"Cuzco" Peru Favorite Tip by traveldave

Peru General: 206 reviews and 170 photos


Favorite thing: Most travelers quickly bypass the urban chaos of Lima and head to Cuzco, which sits in the Andes highlands at an elevation of about 11,300 feet (3,444 meters). Cuzco, sometimes spelled Cusco, is one of the most popular cities in Peru for tourists, who come to see structures and buildings from the Inca and Spanish colonial periods. It is also the gateway to other popular places in the region, including Sacsayhuamán, the Sacred Valley of the Incas, the Inca Trail, and Machu Picchu.

What is now Cuzco was first settled by the Killke culture which occupied the region from about 900 A.D. to 1200. The Killke culture was replaced by the Incas, who made Cuzco the capital of their empire. The Incas planned the city in the shape of a puma, which was a sacred animal to them. It contained many magnificent palaces and temples, some of which were adorned with the gold that attracted the Spanish conquistadores.

The Spanish conquered the city in 1533 and soon set about destroying most of the Inca buildings, palaces, and temples, using their foundations and parts of walls to construct a new colonial city. They built many colonial-style cathedrals, churches, and convents which are popular tourist attractions today.

During the Seige of Cuzco in 1536, the city was retaken by Manco Inca Yupanqui, but his victory only lasted a few days before Cuzco was recaptured by the Spanish. This was the last of the Inca uprisings, and Spanish control over the country was complete.

Under the Spanish, Cuzco was the center of Spanish colonization and the point from which Christianity spread throughout the Andean region. The city prospered through agriculture, cattle ranching, mining, and trade with Spain.

Nowadays, Cuzco has a population of over 510,000, and is the capital of the Cuzco Region and Cuzco Province. The city is a fascinating mixture of the Spanish and Inca cultures. There are churches and other buildings from the Spanish colonial times, and large Inca building blocks are incorporated into many of the buildings. Overall, however, it is still an Inca town. Many of the people speak only Quechua, and the rainbow-colored Inca flag of Tahuantinsuyo (representing the four corners of the Inca Empire) flies from many of the buildings.

Cuzco's cultural importance has gained it many honors. The Peruvian constitution designates Cuzco as the Historical Capital of Peru, it has been declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO, and it was voted as one of the New Seven Wonders of the World. And in the past, it had been named the Archaeological Capital of the Americas and a Cultural Heritage of the World site.

Review Helpfulness: 1.5 out of 5 stars

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  • Updated Sep 1, 2012
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