Cusco was the capital of the Inca Empire until the Spanish conquest in the 16th century. Post the arrival of Francisco Pizarro, the Spanish Conquistador who defeated the Incas, Cusco’s transformation began. The beautiful Inca stone buildings that lined the streets were demolished and material was repurposed for the Spanish Chapels and Monasteries. But not only did some survive, many buildings that were built later also carried the Inca influence!
After returning to Ollantaytambo after our Machu Picchu trip, we transferred back to Cusco the same day. Next day we decided to join a City Tour to see Cusco that covered the major attractions.
Cusco Cathedral : The most distinguishable building in the Plaza de Armas or centre of the city, Cusco Cathedral was built in 1654 over an existing Inca temple – Kiswarkancha. It also had the objective of eradicating the Inca pagan religion and establishing Christianity amongst the natives. This building has many beautiful and important relics inside. Unfortunately, no photographs are permitted inside, so once the tour was over we took some pictures from the outside at night.
Church & Convent of Santo Domingo and Korikancha: Korikancha was the main temple of Incas dedicated to the Sun God Inti. The temple was constructed of perfectly carved huge stone blocks interlocked with each other. It is said that once it was completely covered with gold sheets with gold statues filling the spaces. All the gold was taken and molten down by Incas themselves to fund the ransom demanded by Pizarro to release the last Inca King Atahualpa. Pizarro abducted the King and demanded a room be filled with gold to secure his release. Poor Incas did do, but ultimately the King was killed, ending the Inca Empire as the world knew it.
Sacsayhuamán – Located in the hills above Cusco is the ruins of a fortified complex known as Sacsayhuaman. Predating the Incas by a couple of hundred years, this monument is famous for its construction. Huge boulders are used with no mortar. The construction was so robust that when earthquakes shattered colonial buildings in Cusco, this remained intact! This was also used by Inca rebels to fight the Spanish invasion without success. The mighty boulders of this construction later found its way to the Cathedrals, Convents and other colonial buildings in Cusco.
Puka Pukara – Meaning Red Fort, this is a minor fort located near Sacsayhuaman.
Qenko : Qenko was the last site we visited. It was a holy place for the Incas. This was primarily used for sacrifices.
Once the tour was over we continued our walk around the Historic quarter, taking few photos and doing some souvenir shopping.
Twelve Angle Stone : If you see unusual crowd in a street near the central square, most likely this is the reason. There is a stone in the Inca wall which has 12 angles, puzzling people how it was fitted so perfectly!
Pachacuti Statue and Fountain – Pachakuti is considered one of the most important Inca rulers. He is also the person who is believed to have constructed Machu Picchu. His statue and fountain can be found in central square.
Souvenir Shops – The narrow streets have many souvenir shops. We picked up these cute alpaca dolls from one. No need to mention that you need to bargain 🙂
We stayed in a cozy B&B called Amaru Hostal II very close to the historic centre of the city.