Peru: Cusco, Ancient Incan Capital

Posted by on July 13, 2011

No other city in Peru exemplifies its rich ancient and colonial history more than Cusco.

South America - Peru

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Located in the south of the country, Cusco was once the capital of the Incan Empire and thus, houses many archaeological relics from that era. World heritage listed in 1983, the region combines spectacular landscapes, culture and architecture, creating a visual wonderland.

Cusco’s main attraction, though clichéd is truly impressive. The once ‘lost city’ of Machu Picchu is divided into two zones and constructed on the side of a mountain. The urban sector contains numerous buildings and plazas including the Temple of the Sun, whilst agricultural terraces grace the sides of the mountain.

This place will send your nerves into a frenzy and is a thrill to witness even for those – like me – who are scared of heights.

However, Cusco has many more experiences to offer. For example, it is possible to catch the train to Machu Picchu.

But why catch the train, when you can hike through the Inca trails, the longest of which is 39 kilometres? On your way you can witness the native flora and fauna as well as some other lesser known archaeological sites such as Qoriwachayrachina or Sayacmarca.

Surely a trek as exhausting as this deserves a day in the spa? For those in pain, bathe in the natural and medicinal springs of Aguas Calientes to soothe those aching muscles.

The region’s central hub is in stark contrast to the ancient outskirts of the city. Decorated with Andean baroque structures dating back to Spanish colonisation, the Main Square provides an insight into the Spanish heritage of Peru. It features a wide variety of churches and cathedrals, including the Cathedral of Cusco and the Church of the Company of Jesus Christ.

Not far from the Main Square the village of San Blas is home to village artisans who frequently accommodate guests in their homes. I could not think of a more perfect way to experience Peruvian culture up close and personal.

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