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Cuzco, The Imperial City of the Incas, lies in the heart of the Sacred Valley at an altitude of 3,399 meters (11,000 feet) in Southeastern Peru. It was built by the Incas and served as the capital (13th century-1532) of the vast Inca Empire that reached from Quito, Ecuador to Northern Chile.

The Incas considered it to be 'the navel of the world' and all the principal idols and temples were located there.

The majestic walls erected throughout the city emit the power and strength that is still present in today's descendants of the Incas. Cuzco, is one of the most important cities of South America and is a favorite among tourists who travel to Peru.

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The city of Cuzco, is said to be built in the shape of the puma, a sacred animal for the Incas. The head is represented by the fortress Sacsaywaman, the heart by the plaza of Huacaypata and the converging Huatanay and Tullumayo rivers represent the tail.

© PromPeru The Plaza Huacaypata was the heart of the puma and of Cuzco,. It was there that all ceremonial festivities were held. The main square of Cusco has remained in the same location since the earliest days of the Incas.

The Church of La Compañía on the Plaza de Armas in Cusco Before the arrival of the Spanish it was twice the size, covered with a fine gravel and had four main roads extending out to the four quarters, or 'suyos', of the Inca Empire reaching from Quito, Ecuador to Santiago, Chile.

Many of the Inca walls were thought to have been lost until a 1950 earthquake devastated the city. The granite walls of the Sun Temple (Korikancha) were exposed, as well as many walls throughout the city.

Many wanted to restore the buildings to their colonial splendor, but a contingent of Cusco citizens wanted to retain the exposed walls. Eventually they won out and now tourists from around the world enjoy looking at these ruins within the living city.

Best of Cuzco

Cuzco, is a wonderful city to explore. The streets go up and down and every corner comes with a surprise. The amazing mix of both colonial and modern entices the visitor to discover the juxtaposition of Inca architecture.

The city is very colorful with colonial red roofs, whitewashed walls and blue doors and windows. Don't miss the fabled wall with the Stones of 12 Angles (see picture above). Take your time and explore the city at your pace as there are many churches to see and museums to explore.

Check out some of these wonderful Cuzco budget hotels
and splendid hotels in Cuzco!

Plaza de Armas
The heart from the city. From the Plaza de Armas, a walking tour takes you to the Cathedral, San Blas church, the Art School and Q'oricancha, the site of the Sun Temple.

The famous sun temple of Qosqo. When it is illuminated at night, we can get an idea of what it must have looked like when it was covered in gold.

San Blas church

La Companía Church
Cusco's masterpiece on what was once Inca Huayna Capac's palace

The cathedral
Built over the ruins of the palace of the Inca Viracocha.

A fortress-temple (meaning 'satisfied falcon'), it lies immediately above Cuzco and was primarily protected by three massive terraced walls, rising over sixty feet and built in a zig-zag fashion in order to break up attacking forces.

This labyrinth with a temple dedicated to Mother Earth is a unique center of worship and for ceremonies. It's also Q'enqo.

Puca Pukara
The Fortress Watchtower on a strategic point along the road to the Antisuyo, or Amazonian region of the empire. It also served as a checkpoint on the Inca road and was a military and administrative center.

Plaza de Armas in Cuzco -Peru
View from Cuzco with the Plaza de Armas

Outside Cuzco:

The Inca Baths believed to be an important center for the worship of water. The architecture and design display the Inca’s building talents and knowledge of hydraulics.

Laqo, Lanlakuyoq and Kusilluchayoq
Thought to be observatories or ceremonial sites, these sites have felines, serpents and birds carved into the rock.

Machu Picchu
The Lost City of the Incas is the absolute highlight of a journey to South America. You can reach this ancient ruin either by train to Aguas Calientes or hike the amazing Inca Trail

Additional sights and excursions:

The City of Fleas, an important city of the Wari or Huari civilization.

The Sunday market day is set in the middle of a town where Incan design and architecture are still maintained.

Valle Sagrado
The Urubamba River Valley flowing through a narrow, winding valley from east of Pisac to Ollantaytambo at the western end of the valley.

These salt flats on the side of a mountain were a commercial enterprise even before the Incas

On the Vilcamayu river from Huambutyio or Pachar

12 Corner Stone in Cuzco - Peru
A piece of wonderful craftsmanship - The Stone of 12 Angles - Cuzco, Peru



If the city of Cuzco, is considered to be in the shape of a puma, then the mighty fortress of Sacsawaman would be located at the head, and its sharply zig-zagged outer walls could represent the fierce teeth of the animal.

Sacsawaman figured prominently during the Spanish Conquest, with a fierce battle taking place there between conquistadors and natives during the Great Rebellion of 1536.

The fortress-temple of Sacsawaman (meaning 'satisfied falcon') lies immediately above Cuzco, and was primarily protected by three massive terraced walls, rising over sixty feet and built in a zig-zag fashion in order to break up attacking forces.

Within the terraced walls were three huge towers, the largest of which had a rectangular base sixty-five feet long and rising up five storeys. It could comfortably house over 5,000 soldiers and was described by later Spanish historians as having 'too many rooms and towers for one person to visit them all'.

Sacsawaman was built as more than a military fortress - the entire population of the unwalled city of Cusco could have retreated within it during times of war.

Modern-day Sacsaywaman is a poor comparison, with only a portion of the defending outer walls and the foundations of the three main towers remaining.

The conquistadors deliberately destroyed most of the fortress by 1560, though eyewitnesses before that time claimed that it would have ranked as one of the wonders of the world. One great stone remaining in the outer wall is 8.5 meters high (28 feet) and estimated to weigh over 360 tons.


Cusco - Peru The temple-fortress of Ollantaytambo is located some 50 km. (30 miles) outside Cuzco, and is built on the hillside above the modern-day village of Ollantaytambo. The huge, steep terraces that form the outer defences of the fortress successfully repelled a Spanish attack in 1536.

Manco Inca had equipped the fortress with jungle archers from the nearby Amazon basin and the conquistadors suffered terribly from these archers and from the large quantities of boulders that were continually hurled down the hillside at them. The natives also diverted the nearby Patacancha river to flood the plain, soon causing the cavalry to be wallowing in mud up to the horses waists. The Spaniards retreated rapidly to Cuzco,, pursued aggressively by the emboldened natives.

Source Sacsawayman and Ollantaytambo: Incas and Conquistadores

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© All photographs by Mark Van Overmeire