The city of Cusco is known as the «navel of the world» since the time of the Incas; touring this city will give you the feeling of traveling through a huge museum, in which the Inca and Spanish cultures merged, in architecture, culture and customs. If you already have your Machu Picchu Tickets, do not miss the opportunity to enjoy the Imperial City of Cusco.
Sacsayhuamán is located at 3,555 m.s. its name comes from the aimara «saqsaw waman», which means «place where the hawk is satiated» and it is undoubtedly the most mysterious place in Latin America. When the conquerors arrived in Cusco in 1533, they were stupefied in front of this megalithic monument of cyclopean walls; composed of rocks of up to 200 tons, which fit perfectly together. These days it is a complete mystery how it was built and what was the function of such a mysterious elaboration.
The Plaza de Armas of Cusco is a space located in the center of the city, with stone paths and well-kept gardens; It houses 2 of the most emblematic buildings of the city, the Cathedral of Cusco and the Church of the Company of Jesus. Spanish colonial buildings dominate the architecture of the plaza, these are built on the walls of ancient palaces and Inca residences. Here many of the most important celebrations in Cusco are held, including the Inti Raymi (festival of the Sun) and the religious festival of Corpus Christi. The square is always full of activity, it has a wide variety of restaurants and coffee shops that offer everything from traditional Peruvian food, such as guinea pigs or lomo saltado, to international cuisine. Unlike many cities around the world, Cusco is full every night of the week; If you are looking for nightlife in Cusco, just head to the plaza.
The first Cathedral in the imperial city of Cusco, was built by the Spaniards in 1539 in the «Suntur Wasi», and was known as the Church of Victory. Between the years 1560 and 1664, was raised and renovated the cathedral on the site of Kiswar Kancha a former Inca palace of Wiracocha. The Cathedral has the shape of a Latin cross, the façade is of Renaissance style and contrasts with the Baroque and Plateresque, it is also famous for its splendid interior, with excellent examples of wood carving and colonial goldsmithing, as well as a valuable collection of canvases of the Cusqueña School.
The construction of this beautiful church began in 1,576 at Amaru-cancha, the Inca Huayna Capac palace, and is considered the best example of baroque-colonial architecture in the Americas. The entire facade is made of carved stones, it is spectacular. Inside you can see a beautiful golden altar built on an underground chapel.
The translation of Quechua words into Spanish represents a difficulty for linguists; this one in particular, because the name of this structure has up to four forms of writing: Koricancha, Korikancha, Qoricancha and Coricancha. This word in Spanish means «Solar de Oro» The convent of Santo Domingo is the oldest religious building in Latin America, it was built in 1,540 on the walls of the famous Qoricancha. After the Spanish invasion, the conquistadores distributed the wealth and plots of the entire city as booty of conquest. The Qoricancha was taken by the brother of Francisco Pizarro, Juan Pizarro, who would later donate it to Fray Juan de Olias; Dominican religious of the Dominican Province of Santa Cruz, Mexico, who together with 12 friars would be in charge of building the impressive convent of Santo Domingo.
The San Pedro Market is a must see, all the elements are exhibited in a fascinating way and in the open air. You will find lamb heads for broth (soup), live frogs (to improve sexual performance), cubes with fruit juice or other drinks such as chicha de quinoa; Roasted piglet, fried and baked guinea pigs, tamales, etc. In the surroundings you will find stalls of typical clothes, crafts and other products at random. This place can entertain you for hours. You have to visit the markets to be able to taste the food of the city of Cusco, living an experience of the locals in their daily life.
There are several ways to get to the church of San Cristóbal in San Blas, walk up and down very beautiful cobblestone streets (bring your camera). One of the most interesting ways to get there is through Plaza Nazarenas. Even if churches and religious art are not theirs, the Church of San Cristóbal deserves some of its time. The wide plaza next to the church offers magnificent panoramic views of Cusco. A clear day will allow you to see the snowy Ausangate, the highest mountain in the region. Within the church you will find Cuzco religious art, as well as some brilliant examples of how Catholic colonists tried to extirpate the mystical belief of the indigenous population.
One of the side chapels has a statue of Christ with graphic lacerations, but the strangest thing is that it also has articulated neck and arms. The hinges on the shoulders allow the arms to be folded, reducing the image to be paraded in a glass coffin on holidays. However, the articulated neck seems to have sinister motives, since apparently someone would hide behind the crucifix and at appropriate moments, would move the head of the Christ, «demonstrating» the sanctity of the statue to astonished converts; This must have been very convincing. A virgin representing the Pachamama (mother earth) is carved on the main altar, with completely bare breasts, evidencing the incongruent coexistence between colonial Catholicism and indigenous religion.
The statue of the White Christ in Cusco has a height of 8 m, is located in Pukamoqo hill (red hill) 6 km from Cusco; The open arms of the statue represent the protection of the people of Cusco. This fantastic work belongs to Francisco Olazo Allende, who was also the creator of the work of Santa Clara el Arco. The figure is made in a very traditional way, and was worked by the locals; It was built in 1945 and was a donation from the Palestinian Arab colony to Cusco.
The stone of the 12 angles is a stone that is part of an old Inca wall, it is carved in such a way that it has 12 angles perfectly fitted with the stones around it, it is located in Hatun Rumiyoq street (of the major rock) and It is part of the bases of the palace of Inca Roca and where the Archbishop’s Palace is currently located. This stone, besides representing a very special historical element, is a sample of the high level of engineering achieved by the Incas.
The neighborhood of San Blas, also known as the artisans neighborhood, is located a few blocks from the Plaza de Armas of Cusco. It develops workshops and shops of artists, painters and craftsmen. Known as the «artists’ district», it has narrow and twisted streets. In the time of the Incas its name was «T’oqo-kachi» (T’oqo – hollowonada, kachi – salt) and was inhabited by the Inca nobility. Its buildings and the particularity of its streets, make it a space of global attraction; It is reached by following the San Blas slope on Hatun Rumiyoc Street
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