Cusco known as the ‘City of The Sun’ was one of the most revered of Inca sacred sites. It was not only the focal point of their civilization and an absolute power hub in the region; it has many Spanish architectural additions since the conquest.
If you are indulging in a Peru holiday the best place to start is Cusco city. The city is also known as the promised land of the Incas as their legends depicted they were led to this area by divine provision.
As a tourist, there are many things to do in Cusco which are both spiritually and aesthetically enlightening and you can also experience the remnants of the rich local culture.
A Treat for Trekkers
For those that love long scenic hikes, Cusco is the place to go. Several tourist hikes exist in and around the city with the most famous and well-used ones being Santa Cruz Trek and Alpamayo.
Cusco is also nestled in the shadow of the Cordillera Blanca which is a Peruvian mountain range that has several treks of its own. These treks that overlook the icy mountains with its flowing clear streams, is one of the best views you’ll experience in all of Peru.
A small town that lies at the foothills of the Cordillera Blanca is Huaraz and it is a well-loved hiker’s resting place as it offers a taste of delicious local food.
The indigenous people of the area still follow their traditional culture with food, clothing, and practices to match. You can interact with them and learn so much about their way of life.
It is worthwhile to consider that the trek that leads to Huaraz can be costly on the wallet but is rich in experience and enjoyment.
Inca Trail To Machu Picchu
This is one of the most famous treks in the world as it leads to the World Heritage site of Machu Picchu which was the hidden city of the Incas.
The hike lasts three days and is a busier trek than the others as Machu Picchu is a favorite for tourists. You will need to be accompanied by at least three certified tour guides as per the rules. It is best to book your trek before you land in Cusco as only a certain number of visitors are allowed per day on the actual site.
For those who want a quieter hike with fewer people around, Ausangate Trek is a good option. This trek also grants access to a more rural Andean culture which is markedly different from Cusco city which hosts Spanish influences and modern technology.
Opportunity For Photography And Reflection
Any connoisseur of photography would no doubt appreciate the Instagram-ideal locations within Cusco. The streets within the city are made with cobblestones like the secret passageways in novels. It is the ideal place for a honeymoon as aesthetically pleasing pictures can be taken at nearly every turn.
Not only are there incredible Spanish architectural sites in Cusco like the La Catedral, but it is also close to many notable Inca sites.
This city which is near to Cusco is filled with temples and gardens and is a rare photographer’s treat. It remained out of sight and recognition till about a hundred years ago which is why there are no Spanish additions and renovations.
Many of the structures are built primarily with granite and stone carvings which make for an unbelievable backdrop for personal photographs. They are also stunning to capture for their own aura of mystery and a world long gone.
This ‘Temple of the Sun’ lies inside the city of Cusco and is one of the Inca sacred sites. During the Inca civilization, this was one of the most frequented places by the elite who revered the way the sun hit the temple’s walls and the statues within.
It has an important place to occupy in Inca mythology which claims that the sun god Inti led the people who would become the Incas to Cusco. This is why the city was spiritually important for the worship of this god more than their other deities.
Modifications to some degree were carried out by the Spanish so it isn’t fully Inca anymore but it still provides an intriguing opportunity for photographs. It is often historical architectural feats like this that make it on the face of postcards.
Sacsayhuaman is known by some as the younger brother of the alluring and majestic Machu Picchu. While it does not compare with the scale of its obvious competitor, it offers a lot to learn about the Incas’ approach to defense and war.
The site’s original purpose was to serve as a fortress but it had ample provision for housing and food storage inside. The site is built vaguely in the same of a Puma which is a very intensely spiritual animal in the Inca belief system.
Sacsayhuaman lies a mere 2 miles from the main city center in Cusco called the Plaza De Armas.
For Museum Lovers
Some would argue that there is nothing better than visiting actual sites and getting a feel for their history. However, it is good to know that actual historic sites often have major transportable artifacts missing which are then kept in the proper conditions in museums.
This is done largely to preserve them in the correct manner but also to make them more accessible to enthusiasts and the public. Two museums in Cusco that you shouldn’t miss are Museo Inka and Museo De Arte Precolombino.
For anyone wanting a glimpse of prized Inca relics then this cozy little museum in a 16th Century Spanish mansion is the place to be.
It holds no small amounts of textiles (they are regionally important to this day in the local tribes), pottery (which lasts longest of all archeological ruins) and gold. The Incas were ones to favor gold jewelry as well as metal bangles for elaborate adornment especially for members of the aristocracy and royal family.
The courtyard adjoining this museum sells lovely souvenirs such as locally produced textiles in the traditional style.
Museo De Arte Precolombino
This is a much larger museum with one of the biggest collections of Inca relics you are likely to find in all of Peru. The space spans over 12 rooms in a convent that used to be a mansion called Casa Cabrera.
There are many prized ceramics inside, along with gold jewelry and stone carvings. The experience is all the more enlightening if you get access to a museum or tour guide.
That being said, the lengthy descriptions next to each artifact make it easier to place on a timeline. Artifacts are also grouped context-wise so you can form a picture in your head of what part they played in the Inca way of life.
Cusco has something for everyone from historical sites and relics to colonial architecture and local culture. It offers the most for you to take away from your Peru holiday as a tourist in comparison to any other stop you will make.
It used to be the capital of the Inca civilization and then a stronghold for the Spanish invaders which makes it every globe-trotter’s dream come true.