Cusco - The Sacred City

Cusco PeruLocated in the southeastern part of the Andes, Cusco is Peru's main tourist destination and one of the most important in the Americas. Known by the Incas as the "home of gods", Cusco became the capital of one of the largest pre-Columbian empires: the Tawantinsuyo. Its name in Quenchua, Qosqo means "Navel of the World". which derives from when the city served as a hub for when the Inca would travel the vast network of roads interconnecting virtually the whole of South America, from the southern part of present-day Colombia to the northern part of what is now Argentina.

Furthermore, Cusco is also both a mestizo and colonial city, with splendid churches and manors built on foundations of elaborately carved stone. The local cuisine is also something for the traveler to look forward to, including superb combinations of typical Andean foods, such as corn, potatoes and chili pepper, with pork and mutton introduced by the Spanish. With its vast landscapes, rich history and fascinating geography, Cusco is, without a doubt, something all travelers long to experience.

Legend and History

Although it was settled centuries before the Incas arrived, it was only during the period of Inca control (1438-1532) that the Huatanay River basin, upon which Cusco is built, reached its peak as an administrative, religious and military center. The origins of the city are shrouded in myth and legends, which tell the tale of how the Inca Empire came to being.

One of the most popular myths, from the chronicles kept by the Inca Garcilaso de la Vega, is that of a mythical couple, Manco Capac and Mama Ocllo, who emerged from the waters of Lake Titicaca to found the city of Cusco and teach its people how to cultivate the land. The city was divided into two sectors: an upper area, or Hanan, and a lower-lying area, or Hurin, references to both the geographical position of each area and the hierarchical position of their inhabitants. Moreover, it is also said that the outline of the first city had the shape of a puma with a falcon's head.

When the Spaniards arrived in 1533, many pre-Hispanic structures were destroyed or used as foundations for new structures, which included churches, convents and mansions built in Baroque or Renaissance styles. Since then, Cusco has become one of the most representative expressions of mestizo culture anywhere in the Americas.