Cusco is a city located in the southeastern portion of Peru, near Urubamba Valley in the Andes mountain range. It covers an area of over twenty-seven thousand square miles and has a population of almost three hundred and fifty thousand residents. The city is the historic capital of the Inca Empire and has an elevation of around eleven thousand feet. In 1983, the city was designated a World Heritage Site by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization and was also named the Historical capital of Peru. It is also a top tourist destination and receives in excess of one million visitors each and every year.
Cusco can trace its heritage back to the thirteenth century, when it was the capital of the Inca Empire. When it was founded, the city was laid out in the shape of an animal sacred to the Incas, the puma. Cusco contains two sections, the hanan and the urin, which are subdivided so that each encompass two of the four provinces of the area; Collasuyu, Chinchasuyu, Qontisuyu and Antisuyu. According to native legend, Cusco was founded by Sapa Inca Pachacuti. But, according to archaeological evidence, there appears to have been a more natural, and slower growth of the city. In 1533, the Spanish conquered the city during the Battle of Cusco. After the conquest of the city, the Spanish erected buildings that were a architectural blend of original Inca styles and Spanish influenced styles. The Spanish then began replacing the Inca temples with churches and palaces, effectively building a new city on top of the original.
A major tourist attraction in the city is Machu Picchu (also known as Camino Inca a Machu Picchu). Machu Picchu is a Inca site that is located eight thousand feet above sea level and is located on a mountain ridge that overlooks Urubamba Valley. It lies just fifty miles northwest of the city and is often referred to in popular literature as “The lost City of the Incas”. Construction on the site originally began in the early fifteenth century, but was abandoned around the time of Spain’s conquest of the country. It was virtually unknown to the outside world until 1911 when an American historian named Hiram Bingham brought international scrutiny to the site. This lost city was built in the Inca style of classical architecture and contains highly polished stone walls. The main buildings of the site include the Room of Three Windows, The Temple of the Sun and Intihuatana. Despite its close proximity to the city of Cusco, the Spanish never found the site and as such, it remained virtually untouched. Over the next couple of centuries, the jungle reclaimed the area and very few people in the region knew of its existence until its discovery by Hiram Bingham. In 1971, over one hundred miles around the area was declared a Historical Sanctuary by the country. In 1983, it was designated as a World Heritage Site by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization. In 2007, the site was voted one of the New Seven Wonders of the World by the New Open World Corporation. A year later, the World Monument Fund placed the site on its 2008 100 Most Endangered Sites Watch List. Visitors can get to Mchu Picchu via the Hiram Bingham Train. This is an unforgettable way to get to the site and features a bar car and an open observation car that allows visitors to get a great view of the surrounding scenery.
Another way to get to Machu Picchu is the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu. This route is actually three trails that overlap; the Mollepata, The One Day and the Classic trails. The longest of these routes is Mollepata. It is also the route with the highest mountain pass and eventually it intersects with the Classic trail. This trail passes through the Andes Mountains and cuts through alpine tundra and fog forest. Along the route of the trail are scattered remnants of settlements, ruins and tunnels. At the end of this trail is Sun Gate, which is located on Machu Picchu Mountain. For those with altitude sensitivity, it should be noted that the two longest trails rise twelve thousand feet above sea level, and as a result may cause altitude sickness.
Another popular attraction in Cusco is the Museo de Arte Precolombino (otherwise known as the Pre-Columbian Art Museum). This museum is dedicated to pre-Columbian artifacts and artwork from all over Peru. It’s housed in an Inca courthouse that was taken over by the conquistador Alonso Díaz in 1580 and rebuilt in the Colonial style. It was opened to the public in the summer of 2003. There are over four hundred and fifty artifacts that encompass the years between the thirteenth and the sixteenth centuries. The Museo de Arte Precolombino has ten galleries which include Mochica, Chimu, Nasca, Inca, Huari, Chancay, Formative, Jewelry and Stone, Wood and Precious Metals.
Other popular attractions in the city of Cusco include Munaycha, Santo Domingo Church, Salkantay Trekking, Temple of the Sun, Qoya Spa, Peru Rail, Sacred Valley of the Incas, Huacoto, Church and Convent of Our Lady of Mercy, Hilario Mendivil Museum, Andean Explorer Train, Inca Tak Spa, Museum of Religious Art, Moray, Plaza de Armas, Avenida El Sol, Llama Path, Kusikay, Maria Fortaleza, Sacsayhuaman, Inca Baths at Tambomachay, Salinas de Maras, Planetarium Cusco, Ukukus, Planetarium Cusco, San Blas, Cusco Cathedral, Q’engo Ruins, Red Fortress, Statue of Christ, Machupicchu By Car Tour, El Camino Salkantay, Saqsaywaman Archaeological Complex, Twelve Angles Stone, Inca Museum, The Company of Jesus Church (La Compania de Jesus), Tercentenary Square, Convento de Santa Catalina, San Cristobal Church, Plaza de las Nazarenas, Callejon de Loreto, Cusco Regional History Museum, Church of San Blas, Municipal Palace Museum, Plazoleta de San Blas, Saqsaywaman Archaeological Complex, Casa Garcilaso and Samana Spa and Salon. Cusco also has several prominent restaurants and hotels. Popular restaurants in the city include A Mi Manera, Restaurant Laguna Azul and Pachapapa Restaurant. Popular hotels in the city include Los Apus And Mirador Hotel, Hotel Monasterio, Hotel Novotel Cusco and Hotel La Casona Inkaterra.