Cuzco in Quechua means ‘Navel of the earth’ and was the capital of the Inca Empire. The city has a curious character, its narrow cobbled streets and friendly people are obvious, but it is the huge walls of intricately laid stone that pay testimony to the civilisation that 500 years ago controlled most of the continent and today characterise Cuzco.
The Spaniards attempted to eradicate every trace of the empire by building on top of the Inca foundations; when earthquakes shook the city however, the colonial walls came crashing down leaving the Inca stonework intact.
Cuzco’s Plaza de Armas is probably the most beautiful in the world with two dominant churches and its surrounding buildings with their colonial balconies are ideal for watching life go by.
The surrounding area is rich in Inca and Pre-Inca ruins. The impressive Inca military architecture of Sacsayhuman, strategically placed on a hill above Cuzco, Quenqo with its limestone formations and carvings depicting mythical beings, and Tambomachay, the Inca baths consisting of fine stonework, aqueducts, and waterfalls fed by hot and cold springs.
THINGS TO SEE AND DO
Below are some of the attractions that Cuzco and the surrounding area have to offer giving you the choice of what you would like to see and do.
The Cathedral: situated in the Plaza de Armas, construction began in 1560 and it was consecrated in 1669. Like Lima’s Cathedral, it has had Gothic, Mannerist-Renaissance and Baroque influences.
La Compania de Jesus: the second of Cuzco’s churches situated in its Plaza de Armas, built in Baroque style over the palace of Inca Huayna Capac. Destroyed by the earthquake of 1650 it was rebuilt in renaissance style in 1668.
Santa Domingo/Koricancha: this Dominican church and convent was built on the foundations of the Koricancha, or place of gold, the principle Inca religious building, dedicated to the worship of the sun.
La Merced: this building was almost completely rebuilt after the earthquake of 1650. Its doorways are still in the Mannerist style.
Inca Museum: built on Inca foundations its exhibits include, carved ceremonial goblets, weavings, mummies, silver and gold figurines, as well as Inca weapons and tools.
Archaeological sites: in the nearby area, are several fascinating ruins, which are mentioned above, all are accessible by either foot or a short taxi ride and include; Sacsayhuaman, Quenqo and Tambomachay.