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.
How to get here
International flights fly in and out of Lima (international airport tax on leaving the country is $25) and there are several airlines that offer many daily flights to Cusco from Lima costing approximately $80 one way (one hour). Also, a variety of bus companies provide services to Cusco, costing approximately $30 one way. This takes about 22 hours!!! From other major cities there are also flights (domestic airport tax is 14 s/. - approximately $ 4) and bus services are available from most urban areas.
Banks - Many banks on the main street (Avenida del Sol) have ATMs from which you can withdraw cash with Visa or Mastercard. A lot of hotels, agencies and restaurants also accept payment with Visa, Mastercard or American Express.
Money/Traveller's Cheque Exchange - The current exchange rate for an American dollar is 3.20s/. (soles) and there a lot of places (Casa de Cambio) where you can change your money (dollars) or traveller's cheques into soles. Please note that dollars need to be in perfect condition to be accepted.
You can also change Euros or English pounds although the rates are not very good. Therefore it is worth changing your money into dollars before you come to Peru.
Accommodation - There is accommodation in Cusco to suit every purse; from budget hostals to five-star hotels. In peak season, we recommend booking ahead (we can suggest hotels according to your requirements and make the necessary reservations). For longer-stay travellers, there are also unfurnished and furnished rooms and apartments that can be rented per day, week or month for good rates.
Food and Drink - There are plenty of local and tourist restaurants that offer a wide-variety of food; from the delicious grilled-guinea pig (local delicacy), ceviche (raw fish marinated in lemon), pollos a la brasa (chicken grilled in a fire-wood oven, served with chips - Peruvian fast food!) to pizza and pasta restaurants.
Popular drinks here are coca tea (tea made from the coca leaf), Inca Kola (soft drink made with lemon grass - only found in Peru!), Pisco Sour (a mix of Pisco, egg whites, lemon, sugar, cinnamon and ice) and chicha (alcoholic drink made from corn).
Shopping - A great variety of hand-made textiles can be found here; popular buys are alpaca, llama or the high-quality vicuña wool fabrics. There are also beautiful ceramic works and gold and silver jewellery on sale. Most of the best shops are located around the main square (Plaza de Armas) in Cusco.
In the highlands in general, there are only two seasons:
Dry - May to October. During these months, the days are usually hot and sunny (20-25°c) and the nights are cold, particularly in June and July (0°c or below).
Wet - November to April. (The wettest months are January to March.) Although this is known as the wet season, it does not usually rain all day! The mornings are generally clear and dry and it is in the afternoons that there are heavy outbursts. In the day, the temperatures are normally around 18°c and in the night, around 15°c.
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. more information
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.
January 20. Chereaje. A competition among men to determine who is the strongest and most courageous. It takes place in various towns and recalls ancestral practices.
Carnivals take place in the different Cusco villages, where locals dance and drink happily. The city of Qoya celebrates a Festival Carnavalesco.
Holy Week. People honor Holy Week with a spirit of retreat. Several images go out in procession. El Señor de los Temblores (The Lord of Earthquakes), the city patron, is also taken out in procession on Holy Monday.
Second Week in May. Vigil and Adoration of the Cross.
During the last week in May through the first week in June, the International Beer Festival takes place. Famous national and international artists are invited to participate.
June 1. Corpus Christi.
June 18 and 19. Qoullurity and Quispicanchis Festivities.
June 24. Inti Raymi. The ancestral Fiesta del Sol in gratitude for having had a good harvest.
July 15. Fiesta de la Virgen del Carmen in Paucartambo. The entire town of Paucartambo and their guests celebrate by honoring mamacha Carmen (mama Carmen).
November 1. All Saints Day. To the rhythm of bands of musicians, families visit the cemeteries to recall their dead. They with them a home-made bread for the occasion, guaguas, shaped as baby dolls.
December 24. Santuranticuy. A popular fair where artisans from various regions exhibit and sell their works.
Main Office N° 1 : Calle Santa Teresa 381, Plaza de Armas, Cusco, Peru
Office N° 2 : Calle Plateros 372, Plaza de Armas, Cusco, Peru
(Both ones located just half block from the main square of Cusco City) Fax Telephone: 00-51-84-261269 Emergency Mobil Phone: 00-51-84-9673544