Cuzco (Machu Pichu)
Located in the south eastern region of the Mountain range of the Andes, the city of Cuzco is the main tourist destination of Peru and one of most important of the world. Call by the Incas “house and dwelling of Gods” (origin of its popular name “Sacred City”), the city of Cuzco became the capital of one of the greatest pre-Columbian empires: the Tawantinsuyo. Its name in Quechua, Qosqo, means “navel of the world”, because a vast road network that united practically all South America started from this city.
Racially mixed and colonial city, with splendid temples and large houses that rise on finely worked rock and with a rich gastronomy which dishes combine in a skillful way native with Spanish products. Land of great landscapes, rich history and fascinating geography, Cuzco is without a doubt a city that all travelers yearn to know.
The region of Cuzco has two seasons well marked: a rainy (November-March) with temperatures averaging 12 ° C and a dry season (April to October) with cold nights, sunny days and temperatures averaging 9 ° C. Because of its altitude, 3399 m, altitude sickness is a contingency to take into account in this destination.
Called in the days of the Incas “Huacaypata”or “place of the soldier”, the greater Place of the city of Cuzco is a loaded urban space of historical resonances around which, like long time ago, the life of the city is organized. The Cathedral is one of the most impressive constructions of the city, constructed with big red granite blocks extracted from Sacsayhuaman. The Church of the Company is considered as one of the best exponents of the colonial baroque in America.
Koricancha and Convent of Santo Domingo
The convent was constructed on the spectacular Koricancha or “gold site”; the most important temple dedicated to the cult of the Sun, whose walls were covered by gold layers. This temple was built using polished stone structures from the Inca sanctuary as foundation, the most finely worked of Cuzco.
District of San Blas
Known as the district of craftsmen, San Blas is one of the most colorful places of the city. Its narrow and lofty side streets zigzag between old large houses rose with Inca stone walls and calm small squares. The district owns in addition one to the most beautiful views of the city and gathers the factories and stores of the most famous craftsmen from Cuzco.
Imposing example of Inca military architecture, this fortress was constructed with huge granite blocks and dedicated to the defense of the city of the Cuzco from the attacks of the invaders from the east. Sacsayhuaman this formed by three great terraces superposed in zigzag and bordered by enormous rock walls of up to 300 m. of length. The visit to the zone of Sacsayhuaman, besides its fortress, includes another three archaeological complexes: Tambomachay, the main altar to the element water known as the Baths of the Inca; the Puca Pucará fortification, an Inca military center; and the Amphitheatre of Quenko a concrete example of the mystical character of the men of that time.
Sacred Valley of the Incas
At only one hour of trip from the city, the Valley of the Urubamba River or Sacred Valley of the Incas is a beautiful scene of colorful towns, impressive terraces and archaeological sites of great importance. Since Inca times it has been the agricultural pantry of Cuzco and at present it is famous to own the biggest maize grain of the world.
It includes the area between the Inca towns of Písac and Ollantaytambo, and thanks to its benign climate and particular geography is the ideal destination for adventure sports.
Located at 33 km from the city of Cuzco, Písac has an “old town” conformed by Inca archaeological remainders: an irrigation system, an astronomical observatory, a solar clock or Intiwatana, terracing; and a “modern town” of noticeable colonial origin. Its dominical market attracts thousand of visitors and villagers coming from remote small villages, adorned with its colorful traditional clothes.
Located 21 km from Urubamba, the town of Ollantaytambo is called ” Inca Live Town”; because its settlers maintain their usages and ancient customs. In the vast archaeological site located in the hill that dominates the town, buildings like the Temple of the Sun, the Real Hall, the Incahuatana and the Baths of the Princess stand out. It was an important administrative center that probably functioned as a military center as is shown by its walls and towers.
The Incas constructed a vast road network to communicate with the four regions of their empire, which was called Qhapaq Ñan or Camino Inca. It was formed by stone footpaths apt for two or three people with llama herds where the rivers were crossed by means of suspension bridges and the slopes by means of graderías and ramps. At present many of the remains of this old network in Peru continue being used by farmers, being one of the most impressive sections the one that connects Cuzco and Machu Picchu. The Inca Trail to Machu Picchu is one of the most important routes of trekking at international level; it can be hiked in 4 days/3 nights or 2 days/1 night. During the route of 40 km, the traveler crosses by different altitudes and varied ecosystems between 2600 and 4200 ms above sea level that allows to enjoy overwhelming landscapes, innumerable species of flora and fauna in their natural habitat, important archaeological centers, before arriving at the spectacular ruins of Machu Picchu.
The citadel of Machu Picchu, Patrimony of the Humanity, constitutes the most important tourist attractions of Cuzco. It is located 3.30 h. of trip by train from the city, or to 4/2 days hiking through the Inca Trail. Discovered in 1911 by the American explorer Hiram Bingham, this citadel is considered one of the most extraordinary samples of landscaping architecture of the world. Nailed in the top of a mountain that dominates the canyon of the Urubamba River in the heat of the tropical forest, it constituted simultaneously a cult and astronomical observation center and a private property of the family of the Inca Pachacútec. It consists of two big areas: an agricultural, mainly with terraces and building for food storage; and an urban one, where the sacred area with temples, places and mausoleums perfectly worked stand out. The foggy forests that cover steep slopes and mountains constitute the refuge of innumerable species of fauna and wild flora, where orchids, bromeliads and arborescent ferns stand out.
Located in the department of Cuzco, the Salkantay or “Magical Mountain” (6,271 ms. above seal level) constitutes the culminating point of a trekking circuit that combines the majesty of a natural scene of great beauty with the attractiveness of the most famous pre-Hispanic remainders of the world: Machu Picchu and the Inca Trail. The route begins crossing the old Inca Trail worked on the rock that leads to the citadel of Machu Picchu and crosses a Andean pass between the majestic snow-covered Salkantay and Umantay (5,917 ms. Above sea level), to continue through the stream of the Aobamba River until arriving at the archaeological site. During its route it is possible to obtain unique views of the majority of the most beautiful mountains of Cuzco.
Located 3104 ms. above sea level in the valley of Vilcabamba, the citadel of Choquequirao or “Cradle of Gold”, is considered the last refuge of the Incas before the Spanish conquest. Located in the forest, it constituted an important city for its political and economic role for product trading between the coast, the mountain range and the forest. The complex consists of nine architectonic stone groups that are distributed around an esplanade or main place. It is a set of houses, sacred buildings, deposits and aqueducts, surrounded by impressive terracing and located in the summit of a mountain that dominates the valley of the Apurímac River. In spite of its remote location, the citadel was strategically connected to the rest of the empire through the intricate network of the Inca Trail; at present is the only access road to the spectacular site.
Maras is a small town located 40 km from Cuzco, whose main attractive besides its colonial church, are the mines of salt or salineras. Used since pre-Columbian times, the salt is extracted through an old drying system in which the salt water is exposed to the sun in pools until the water is evaporated, leaving in the surface the salt that soon is treated for its commercialization. The view of the approximately three thousands pools is spectacular. The settlers show the visitors their ancestral techniques and allow them to take part in the harvesting.
The archaeological complex of Moray (3500ms. above sea level) is famous by its sunken amphitheatre, formed by four circular platforms that seem to disappear inside the Puna. Apparently, the place constituted an agricultural Inca research center dedicated to the experimentation of cultivation around the different altitudes of its parcels (some more than 100 ms of depth). Andenerías constructed on retaining walls filled with fertile and watered soil by means of complex irrigation systems, allowed to cultivate more than 250 vegetable species.
Constructed during the apogee of the Wari culture (500 – 900 A.C.), this great urban and ceremonial center of almost two kilometers squared of extension, rises like a massive set of stone and mud structures concentrated on a hill that dominates the beautiful Lagoon of Lucre. Pikillacta or “city of the fleas” is perhaps the largest preInca’s city of the region that apparently comprised a military garrison.
Located at 40 km from Cuzco, is one of most beautiful colonial towns of the region. It has a beautiful place dominated by leafy trees of pisonay and old large houses. The church of San Pedro of Andahuaylillas is the main attraction of the zone since by its works of art is considered as the “Sistine Chapel of America”; it was built in the XVII century and considered Patrimony of the Humanity by UNESCO. Its interior, profusely decorated with mural paintings, is incomparable as well as the paintings of the Cuzqueña School and baroque carved wood altars.