Cusco church

Cusco, "The Archaeological Capital of America"; constitutes the biggest tourist attractiveness in Peru, and the most visited one. Cusco (also spelled Cuzco) is a beautiful city riddled with contrasts between the indigenous styles and the modern western world.

Cusco, as well as Machupicchu, for its historical value, and for its beauty is considered Cultural World Heritage Sites.

Cusco is located in the Southeastern region of Peru. At an altitude of 3,360m above sea level, Cusco was referred to as the "Navel of the World". The city has a population of about 300,000, triple the population it contained just 20 years ago.

Quechua, the Inca language, is still widely spoken. The climate is cool, with temperatures averaging about 10.9 degrees C (51.6 degrees F). Annual precipitation is 750 mm (29.5 in). Inca tribes are believed to have come to Cusco from the Lake Titicaca region in about the 11th century.

The legendary founder of the city was Manco Capac, first of the Inca rulers. The name Cusco is Quechua for "navel," and the city was considered the center of the Inca world, the place where the four parts of the empire came together. It was the hub from which the famous Inca road network radiated. Inca Cusco was different in concept and plan from European cities. It was designed in the form of a puma, with the 15th-century fortress of Sacsahuaman as the head. The confluence of the Huatanay and Tullumayo rivers was canalized and straightened to form the tail.

The core of the city contained official and ceremonial buildings and residences of ruling officials. Many other buildings and residences were dispersed at a considerable distance in the countryside surrounding the core, but they were defined as part of the capital.

Cuzco is surrounded by impressive archeological remains such as the citadel of Machu Picchu, the Fortress of Sacsayhuaman, the Ollantaytambo compound and picturesque towns such as Pisac, Calca and Yucay, which still preserve the traditions of their ancestors. Other places to explore in the intriguing city of Cusco Peru include the Plaza de Armas. In Inca times it was not only the exact center of the empire but was twice as large as it is now. The plaza was surfaced with white sand mixed with shell, bits of gold, silver and coral.

The church, La Compania, with its intricate interior, finely carved balconies and altars covered in gold leaf, was started in 1571 and took nearly 100 years to complete, in part due to the damage in the 1650 earthquake. A fine collection of art, which flourished from the 16th century through 18th centuries is found at the Museum of Religious Art on Calle Palacio. Once the palace of Roca Inca this now Moorish building has complicated carvings on its doors and balconies. Cusco has a numerous Hotels, Restaurants, Banks and travel agencies who will give you tourist information for your adventure tours around Cusco.

The Inca trail hike to Machu Picchu is a unique trekking experience outside of Cuzco. Visitor passes are limited to 500 hikers each day.

Getting there

You can get to Cusco easily by plane from Lima in just one hour. During the high season, flights arrive dozens of times a day from Lima, as well as from Arequipa, Puerto Maldonado and La Paz. Aeropuerto Internacional Velasco Astete is five kilometres from Cusco.

The 20-minute ride into town can be taken by taxi or private hotel car. For those arriving by rail, there are services from Puno, Arequipa, Ollantaytambo and Machu Picchu, among others. Alternatively, you can get here by bus from Lima, Arequipa, Puno / Juliaca, and Puerto Maldonado in the Amazon basin. The journey from Lima takes 26 hours; from Puno, 9 to 10 hours; and from Arequipa, 12 hours.