Cusco plays an important role in the history of the Incas, as it was the capital of the Inca Empire. In 1983 the UNESCO declared it a World Heritage Site. Around 2 million people visit the city’s historic buildings nowadays and use it as a gateway to visit Machu Picchu.
Cusco is located on an altitude of 3400 metres between the Andes and is therefore difficult to reach. Flights can only navigate through the mountain area when the weather conditions are clear. Nevertheless, the city is worth the hassle of getting there.
We started off our sightseeing near the San Francisco Church. As many buildings in Cusco it stems from Colonialism and was built between the 16th and 17th century. It remained relatively untouched by the 1650 earthquake.
The attached museum exhibits many colonial paintings. Opposite of the San Francisco Church you can find the Plaza de San Francisco, a little square with benches and flower-beds.
San Pedro Market in Cusco
From the San Francisco Church we walked along the Plaza de San Francisco through the historic City Gate to reach first the San Pedro (Saint Peter) Church and then the colorful market. The market is open all day and has everything on offer, from fruits, vegetables, juices, souvenirs to meat and fish.
It was incredibly crowded and busy with everyone shouting around to get your attention. And the smell is pretty intense due to the fresh meat and fish lying around. If you want to get into touch with locals or just love bargaining, this is the place to be!
Coricancha was the most important temple during the Inca Empire. It was dedicated to the sun god Inti. Unfortunately, it was destroyed after the 16th century and the Spanish conquestors used its remains as a foundation for the Iglesia de Santo Domingo.
Many colonial buildings made use of the Inca stonework, as they are quite firm. The Inca stoneworks even survived the earthquake!
Plaza de Armas is located in the heart of Cusco. It hosts two important buildings: Cusco Cathedral and the Templo de la Compañía de Jesús. On the main square of the Incas, it is nowadays dominated by colonial buildings with small balconies attached. However, some Inca walls also remain.
When we arrived here, there was a big celebration taking place in front of the cathedral. Traditional music was played and groups of dancers showed some traditional dances. Surrounding the plaza you can also find many restaurants and cafés. We ended up going to a restaurant nearby offering a fusion of Peruvian and British food.
We stumbled across a few other interesting sites on the way, but didn’t spend too much time around as the city was bustling and walking around at the height of the city made me feel quite exhausted.
We weren’t blessed with the best weather in Cusco as you can see on the pictures, but nevertheless enjoyed our visit to this historic place. Many of the colonial buildings have a rather similar architecture and it is interesting to see how this dominates the image of the city. The people, vendors and markets create quite a colorful contrast to this, which is exciting to observe. Moreover, in comparison to Lima you see much more of the remains of the Incan tradition in Cusco.
Have you been to Cusco? What do you like most about the city?