It is one of the most famous cities in South America, because of being the oldest continuously inhabited metropolis in this Continent. The city itself was probably founded by 1000 BC, but in 1534 the Spanish Conquerors re-founded it according to the European way. Wherever you stop in Cusco you will find remains of ancient civilizations.
As this was the Capital of the Inkas, Cusco is the place where most of their superb works were done. This city is considered as the
Archaeological Capital of South America and was declared by UNESCO as Cultural Heritage of Mankind.
The Cathedral; a colonial massive built in almost a century using stones of the Inkan Palaces and Temples surrounding the ancient Main Plaza, and the hard work of the descendants of the Inkas. It is one of the richest and the most magnificent work of Colonial Architecture and Art in South America. It contains canvases of famous Quechua Painters such as Antonio Sinchi Roca Inka, Basilio Santa Cruz Pumacallo, Marcos Zapata, etc. Diego Quispe Tito was the founder of the cusquenian school of painting (developed by local artists); and he painted the well known canvas of the Last Supper in which central portion is a plate containing the most representative Andean dish: a roasted guinea pig.
Qorikancha; it originally was the Sun Temple of the Inkas, that is, the most important temple in pre-Hispanic South America. All its walls were covered with plates of gold and silver, and all the artifacts and furniture inside it were made of precious metals and stones. The gardens had representations of the regional flora and fauna but made in gold and silver.
Spanish Conquerors melted down all the artifacts to make coins and bars to take them more easily to Spain. Later they constructed the Church and Convent of Santo Domingo on top of the Inkan Temple.
Saqsaywaman is one of the most incredible buildings made by mankind, with enormous stones weighing some of them over 140 metric tons. It originally was a temple for worshipping the Sun God but it had an excellent security system because temples like this were used only by the King and the priests it was like a fortress to enable its protection. It was built in about 50 years by some 20000 people working at the same time. When the Spaniards arrived, the temple was fully finished and in use. What today is seen around here are just the foundations of the Inkan temple that was destroyed in about 4 centuries.
Pisaq is located by the beginning of the Sacred Valley of the Inkas and was one of the important Inkan cities in the region. The original city was by the top of a rocky mountain, having different neighborhoods and a Ritual Sector named Intiwatana (Sun Fastener) where the quality of buildings is also amazing. By the bottom of the valley is the Colonial town of Pisaq where on Sundays and Thursdays there is a colorful Quechua market
Ollantaytambo was another complex Inkan City on the way towards the Antisuyo. Today it is the only place where it is still possible to find people living in the same houses that once belonged to the noble Inkas. It also has a Religious sector with remains of an amazing temple dedicated to the Sun.
Chinchero; another of the many Inkan Cities of the region that was destroyed by the conquerors. It is possible to observe that the Catholic Church was built on top of an ancient Inkan Temple. On Sundays they also have a very genuine market.
Machupicchu is the highlight of any trip in South America. Located by the beginning of the Amazonian Jungle, it was one of the power nucleuses dependent from Cusco. That Inkan City was very effectively protected by its difficult topography and the elements built for that purpose. It was supposed to house the Inka King, his family and close friends. Its population was about 1000 people and 80% were women, so perhaps it had one of the most important…… houses for the Virgins of the Sun (something like a nunnery). It was rediscovered in 1911 by the American explorer Hiram Bingham who took all its artifacts to Yale University. Over here you will be able to admire many temples including that of the Sun, the Three Windows Temple, the Main Temple, the Temple of Condors, an imposing Intiwatana (sun fastener), etc.
Staying overnight in any of the many hotels in Machupicchu is a great idea, that will give the opportunity to explore the environment and perhaps take walks to Wiaywayna, the Draw Bridge or maybe climb to the very top of the Waynapicchu Mountain.
The Inka Trail; it is one of the shortest and most accessible treks you can take while in Cusco. It is a really exciting experience for getting Machupicchu after 3 or 4 days of hiking in the High Andean Mountains and the beginning of the Amazonian Jungle. You will be crossing ancient Inkan Towns and walk over the original cobbled path. This is also a great opportunity for appreciating the natural environment of the different ecological levels of the Inka Trail.