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Cuzco is perhaps the most fascinating city in the western hemisphere. As the capital of the Inca Empire – the largest empire in the Americas prior to that of the Spanish – Cuzco was tremendously important as a political, religious and spiritual center, to the extent that the Inca’s referred to it as the “Home of Gods”. The actual name Cuzco – derived from the Quechua word Qosqo – literally meant “navel of the world” due to the fact that Cuzco served as a hub for a vast network of roads linking an empire that spanned across a large chunk of South America (Travel Machu Picchu).
Cuzco entered the Spanish colonial domain in 1534 when it finally succumbed to the forces of Francisco Pizarro, who subsequently initiated the construction of a Spanish city on top of what remained after a bloody and destructive conquest. This vivid and vibrant history is what makes the city so intriguing today – the architecture is a combination of two radically different cultural styles: the masterful stonework of Inca masons was built upon by the elegant colonial styling of the Spanish conquerors (Daily travel Machupicchu).
Cuzco is nestled in the Huatanay river valley high in the Andes mountain range at a whopping 3,300 meters (10,800 ft). It is surrounded by rough and rocky mountainous terrain and is close to the Urubamba Valley, or the Sacred Valley, which was an important center of agriculture for the Incas. To fully appreciate the surrounding geography of Cuzco, taking a flight into the city gives absolutely jaw-dropping views of the snow capped Ausangate and Salkantay mountains along with the entire Andes range stretching far to the North; make sure to sit on the side of the plane with north facing windows in order to catch this unforgettable picture of Cuzco’s geography. Buses to the city also give spectacular views (day tours Machu Picchu).
THE PERUVIAN ANDES AND AMAZON HAVE 2 MAIN SEASONS: THE RAINY SEASON AND THE DRY SEASON. THE RAINY SEASON IS DURING WINTER FROM OCTOBER AND APRIL, WITH THE DRY SEASON GENERALLY RUNNING OVER SUMMER BETWEEN MAY AND SEPTEMBER.
During the dry season rain is virtually non existent and Cuzco basks in sunshine and blue skies during daylight hours. The minute the sun disappears, however, Cuzco becomes bitterly cold, so be sure to pack some warm clothes. During the winter dry season, tem peratures can run from anywhere between -1º C at night to the early 20º’s C during the day (travel machu picchu 1 day by train).
Precipitation can reach as much as 163 mm in January (midsummer) spanning over an average of 18 wet days. The wet season sees little change in temperature, although nights are not so cold and will rarely drop below 6ºC (day tour sacred valley of the incas).
Not surprisingly the dry season is the best time to travel to Cuzco and conveniently this coincides with summer holidays in Europe and North America. Consequentially this is the busiest time of year (outside of Christmas) and the tourist high season so those looking for more peace and quiet may want to consider travel to Cuzco on other dates (day tour machu picchu).
As a major tourist destination receiving almost two million visitors every year the demography of Cuzco is a melting pot within the country of Peru. Amerindians make up approximately 45 percent of the population, mestizos (mixed Amerindian and white) 37 percent, white 15 percent and black, Japanese, Chinese and other 3 percent (tours a machu picchu).
DAY TOUR CUZCO IS ACCESSIBLE BY PLANE AND BUS FROM MOST DESTINATIONS IN PERU AND BY TRAIN FROM PUNO. IT ALSO IS SERVED BY A TRAIN TO AGUAS CALIENTES AND MACHU PICCHU, THOUGH THIS JOURNEY IS USUALLY STARTED IN CUZCO – TOURS PERU.
The Alejandro Velasco Astete International Airport is a single runway airport that is located smack bang in the middle of Cuzco’s urban area. It serves the city with flights to Lima, Juliaca, Puerto Maldonado, Tacna and Arequipa in Peru, Arica in Chile and La Paz and Santa Cruz in Bolivia. Pending review from the USA government, a further international route to Miami may be opened in the near future. Currently the main route for arriving in the city from overseas is with a stopover at Jorge Chavez Airport in Lima. This connects Cuzco with destinations in North America and Europe. The airport is a short taxi ride from the City center (soles) (day tour Machu Picchu).
A departure tax must be paid at the airport as well, in a different location from where you check in with your airline and deposit your luggage. This will mean lining up twice, which is a good reason to arrive early. As of May 2009, the departure tax for domestic flights cost US$ 5.84 or S/. 18.31. This departure tax fee (TUUA) is paid at the airport payment teller window located on the first floor (day travel machu picchu).
Traveling to Cuzco by bus is also possible; this takes around 8 hours from Puno, 10 hours from Arequipa and a whopping 22 hours from Lima. The best companies for these long distances are Cruz Del Sur, Ormeño and Tepsa (traveling machu picchu).
It is only a short ride to the Sacred Valley towns of Pisaq and Urabamba – these can be made in less than 2 hours; a beautiful journey. There is no central bus station and each company has its own terminal – ask one of our expert travel advisors for more details (day Tours & Treks to Machu Picchu).
There is also a tourist train running from Puno to Cusco – for more details ask one of our expert travel advisors (day tours peru).
The main tourist parts of the city of Cuzco are mostly within walking distance of the main square – the longest distance is perhaps a half hour walk up the path to the Sacsayhuaman ruins. Luckily the city is a delight to walk through and this is the best way to admire the Inca and Spanish architecture; while traversing the streets you will always be surprised by the immaculate Inca stonework that that lies around the next corner. Further away attractions, the Sacred Valley and Machu Picchu can be reached by tour bus or by train.
There are plenty of taxis for the less athletic or for those who haven’t quite adjusted to the altitude yet to travel around the city. To most parts the rate is most reasonable and travelers should rarely have to pay over x soles (around $y – tour peru travels).
Make sure to settle a price with the taxi driver (this will require some basic Spanish numbers) before entering the taxi as none of the taxis in Cuzco are metered. If unsure of how to approach a taxi your hotel or restaurant can always arrange for a secure one to pick you up. Tipping the driver is not obligatory (tour peru trip).
Long before the Incas occupied the Cuzco valley various indigenous groups had settled in the region. Most notable of these were the Killki who farmed in the valley around 700-800 AD – they too constructed temples from the hard rocks of the surrounding mountains. The ruins of some of these still remain; others were built on top of and incorporated into the design of Inca Temples after they reigned in the region (ironically much in the same fashion as the Spanish would impose their own religious structures on to Inca foundations – trip peru travel).
Despite a rich tapestry of pre-Incan culture in the region, the Inca’s developed another depiction of the founding of Cuzco. According to Inca legend, Manco Capac and his sister Mama Ocllo emerged from Lake Titicaca to travel across the Andes and found the city of Cuzco. They were sent by the Sun god Inti to find a suitable spot where they could sink a golden staff easily into the ground. The first place they found was the site of Cuzco and the early. Inca people developed an economy around farming and weaving here, skills that were taught by Manco Capac and Mama Ocllo – tour peru journey.
The expansion of the Inca Empire to incorporate other Andean peoples began with the reign of Pachacutek Yupanqui midway through the 1400’s. He swiftly gained political and religious control over the surrounding regions. He conquered other peoples both by force and by benevolent subversion, imposing Quechua as a common language and creating a state religion (trip peru trip).
CUZCO WAS CRAFTED AS THE CENTER OF HIS EMPIRE. AS A PART OF THE CITY’S DEVELOPMENT THE BUILDINGS WERE TRANSFORMED INTO GRAND STONE STRUCTURES WITH FANTASTIC ARCHITECTURE THAT HAVE LASTED TO THIS DAY. IT BECAME A THRIVING METROPOLIS THAT COULD RIVAL ANY MESOAMERICAN OR EUROPEAN CITY OF THE TIME; THE HUB OF AN EXPANSIVE EMPIRE THAT, AT ITS LARGEST, WOULD STRETCH FROM SOUTHERN COLOMBIA TO NORTHERN ARGENTINA AND FROM THE AMAZON TO THE PACIFIC- TOURS PERU MACHU PICCHU.
Pachatutek masterminded Cuzco to resemble the shape of a Puma. Its head was the ferocious Sacsayhuaman, its heart was the Huacapata ceremonial square (now the plaza de Armas) its hips were Qoricancha (symbolizing the reproductive center of Inca religion) and its tail was at the junction between the two rivers Saphi and Tullumayo that had been redirected to provide water to the city (travel peru group).
This care and precision that was poured into Cuzco’s planning extended beyond animal imageary: at its height colonial Cuzco was an absolute masterpiece of urban planning, with the best architecture in the empire being saved for the sacred capital. Cuzco was divided into 4 quarters, each of which corresponded to one quarter of the Inca Empire: Chinchasuyu to the northwest, Antisuyu to the northeast, Qontisuyu southwest and Collasuyu to the southeast. The streets were lined with smartly constructed houses and temples; they ran straight and thin and with channels to guide rain waters and avert flooding (day tour ticket machu picchu 1 day).
The arrival of the Spanish turned Cuzco to a very different purpose. It became the key to extracting the wealth of the Incas; the immense quantities of gold and silver that the Incas had refined. The Spanish imposed their own leadership on the city in order to gain control of the vast population within the Inca domain, and to extract tribute from the various corners of the Empire. They stripped the city of any precious metal that could be found, destroying and melting down an unquantifiable amount of artwork and religious objects that had been crafted in gold and silver by artisans of the Empire. These were transported to the coast and loaded on to ships to be transported to Spain. Only through imagination can one contemplate how the city would have looked in its prime – travel peru agency.
With the introduction of the new Capital city Lima and the shift in Spanish interest to Silver mines in the south (such as Potosi in Bolivia) Cuzco’s importance slowly dwindled, and it became a quiet provincial town of the republic for the following centuries firstly for the Imperial Viceroyalty of the Spanish Empire and subsequently for the Peruvian Republic, which became independent in 1821 – travel peru group.
TO RECOGNIZE THIS EXTRAORDINARY CULTURAL HISTORY, REFLECTED IN THE UNIQUE ARCHITECTURE, UNESCO DECLARED CUZCO A WORLD HERITAGE SITE IN 1983 -TOURS PERU MACHU PICCHU.
The Plaza de Armas or Plaza Mayor was known in Inca times as Huacaypata, or the Warriors Square, this was the scene of many key events in the history of Cuzco. Today it is the bustling center of the city with many of the key services, hotels and restaurants of the city located here. It also hosts some of the key attractions in the city such as two cathedrals and some impressive Inca stonework. It is a very wide plaza with Spanish arches running around most of the sides; this is always busy with people during the high tourist season. For better or worse there is now a popular McDonald’s restaurant on the square with a Starbucks coffee shop on the way; Peru for Less would like to recommend the fine selection of Cusco restaurants as an alternative to opting for these home comforts – travel peru agency.
On the Plaza de Armas is the impressive Cathedral, which was planted on top of the foundations of the palace of Inca Viracocha in 1560 – the first Spanish church in the city. The attraction of this building is the myths and legends that surround it – it has a mysterious history linked to the subjugation of the Inca Empire to the Spanish Conquistadores and the imposition of the Catholic religion on peoples in the city. The interior is adorned with cedar wood pews, an elegant altar carved from granite and a high-altar crafted from embossed silver. There are also various paintings from the famous Cusqueña School style and an imposing mural depicting the destruction wreaked by the 1650 earthquake amongst various other atmospheric wall paintings (day Tours by Train to Machu Picchu).
QORICANCHA OR THE “TEMPLE OF INTI” (WHO WAS THE INCA SUPREME GOD OF THE SUN) WAS THE MOST SIGNIFICANT TEMPLE IN INCA CUZCO AND IS A MASTERPIECE OF INCA ARCHITECTURE – PERHAPS THE HIGHEST QUALITY EXAMPLE IN THE CITY – TOURS PERU LUXURY.
The temple is built in blocks of carved granite with smelted gold in the junctures of the blocks. These are so exquisitely finished that it is near impossible to find any blemish in the surface of the walls and the joins between blocks. The location of the temple is also important – it is believed to be in the centre of a network of spiritual power lines that connect huacas (objects of religious importance) in the area (day Tours by Train to Machu Picchu).
Before the arrival of the Spanish, the temple was decorated in lavish gold and silver, of religious importance to the Incas. Beneath the inside of the temple an artificial garden in which trees, birds, animals amidst various tiny details right down to insects were delicately and intricately crafted in silver and gold. The temple was also surrounded with a gold cornice and all the walls were covered in gold plates. Many of these outstanding examples of the mastery of Inca gold- and silver-smithery did not last the onslaught of the wealth-hungry Spanish conquistadores. Nevertheless, the temple stands as a reminder of this remarkable empire and its dedication to religion (day Tours by Train to Machu Picchu).
The 17th century Convento de Santa church that rises from the original temple blocks is also the quintessential example of how the Spanish conquistadores aimed to impose their religion on the Inca population. The importance of this most sacred of Inca buildings was recognized by the Spanish clergy who were aiming to convert indigenous peoples to Catholicism. In an attempt to show the superiority of their European God over Inca gods they constructed a towering church to stand high above the temple, and thus symbolically displayed that God was higher than any Andean deity. This fascinating history makes the temple an essential part of any Cuzco vacation as it symbolizes the fusion of religion that occurred after the conquest (day Tours by Train to Machu Picchu).
Day Tour Sacsayhuaman, to the north of Cuzco, is another imposing example of Inca architecture. The ceremonial center was for years thought to be a military fortress built to safeguard the city from possible attacks by the Antis, an invading force from the East. After careful inspection of the layout, however, it is now believed to be a sanctuary and temple to the Sun, which actually rises opposite where the Inca’s throne was once located. After Inca priests were excavated from the site in 1982, the hypothesis that the venue was a ceremonial location was strengthened further (day Tours by Train to Machu Picchu).
The exact function of the site will probably continue to be disputed, but what is heavily admired is the architecture of Sacsayhuaman. The slabs used to build the center interlock together so perfectly that it is impossible to fit a piece of paper in between any two blocks, despite the fact they are a variety of various shapes and sizes (day Tours by Train to Machu Picchu).
A little way further outside of Cuzco on the route to Pisaq in the Sacred Valley is Tambomachay, which is said to be a the sacred bathing spring of Inca rulers and their royal women, although its exact purpose is under question: other theories pose that it was a resting place for the Inca, a hunting ground, or the site of a water cult. The site consists of a number of fountains and large ceremonial stone bath known as the Bath of the Inca (day Tours by Train to Machu Picchu).
Day Tour Puka Pukara is just opposite Tambomachay and is composed of several chambers which are supposed by many to have functioned as a hunting lodge or guard post to the sacred valley. This is nicknamed the red fortress due to the fact that it is built of stones that emanate a pink tinge. The complex contains agricultural terraces, stairways, tunnels and watchtowers (day Tours by Train to Machu Picchu).
Day tour – The temple of Qenqo meaning ‘zigzag’ appears to have functioned as an amphitheater. The temple gets its name from the number of channels that criss-cross the stone work. These channels probably carried either sacrificial Chicha or blood for the purpose of appeasing the gods and divination (day Tours by Train to Machu Picchu).
Although it is not a large city, a few notable districts of Cuzco are of specific interest to travelers. In particular, the San Blas district of Cuzco is also worth a visit day tour. Creeping up onto the hill overlooking the city, this part of town boasts some of the best views of Cuzco that are framed by narrow white streets topped by red terracotta tiles. Every corner of San Blas is filled with intrigue – the maze of winding alleyways traverse past sun kissed plazas, cozy churches, coffee shops, galleries and restaurants. The district has acquired something of a bohemian reputation, with many of the trendier hang outs in the city being found here. An afternoon or evening in San Blas is highly recommended; visitors can expect to plunge into a diverse mix of Andean and modern artistic culture (day Tours by Train to Machu Picchu).
Although Cuzco is something of a museum in itself, there are various excellent collections in the city, particularly of pre-Colombian art. – Tours Peru Magic.
1.- Day Tour Cusco – Museo de Arte Precolombino Address: Plaza de las Nazarenas, Cuzco, Peru, Tel: 084 233210 (map.perucultural.org.pe):
The pre-Columbian art museum is an excellent way to explore the civilizations that presided in Peru for thousands of years prior to the Spanish “discovery” of this fantastic land. It is hosted in the house of a 16th century Conquistador which was previously the site of an Inca ceremonial center. The oldest of the 450 pieces on display dates back to as early as 1250 BC and the collection includes works of gold, silver and jewelry amongst other pieces – many of which were taken from the prestigious Larco Museum in Lima. Perhaps the unique approach to the presentation of these are what makes the museum so special; they are displayed in the same manner as a contemporary art gallery would display its latest collection, with stylish angled light and decoration adorning these precious objects. This is juxtaposed with quotations by artists and authors that give insight into the artifacts, done in such a way that allows visitors to relate to the indigenous artists who originally created them.
2.- Day tour Cusco – Museo Inka, Cuesta del Almirante 103, Entrance $:
Museo Inka is housed in a fabulous colonial mansion El Palacio del Almirante. The museum is exceptionally well layed out, using the space well to display the development of civilization in the Andes and Peru. Amongst the exhibits here are Inca Mummies, skulls with trepanned holes, quality Inca textiles and various other trinkets, ceramics and carved wooden and painted drinking vessels – or queros – supposedly the largest such collection in the world. The building itself is a good example of the fusion between Inca foundations and Spanish colonial architecture, which is characteristically decorated in a detailed and ornate fashion.
3.- Day tour Cusco – The Natural History Museum Entrance 30c:
The Natural History Museum is a glance into the biodiversity of plant and wildlife in Peru. It covers the three distinct regions of Peru, the Jungle, the Sierra and the Coast with displays of flora and fauna from these regions. Some interesting stuffed mammals, reptiles and birds amongst a diverse array of exhibits. The museum is housed in the interior of a Jesuit University building.
4.- Day Tour Cusco – Museo de Arte Contemporania, Entrance with Cuzco Tourist Ticket:
This museum is a fresh look at the artistic heritage of Cuzco, with local modern artists making various interpretations of their city. The first and third rooms both display artwork that has been directly influenced by Cuzco; city scenes; historic images; Inca architecture; while the second room is dedicated to other influences, and has markedly more abstract pieces. There is also a small courtyard that has exhibits of Native masks and models of various buildings in Cuzco.
5.- Day Tour Cusco – Museo Histórico Regional y Casa Garcilaso, Entrance with Cuzco Tourist Ticket:
This building is so called because it was the last residence of the writer Garcilaso de la Vega, who wrote the famous Comentarios Reales de los Incas – this has been recognized by some historians as the most accurate primary source on Inca History. The mansion hosts a diverse array of displays from Cusqueñan history, from significant archeological finds in the region to Historical artwork from the city. There are a number of pre-Inca artifacts from across Peru, such as ceramics and mummies alongside fascinating Inca items such as architectural tools, gold and silver jewelry, and also delicate objects crafted in precious metals. There are also a number of items collected from the colonial period, and upstairs technological innovations brought by the Europeans, including cannons and steel weaponry, can be viewed.
The Mercado Central is probably the best place to head for those looking to explore the variety of goods that are produced in Peru. It has recently been smartened up and is now pedestrianized making it a pleasant place for a stroll and a browse. Amongst the produce on offer are exotic meats, tropical fruits and vegetables. For the more adventurous eater, some of the best street food can be found in this market. Be warned though – these fineries can easily lead to an upset stomach.
Cuzco is also well-known for its weaving and textile arts. There are various suppliers of such products and particularly of quality Alpaca wares. A few of the best are Alpaca 111 (Plaza Recocijo 202, Cuzco – Tel. (084) 243-233), Alpaca 3 (Calle Ruinas 472, Cuzco – Tel. (084) 226-101) and Mon Repos (Portal de Panes 139, Plaza de Armas, (084) 251600) which all feature beautifully soft alpaca clothing such as shawls, sweatshirts and jackets.
Handicrafts stores are plentiful in Cuzco selling a range of artisan items – the best place to catch these is at the Centro Artesanal Cuzco at the end of Avenida El. Sol which is the biggest handicrafts market in the city. This has a large number of vendors selling various souvenirs such as alpaca textiles and clothing with beautiful and vivid colors. For more artwork head to the Plaza San Blas and the surrounding streets which are sprawling with paintings, ceramics and handicrafts produced by local artists. There are also art galleries and crafts workshops here where travelers can sometimes catch a glimpse of the artists in action.
1. Hotels: The brand new Aranwa Boutique Hotel, opened in October 2010, is operated by Aranwa Hotels Resorts & Spas, one of the most luxurious hotel chains in Peru, known for their careful attention to their clients’ well-being. Probably the best value luxury accommodation in Cuzco, this elegant 5-star hotel is housed in a converted 16th-century mansion and is decorated with colonial era furniture, impressive paintings from the Cuzco school, and colonial goldleaf plated carvings and sculptures. This boutique hotel is conveniently located right behind Plaza San Francisco, a new upscale neighborhood away from the hustle and bustle of Cuzco’s main square. With each room boasting an oxygen system and a variety of soothing spa treatments available, this just may be the best place to acclimatize to the high altitude in Cuzco in a most comfortable setting.
2. Hotels: THE CASA ANDINA PRIVATE COLLECTION in Cuzco is the most recent addition to the renowned Casa Andina Hotels. Built in a large colonial house dating back to the 16th century, the hotel is located centrally in the city of Cuzco, just a few blocks from the main square. Casa Andina’s first upscale hotel in Cuzco features 72 heated rooms (including 5 suites) with private bathrooms, cable TV, telephones, hairdryers, and in-room safes; a gourmet restaurant; a bar; 3 courtyards; room service; and many other amenities. Discover the magic of Cuzco while staying at Casa Andina Private Collection Cuzco, where you will enjoy the warm atmosphere and the outstanding service from the very hospitable staff.
3. Hotels: Located in the historic artisan’s quarter of San Blas, the BOUTIQUE HOTEL CASA SAN BLAS is privately situated, but still close to restaurants, bars, artisan workshops and galleries. Only two and a half blocks from the central Plaza de Armas, the Boutique Hotel Casa San Blas is near all the main attractions in Cuzco, but provides the peace and tranquility guests look forward to after a long day exploring Inca ruins. With gorgeous wooden furnishings, a pretty patio area with umbrellas, potted plants, and colorful artwork, you will feel at home in this charming hotel. Guest rooms boast handmade colonial furniture and Andean weavings as well as lush bedding for a good night’s rest. Enjoy a delicious dinner or cocktail in the downstairs restaurant before indulging in a luxurious massage in your room. The staff at this excellent-value Cuzco hotel will work overtime to make your stay a pleasant one.
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