Cuzco: everything you need to know and visit

Cuzco is a city that you must visit at least once in your life. It is not only the nucleus of the Inca civilization, but also the axis of majestic constructions, a source of innumerable myths and legends, and, at the same time, the historical capital of Peru. 

Cuzco, also called Cusco, Qosqo, the "Imperial City", because it was the center of the Inca empire, or the "Rome of America", due to the amount of monuments present in the city, is located in the southeastern part of Peru and was declared a National Historic Monument in 1972 and a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1983. Today, the citadel of Machu Picchu is the most visited place by tourists from all over the world, this because Machu Picchu was declared as one of the Seven New Wonders of the Modern World on July 7, 2007.

Due to the impressive history of the city and its surroundings, in Cuzco we can find endless attractions, both Inca and colonial, such as:

  • Main Square:
    It is the heart of the city of Cuzco. In the surroundings of the square we can appreciate the contrast that arises from the Inca and colonial constructions. In its streets there are many souvenir shops, where we find for sale traditional objects such as gloves, sweaters, fabrics, chullos, caps with ear flaps usually woven with wool, and ponchos, warm rectangular-shaped wool coats.
    In the Plaza de Armas is located the great Cathedral of Cusco, which took more than 100 years to be built with stones brought from Saqsayhuaman, and the Church of the Company of Jesus, which continue to surprise the tourists of the world with its majestic structures colonial.
    It is completely curious that the Plaza de Armas formerly used to be a swamp, which was completely dried up by the Incas for the later construction of the capital of the Inca empire. This drying was requested by Sinchi Roca, second Inca, son of Manco Cápac and Mama Ocllo, who were sent by the god Inti (Sun) with the mission of finding the favorite place to found the capital of the great Inca empire, according to legend . The attractions of Cuzco are innumerable, so we offer you a brief list of the most outstanding: 
  • Barrio de San Blas
    In San Blas, also known as the "Balcony of Cuzco", you can not only find the best views of the city of Cusco, but also the oldest church in the city. Among its narrow, steep and cobbled streets and its bohemian nature, you will find the best craft workshops and the best art stores. Here you can find the Gallery of Hilario Mendivil and family, recognized for its particular elongated neck ceramics, inspired by llamas and alpacas; the Casa Mérida, by Edilberto Mérida, an indigenous artisan who is characterized by the faces of pain present in his works; Artesanía Olave, by Antonio Olave, recognized for being the creator of “Niño Manuelito”, the name by which Jesus is known in the city of Cuzco.
  • Qorikancha and the Santo Domingo Convent
    The Qorikancha, also called the Golden Temple, since it used to be covered by sheets of gold, was a temple built by the Incas to worship the god Inti (Sun). It became one of the most important places of worship of the Inca Empire, until the arrival of the Spanish and the subsequent construction of the Santo Domingo Convent, although you can still see the solid rock constructions inside the Convent. Inside the Convent are also located the temple of Mama Quilla (Moon), considered as the wife of the god Inti, which used to be covered by silver sheets, the Temple of the Stars, the Temple of Thunder, the Temple of the Rainbow, among others.
  • The 12 angle stone
    The advanced ability that the Incas had to work with stone and make majestic constructions with them is surprising. The stone of the 12 angles, considered Cultural Heritage of the Nation of Peru, located on Hatun Rumiyoc street, is a clear example of the aforementioned, since it reflects the mastery of the Incas to fit heavy stones as if it were a puzzle . This roughly 6-ton stone is so perfectly placed that not a pin can pierce its corners.
  • Urubamba
    Urubamba is a natural paradise that was adored by the Incas due to its incredible conditions for the development of agriculture. It is currently the administrative and commercial center of the Sacred Valley of the Incas, made up of Pisac, Ollantaytambo, Chinchero, Maras, Moray, Yucay and Urubamba. In its small square, Sunday fairs are held where you can find a variety of traditional products.
  • Rainbow mountain or the 7 colors
    Vinicunca or Winikunka, better known as the Rainbow Mountain due to its incredible colors, is one of the busiest places in recent years. The coloration of this mountain originates from the combination of minerals that give it the appearance of being covered by an ancient mantle or by a rainbow. We recommend that you visit the mountain between July and August, the dry season, so that you can enjoy the intensity of its colors. It is worth mentioning that to reach the mountain a demanding trekking of approximately 3 hours is carried out.
  • Machu Picchu, the lost city of the Incas
    Machu Picchu, known as the ancient mountain, is the most visited place in Peru. This citadel hidden between mountains and vegetation, and surrounded by incredible myths and legends, has been gaining popularity since 1911 when it was “discovered” by the explorer Hiram Bingham, until its appointment as a wonder of the modern world in 2007. Here You can find majestic buildings such as the Temple of the Sun, the Temple of the Condor, the Temple of the Three Windows, the Intihuatana, among others.
    If you like adventure, do not hesitate to take the Inca Trail, a trek that lasts 4 days, considered among the best trekking routes in the world, through millenary paths, valleys and dreamlike landscapes.
    It should be noted that, in 2016, Machu Picchu was considered the best tourist destination in the world by Tripadvisor, a website specialized in tourism.
  • Huayna Picchu
    Known as the young mountain, Huayna Picchu offers a steep and narrow ascent, with zigzagging trails, to the best panoramic view of the Inca citadel. This is because it has a height of 2700 meters, that is, it is 300 meters above Machu Picchu. The ascent to Huayna Picchu takes approximately 1 hour, and here you can find constructions such as the Silla del Inca, the Temple of the Moon, built in the nucleus of a cave, among others. The visit to Huayna Picchu is quite restricted, since only 400 people can enter a day, divided into two shifts, so we recommend you make the reservation in advance.
  • Salineras de Maras
    This enclosure has more than 3000 pools, of different sizes and dimensions, of natural pink salt. These pools are hydrated by underground water that descends through the ravine, according to legend, originated by Ayar Cachi, one of the 4 Ayar brothers in charge of founding the Inca empire. On the outskirts of the Salineras, you can find a variety of souvenirs and traditional salty chocolates, prepared with the salt of the enclosure. We recommend you visit the Salineras de Maras during the dry season, between April and September, to appreciate the majestic landscape and its dazzling white color.

We make the following division to inform you that the municipality of Cusco offers a ticket (with a price of 130 soles) that allows you to enter all the attractions detailed below:

  • Saqsayhuaman
    Although it is estimated that only 40% of its structure is preserved today due to the Spanish conquest, this Inca fortress is one of the most amazing buildings in the world. Its construction began in the 5th century at the request of the Inca Pachacutec, one of the most important in the empire. Saqsayhuaman has stones up to 2.5 meters high and 100 meters wide, of approximately XNUMX tons. It is an unmissable visit if you are in Cuzco, since you will be able to glimpse the architectural vestiges of the Incas and their constructions with stones of incredible size.
  • Q'enqo
    Although its true name is unknown, the Spanish called this religious complex Q'enqo, "labyrinth" in Quechua. The Incas pointed out that, through its subterranean labyrinths, it was possible to enter the Uku Pacha, the world of the dead. Due to the constructions present in Q'enqo, it is presumed that human and animal sacrifices were made here as offerings to the gods. Despite this dark environment, here you will also find the renowned eucalyptus forest and you will have the opportunity to visit the White Christ, which offers you an incredible panoramic view of the city of Cusco.
  • Puka pukara
    Also known as the Red Fort because of the color of the earth and the color that the rocks take at sunset, Puka Pukara used to be a hunting refuge, guard post or a halt for the royal party. It is presumed that it was a fortress due to its strategic location on the heights of a mountain, but its function has not yet been clarified. Something curious about Puka Pukara is that, unlike the other Inca fortresses, it is built with smaller rocks, both small and medium.
  • Tambomachay
    The Incas are not only surprising for their incredible architectural notions, but also engineering ones. Tambomachay, also known as the Baths of the Inca, is a construction dedicated to the cult of water, where there is an underground hydraulic system made up of aqueducts, channels and fountains, which transport crystal clear water throughout the year.
    A curious fact is that, in the duality of the Andean worldview, water represented the masculine and the earth, the feminine. Therefore, the union of both meant fertility.
  • Pisaq
    This archaeological complex located on the highest hill in the city, is one of the most beautiful in the Sacred Valley due to the impeccable detail of its constructions. The main activity in Pisac was and is agriculture, so here you can see approximately a variety of up to 14 platforms at different heights.
  • Ollantaytambo
    Also known as the "Living City", because the Inca practices are still being shared and inherited, it is a mandatory stop before visiting Machu Picchu. Ollantaytambo served as a ceremonial and operations center for the Inca empire. It is presumed that the construction of this archaeological complex was requested by the Inca Pachacutec in the 6th century. Here you can visit the Temple of the Sun, made of granite stone, made up of XNUMX monoliths and located in the highest part of Ollantaytambo.
    Something really interesting about Ollantaytambo is that there is a written drama called Ollantay, whose origin and authorship is still debated. Ollantay takes place in Ollantaytambo and tells the story of the forbidden love between Ollantay, a warrior of commoner origin, and Cusi Coyllur, Inca princess, daughter of the Inca Pachacutec.
  • Moray
    Another of the engineering feats of the Inca empire was the construction of concentric terraces, also called platforms, accompanied by their own irrigation canals for agricultural purposes. Although it looks like a gigantic amphitheater, Moray was an agricultural laboratory. Here the production of, among different products, the coca leaf was carried out, considered a sacred plant by the Incas. The Moray terraces are divided into 12 levels, where each one has a height of 1.80 meters, which allows obtaining its own microclimate. The largest terrace has a depth of 150 meters.
  • Chinchero
    Also known as the "City of the Rainbow", Chinchero is one of the cities where, despite the Spanish conquest, Inca traditions are preserved. It is one of the best preserved Inca cities. During Sundays, the settlers keep the custom of meeting at the foot of the mountains dressed in traditional clothes to market their products. Every October 8 the Fiesta de Moray or Moray Raymi is celebrated, where the surrounding communities present folkloric dances that are related to the land, production and harvest.
  • Tipon
    Also called the Temple of Water, it is an archaeological park made up of 240 hectares, 13 terraces or platforms, and fountains and water gutters that work to this day. Due to the continuous functionality of its buildings, Tipón is considered a "Wonder of Civil Engineering". In Tipón you can the Intiwatana (altar of the sun), Cruzmoqo (mountain with a cross), the royal and minor enclosures, among other constructions.
  • Pikillaqta
    Also called "The small town" or "Town of Flea", it is an archaeological complex of approximately 50 hectares that belonged to the Wari culture, older than the Incas. Built at the end of the XNUMXth century in stone and adobe, Pikillaqta looks like a white city, made up of buildings and walls for ceremonial, defensive or administrative purposes.
  • Monument to Pachacutec
    This 11.50-meter-high sculpture, designed by the Cuzco Fausto Espinoza, is located south of the city of Cusco and houses a small sample inside where the history of the Inca is explained orally and visually, recognized for his urban vision, planning and reformer, and by the foundation of the Tahuantinsuyo.
  • Qosqo Center for Native Art
    Considered by Cuzqueños as the largest cultural institution in the city and by the Peruvian government as the "first folk institution in Peru", this center is in charge of preserving and disseminating folklore not only from Cuzco, but from all over Peru. Its objective is the collection, conservation and dissemination of the music and folk dances of Peru, through artistic presentations and a small museum of typical costumes.
  • Qorikancha Site Museum
    This museum, located next to the Santo Domingo Convent and Temple, disseminates the chronological evolution of civilizations in Cuzco, before, during and after the Incas, through samples of ceramics, textiles, painting, sculpture, among others.
  • Popular art museum
    This museum holds exhibitions focused on Cusco's popular art, that is, made by the artisans of the city. They have pieces of ceramics, textiles, photographs, sculptures, among others.
  • Contemporary Art Museum
    Located 1 block from the Plaza de Armas, this museum has three exhibition rooms, two temporary and one permanent. It currently has approximately 300 pieces of art, among which is the canvas "Río Vilcanota", made by Remigia Mendoza, a forerunner of the indigenous movement, at the end of the XNUMXth century.
  • Regional Historical Museum
    Museum located in what was the house of the renowned Cusco writer and chronicler Inca Garcilaso de la Vega built at the end of the XNUMXth century, offers an exhibition of archaeological objects, which cover the different periods of the Andean civilization, and colonial paintings of the so-called School Cusco. A curious fact is that the "Crucified Christ" is located here, a sculpture that was present during the sentencing and dismemberment of Túpac Amaru II, leader of the "Great Rebellion", against the Spanish colony.