Cusco, in the ancient native language of Quechua, is known as Qosqo which literally means the navel of the world. The historical capital of the Inca Empire, it was believed that the sun god Inti directed the first Inca king to Cusco to build the Temple of the Sun, which can still be seen today. Cusco continues to maintain its special, spiritual significance among the decedents of the Inca.
Cusco might just be the most cosmopolitan city in the world. It is cosmopolitan in the traditional sense in that it attracts a convergence of people of all cultures from all over the world. But more interestingly, it is also cosmopolitan in its unique convergence of time; a living collage of three distinct eras: Incan, colonial and modern. Walking the streets of Cusco, the melding is evident on almost every corner. The Spanish conquerors built some of the finest examples of Renaissance and Baroque architecture in the new world on top of the foundations of the flawless Incan stonework. Today many of those buildings are occupied by modern hotels, offices and even fast-food restaurants.
The indigenous people of the Andean region are one of the few remaining cultures in the world that still maintain their traditional language and dress. Most of the residents are bilingual speaking both Spanish and ancient Quechua. The traditional skirts, shawls, and hats create a colorful, lively and festive atmosphere that provides a rich and authentic backdrop to our Cusco tours.
Cusco, the gateway to Machu Picchu has a history and legacy unmatched. Cusco is recognized as the architectural capital of South America and in 1983, Cusco was named a World Heritage Site by UNESCO. Currently, Cusco receives more than 2 million visitors a year; a number that is growing by more than 10% a year. In recent years, Cusco hotels have been expanding and into every category to satisfy the demand of a new and growing supply of visitors.
Plaza de Armas of Cusco
Plaza de Armas of Cusco was the ceremonial place in the Inca era. During Incan times, the Plaza was known as the “Huaycapata”, the place of tears. The original Plaza was twice the size of existing site and in modern and ancient times is the center of the annual festival of the sun, the Inti Raymi. This historic location is where Francisco Pizarro proclaimed the conquest of Cusco. The Spanish then tore down the original Inca temples that surrounded the Plaza and built cathedrals and municipal centers on the ancient foundations.
Qoricancha or Temple of the Sun, was the most important spiritual center in the Inca Empire. The Incas dedicated this sacred center to the Inca Sun God; its walls and floors were covered with gold plating, and it’s central plaza contained idols shaped from pure gold. The Spanish demolished the most of the temple and pillaged and melted the gold into coins and ingots. They built the existing Church of Santo Domingo on the Temple’s foundations. Today, only the massive outer wall and some of the interior walls remain as an example of the integration of Incan and Spanish architecture.
The Sacred Valley of Urubamba
The Sacred Valley of Urubamba is a scenic, mystical and magical place. The Valley stretches between the towns of Pisac and Ollantaytambo. It has wonderful Andean landscapes, where the inhabitants, native Quechua ethnic, still conserve many of the ancient customs and ancestral rites. You will find architectural marvels that represent the fusion between Inca and Spanish styles and a necessary addition to all Cusco tours.
Our Sacred Valley and Cusco tours always include the famous Pisac Market. Here you can find the best, and most interesting products, ranging from paintings, silver jewelry, woodcrafts, and sweaters, scarfs, and hats made of alpaca. Pisac is also the location of the Pisac Ruins made up of large agricultural terraces and living areas.