Cusco Centre Travel Tourist InformationLOCATION, EXTENSION AND POPULATION
The department of Cusco is located in the south oriental region of the country, comprising part of the Sierra and the Jungle. At 3,360 m.a.s.l. (11,023 ft), it limits with Arequipa, Puno, Apurímac, Junín, Ucayali and Madre de Dios. In the high regions the mornings are mild and the nights are cool. There are two seasons, dry and humid. The rainy months are December through March. In the Sierra the annual average temperature is 11°C (52°F), while in the Jungle is above 25°C (77°F).
Cusco has an extension of 76,329 km² (29,470 sq ml) and a population of over 1'000,000 people.
The capital is Cuzco (Cusco), known as the Archeological Capital of America.
BRIEF HISTORIC OVERVIEW
There is little information on the department of Cusco before the Spanish conquest. What is known has been transmitted through oral tradition from generation through generation. It is said that the city of Cusco was founded between the eleventh and twelfth centuries by the legendary figure of Inca Manco Cápac who, according to the legend, emerged from the Titicaca Lake.
Cusco, sacred city and capital of the Tahuantinsuyo, was the government center of the four big administrative regions of the Inca empire. This fabulous empire extended to comprise a great part of what today is Ecuador, Colombia, Perú, Bolivia, Argentina and Chile. The Inca empire was a very well structured society. It stands out for having a great knowledge in architecture, hydraulic engineering, medicine and agriculture.
On March 23, 1534, Francisco Pizarro founded, over the Inca city of Cusco, a Spanish city. It then turned out to be an example of cultural blending, which has left us priceless architectural monuments and pieces of art.
During Colonial times, several big insurrections against the Spanish power took place. The most important was lead by José Gabriel Condorcanqui (Túpac Amaru II) in 1871, others were headed by the Angulo brothers and by Mateo Pumacahua in 1814.
Since 1825, with the Republic, Cusco starts to show the wonders of its culture. With the discovery of Machu Picchu by Hiram Bingham in 1910, Perú is mentioned all over the world.
MAIN ATTRACTIONS OF THE CAPITAL
Plaza de Armas known as Huacaypata, is which means cry or moan. Tradition says that it was designed by its founder, Inca Manco Cápac, as the symbolic center of the empire. There, Túpac Amaru and his wife, Micaela Bastidas and their children were executed for fighting against Spanish oppression.
The Temple of Sacsayhuamán. At a walking distance from the center, it has big walls of monumental stones distributed in zigzag and in three platforms that have an average of 360 meters (1,181 ft). There are stones of as much as 9 mt (30 ft) long and 5 mt (16 ft) wide.
Tambomachay, known as the Baños del Inca (Baths of the Inca). Clear running water flows through the stairways, and it is said to have been a sanctuary for water worship.
Puca Pucará Red Fortress formed by terraces, stairways, turrets, urns, vaulted niches and platforms.
The Kencco Amphitheater. Built in rock, it is said to have been an Inca worship site. There are passages, canals, and stairways with stone engravings representing the puma, a sacred animal.
Barrio de San Blas. The quarter of San Blas is located a few blocks from the Plaza de Armas. It is well-known for housing the workshops of the most important Cusqueño artisans, such as, the Mendivil family, Olave and Mérida. The local church has a famous 400 years old pulpit, beautifully carved in a sole piece of wood.
Koricancha or The Temple of The Sun, constructed during the rule of Inca Pachacutec.
Among the churches and monasteries, the Cathedral, San Francisco, Santo Domingo, Santa Catalina, San Pedro, Santa Clara, La Compañía, San Cristóbal and La Merced are the most important. La Merced houses a famous 1720 gold monstrance weighing 22 kilos, encased with 1,805 diamonds and other 615 precious stones, such as rubies, topazes, and emeralds.
Among the mansions, the most outstanding are, Casa de los Cuatro Bustos, Casa de los Marqueses de San Juan de Buena Vista y Rocafuerte, Palacio del Almirante, and Casa Solariega, where the Inca Garcilazo de la Vega was born.
OTHER ATTRACTIONS OF THE DEPARTMENT OF CUSCO
Machu Picchu. It is the most important attraction in the department of Cusco. For many, it is the Eighth Wonder of the World and shows the knowledge of a culture that was able to build a citadel with gigantic rocks perfectly fitted together and in a site of difficult access. Still today, the attention is drawn on how and from where could these people transport such enormous stones. There are no stone pits in the region nor had the Incas discovered the use of the wheel.
The Sacred Valley of the Incas. Bathed by the waters of the Urubamba and Vilcanota rivers, the valley includes the towns of Pisaq, Yucay, Urubamba, Ollantaytambo and Chincheros. All these villages display pre-Hispanic archeological vestiges, built by the different Incas to use them as fortresses or as retreat sites. They are ideal for handicraft shopping.
Oropesa. Known as the land of bread. The people are dedicated to cooking home-made bread in the most varied forms and flavors.
Piquillacta, an archeological pre-Inca construction of 63 hectares. It is geometrically surrounded by terraces and walls that withhold high and unique buildings. It is said that it served as a defense and food storage station.
Andahuaylillas. It is famous for its chapel constructed in 1580 and known as The Peruvian Sixtine Chapel. The external simplicity of the building contrasts with an interior housing Colonial Baroque style golden altars, murals, polychrome ceilings and paintings.
TYPICAL DISHES AND BEVERAGES
In a city so full of traditions, such as Cusco, the food makes part of the warm atmosphere tourists find there.
Most well-known among the Cusco dishes are, rocoto relleno, which, unlike other parts of the country, include peanuts, green peas, a battered egg and gilded potatoes. Another popular dish is the puchero, a soup based on steak, lamb head, bacon and raisins, to which pieces of cabbage, potatoes, chickpeas and rice are added. Other delicious dishes include the rabbit or cuy (guinea pig) pepián, kapiches cheese, and chunocola.
To drink, the local beer, aguardiente or chicha are recommended.