hatun Rumiyoq, there is the Museo del Arzobispado, which has some valuable works of art. On this same street, you can observe the famous rock with twelve angles which was a part of the Inca Roca´s palace.

San Blas, the Artisans´s Neighborhood
Formerly known as Toqocachi (Salt cave), it was due to the works of artists Mendivil, Olave and Merida, that this district came to be known as the artisans´neighborhoood. San Blas is a unique, picturesque area that has recently been restored: when walking through the streets of this magical neighborhood, you can easily imagine you are in the 19th Century. The San Blas temple has the largest piece of wooden carving - its pulpit, carved from a single piece by Tomas Tuyro Tupac, an Incan artist and architect.

Towards the Templo del Sol
Ten minutes from the Plaza de Armas, are the Iglesia de Santo Domingo and the luxurious Qoricancha, o "Templo del Sol" (Temple of the Sun), an amazing piece of architecture, it is believed that this temple was originally covered with gold. In front of the temple, is the "Casa de los Cuatro Bustos" now occupied by a hotel consortium. Descending toward Avenida El Sol, you can get another view of the Korikancha and visit the onsite museum.

Other Important Monuments
Towards the centre again, in Calle Mantas stands the Iglesia y Convento de la Merced, which houses La Custodia, a grandiose sample of gold work from the colonial era, made completely in gold and more than one metre high.
The Casa of Inca Garcilaso de la Vega houses a large collection of prehispanic and colonial art and in Plaza San Francisco, there is the temple of the same name, which has one of the largest paintings in the whole Latin America.

History of Cusco

Cusco, Mystical City
The city of Cusco is built in the valley of the Huatanay River, in the southern sierra of Peru. Cusco, from the quechua Qosco, means the "navel of the world" and this name is due to the fact that it has always been the center of a vast network of roads which connect each one of the four regions that represent the " four parts of the world" according to the Andean cosmovision.

Currently, the city of Cusco is the main tourist destination in the country and one of the most important in America. Called by the Incas the "house and dwelling of gods" it is historically significant as the capital of the Tawantinsuyo.

Of course Cusco is also a colonial city, with splendid churches and large houses. Many consider that it is exactly this special mixture which makes it a really charming city.

The importance of Cusco peaked during the reign of the Incas (1438-1532 A.D.), but its exact origins as a city are not actually known, as they are lost among myths and legends. One of the most popular legends has been passed down through the famous chronicles of the Inca Garcilaso de la Vega, in which the stories of Manco Cápac and Mama Ocllo are told, the couple that magically emerged from the holy waters of Titicaca Lake, about the XI and XII centuries A.D., to found the city of Cusco.

Furthermore, Cusco was the center of government of the four regions of the Incan empire, which comprised a great part of what currently is Ecuador, Colombia, Peru, Bolivia, Argentina and Chile. The Incan society was an admirable example of organization, and nowadays is admired because of its great knowledge of architecture, hydraulic engineering, medicine and agriculture.

The Spanish Conquest
In the year 1534, the Spanish arrived under the command of the conqueror Francisco Pizarro and a Spanish city was founded over Cusco. This meant a dramatic change for the Andean world after two thousand years of independent development. Many important Incan constructions were destroyed or served as the base for other new constructions (one can see the evidence of this at some temple sites).

In contrast with the thought of some people, Cusco then became one of the most sublime expressions of the mixture of races in America. However, the Spanish conquest also had another aspect: indigenous opposition would lead to great revolutions against Spanish imperial domination, among these, the revolution led by José Gabriel Condorcanqui (Tupac Amaru II) in 1780; that of the Angulo brothers in 1813; and that commanded by Mateo Pumacahua in 1814.

The Lost City of the Incas
In 1911, due to the information provided by local peasants, the American researcher Hiram Bingham discovered the majestic Incan citadel of Machu Picchu which is today one of the main tourist destinations in America and is considered one of the world´s most outstanding feats of architecture. It comprises military type buildings, squares, temples and terraces (for cultivation), and is nestled between the mountains of Machu Picchu (old mountain) and Huayna Picchu (young mountain), in the middle of the tropical jungle. It is known that it was a cult center, astronomical observatory, and private property of Inca Pachacutec and his family.


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