Cusco City Tour and Sacsayhuaman

Main Highlights: Colonial Cusco landmarks of UNESCO-designated Historic Center: Cusco Cathedral, Koricancha, and Saint Dominique Convent • Sacsayhuaman Archaeological Park: Sacsayhuaman Fortress, Qenqo, Puca Pucara, and Tambomachay
Description: This is a half-day, afternoon tour combining Sacsayhuaman and Cusco Historic Center and it will start visiting the Archaeological Park of Sacsayhuaman. The first stop will be at the Sacsayhuaman Fortress, a beautiful place that radiates peace and quiet, where we will be able to admire the huge rocks measuring up to 4 meters high that were used in its construction. We will then head for Q’enqo, the ancient temple of the Puma, where we will be able to appreciate an altar for sacrifices, and then will continue on to Tambomachay, the sacred fountains of life and health. On the way we will have a panoramic view from Puca Pucara, a watchtower that controlled the entrance to the city. After that we will visit the Temple of the Sun, known as Korikancha, on top of which the Saint Dominique Convent was built. A legend tells that his temple was entirely lined in gold sheets that marveled the Conquistadors upon their arrival. Finally, we will go to the Main Square and will visit the Cathedral that reassures invaluable colonial paintings and other works of art such as the Cross that arrived with the first conquistadors.
Important Note: People are not allowed to enter religious sites wearing shorts. Taking photos is not allowed inside the Cathedral.


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The city of Cusco, the ancient capital of the Inca Empire, was placed on the World Cultural Heritage List by UNESCO in 1983, and being the gateway to the imperial city of Machu Picchu, Cusco (also spelled Cuzco) is without a doubt one of the most important destinations in Peru.

Cusco, meaning in Quechua Navel of the World, was the heart of the Inca Empire which stretched from the south of Colombia to the north of Argentina and Chile, passing through Ecuador and Bolivia. Now it is the center of Peru’s tourist trade due to its proximity to many magnificent attractions including Ollantaytambo, Sacsayhuaman and, of course, Machu Picchu.

At an altitude of approximately 3,500 meters above sea level (almost 11,500 feet), with stone streets and building foundations laid by the Incas more than 5 centuries ago, and a population of more than 300,000 inhabitants, Cusco thrives as one of the most vibrant expressions of Amerindian and mestizo culture anywhere in the Americas. Every June, the city is packed during Inti Raymi, the celebration of the winter solstice and the sun god, a deeply religious festival that is also a magical display of pre-Columbian music and dance. Thousands trek out to Paucartambo for the riveting Virgen del Carmen festival in mid-July. Other traditional arts also flourish.

Cusco is the handicrafts center of Peru, and its streets and markets teem with merchants and their extraordinary textiles, many hand-woven using the exact techniques of their ancestors.

There are Inca buildings waiting for you to discover them among its cobble-stoned streets, ones like the Koricancha and the palace of Inca Roca as well as Andean Baroque structures from the Colonial Period like the Cathedral and the Church of the Company of Christ.

Peru Holiday Adventures | Cusco City Tour and Sacsayhuaman - Cusco CathedralThe Cusco Cathedral is a Baroque-style cathedral built on the foundations of the palace of the Inca Wirachocha in Cusco. Its construction began in 1550, using many stones looted from the site of the hillside Sacsayhuaman fortress, and was completed a century later. It is considered one of the most splendid Spanish colonial churches in the Americas.

Within the cathedral’s high walls are some of the best examples of the Cusqueña School of painting, including a Marcos Zapata painting of the Last Supper with a local specialty, cuy (guinea pig), as the main dish.

The cathedral’s centerpieces are its massive, solid-silver altar, and the enormous 1659 Maria Angola Bell, the largest in South America, which hangs in one of the towers. The cedar choir has carved rows of saints, popes, and bishops, all in stunning detail down to their delicately articulated hands. Five chapels flank each side of the nave; the one dedicated to Nuestro Señor de los Temblores (Our Lord of the Earthquakes) contains a solid-gold crucifix that, legend has it, minimized damage to the chapel during a 1650 earthquake.

There’s non-Christian imagery in Cusco Cathedral too: figures of pumas, the Inca representation of the earth, are carved on the enormous main doors. Normal access to the cathedral is not via those doors but through the adjoining Iglesia del Triunfo, the city’s first Christian church.

Peru Holiday Adventures | Cuso City Tour and Sacsayhuaman Archaeological Park | Koricancha - Saint Dominique ConventThe combined sacred sites of Koricancha (also spelled Qoricancha or Qorickancha) and the Santo Domingo Convent in Cusco vividly illustrate the ancient Andean culture’s collision with Western Europe. The temple of one culture sits atop and encloses the other.

The extraordinarily crafted Temple of the Sun (Templo del Sol) at Koricancha was the most sumptuous temple in the Inca Empire. Some 4,000 priests and their attendants once lived within its confines. Koricancha also served as the main astronomical observatory for the Incas. Dedicated to worship of the sun, the most important deity in the Inca’s naturalistic pantheon, the temple complex was a glittering palace straight out of El Dorado legend: Koricancha means Courtyard of Gold in Quechua.

After the Spaniards looted the temple and emptied it of gold, the exquisite polished stone walls were used as the foundations of the Dominican Convent of Santo Domingo, forming perhaps Cusco’s most jarring imperial-colonial architectural juxtaposition.

Peru Holiday Adventures | Cusco City Tour and Sacsayhuaman Archaeological ParkSacsayhuaman is a walled complex near the old city of Cusco, at an altitude of 3,701 m. or 12,000 feet. The site is part of the City of Cuzco, which was added to the UNESCO World Heritage List in 1983.When the Spanish conquerors first arrived to these lands; they could not explain themselves how Peruvian Indians could have built such greatness. Sacsayhuaman is one of the most imposing architectonic complexes inherited from the Inca society revealing some of the Incas’ most extraordinary architecture and monumental stonework. Usually referred to as a garrison or fortress — because it was constructed with forbidding, castle like walls, it was more likely a religious temple, although most experts believe it also had military significance. The Inca emperor Pachacutec began the site’s construction in the mid-15th century, although it took nearly 100 years and many thousands of men to complete it. Massive blocks of limestone and other types of stone were brought from as far as 32km (20 miles) away.
Q’enko is a great limestone outcrop that was hollowed out by the Incas, and, in the void, they constructed a cave like altar. Some have claimed that the smooth stone table inside was used for animal sacrifices. Visitors can duck into the caves and tunnels beneath the rock or climb on the rock and see the many channels cut into the rock, where it is thought that sacrificial blood coursed during ceremonies. Q’enko might have been a site of ritual ceremonies performed in fertility rites and solstice and equinox celebrations.
Puca Pucara is a small fortress, just off the main Cusco-Pisac road, this might have been some sort of storage facility or lodge, or perhaps a guard post on the road from Cusco to the villages of the Sacred Valley. It is probably the least impressive of the sites in the area, although it has nice views of the surrounding countryside.
The ruins of Tambomachay, also known as the Inca Baths, consist of three tiers of stone platforms. Water still flows across a sophisticated system of aqueducts and canals in the small complex of terraces and a pool, but these were not baths as we know them. Most likely this was instead a place of water ceremonies and worship. The exquisite stonework indicates that the fountains were used by high priests and nobility only.