The city of Cusco is located in the western part of the valley of the river Watanay, at a height of 3,350 meters and is considered one of the highest cities of the world. Situated in the Peruvian Andes, Cuzco developed, under the Inca ruler Pachacutec, into a complex urban centre with distinct religious and administrative functions. It was surrounded by clearly delineated areas for agricultural, artisan and industrial production. When the Spaniards conquered it in the 16th century, they preserved the basic structure but built Baroque churches and palaces over the ruins of the Inca city.
Andean Area in the south of Peru, 11,151 feet (3,399 m.) above sea level.
- From Lima 724 miles (1,165 km) (by Nazca)
- From Arequipa 388 miles (625 km)
- From Puno: 241 miles (389 km)
Cusco is supported by more than 3000 years of age to be considered as The Oldest Existing City of America. Cusco, and its cultural and geographical diversity, has suffered and enjoyed different events through the years that have turned it into a historical study center and the most important tourist core of the country.
There is some uncertainty about the correct name of the city. According to some chroniclers, in the first centuries of the existence of this most important city in pre-Columbian South-America, its name was Akamama that according to Guaman Poma de Ayala means “chicha’s mother” (chicha is a fermented corn beer). Possibly it was Aqhamama -in the modern Quechua spelling- or “chicha mother”. Surely that name became useless by the beginning of the Inkan development. When this was the ancient Capital of the Tawantinsuyo, it was named as Qosqo, word that is translated as “navel” or “center”. That is the regular name for any Quechua speaking Andean Man.
After the Spanish invasion in 1533 the name was transformed into Cuzco, word that according to the Spanish language dictionary is contemptuous, meaning “hypocrite”, “humpback” and “small dog”. This was a way to minimize or satirize the name of the city. Later the name was changed into Cusco.
There are many legends about the origin of the Twantinsuyo (the Inca). One of them tells how, Manco Cápac and his sister and wife Mama Ocllo, half gods and children of the Inti father (the god of the sun), emerged from the waters of Lake Titicaca with the mission to found a new Kingdom that would improve the conditions of life in the towns.
MACHU PICCHU: WONDER OF THE MODERN WORLD
The Machupicchu archaeological complex is located in the department of Cusco, in the Urubamba province and district of Machupicchu. It is perched on the eastern slopes of the Vilcanota mountain range, a chain of mountains curtailed by the Apurimac and Urubamba Rivers. At latitude 13º7′ South and longitude 72035′ West of the Greenwich Meridian, Machupicchu is located at a height of 2,350 meters above sea level (main square).
Climate and Environment
It is located in a subtropical zone, or dense wood, the reason why the climate is mild, warm and damp, with an average year-round temperature of 130C during the day. One can perceive two distinct seasons during the year: the rainy season from November to March, which is a time of heavy rains. Visitors are advised to dress accordingly during this season. The dry season from April to October brings on higher temperatures.
Flora and Fauna
Both are abundant and varied. Typical plant life in the historic reserve of Machupicchu includes pisonayes, q’eofias, alisos, puya palm trees, ferns and more than 90 species of orchids.
The fauna in the reserve includes the spectacled bear, cock-of-the-rocks or “tunqui”, tankas, wildcats and an impressive variety of butterflies and insects unique in the region.
The lie of the land, the natural surroundings and the strategic location of Machupicchu lend this monument a fusion of beauty, harmony and balance between the work of the ancient Peruvians and the whims of nature.
One cannot pinpoint the first to populate these lands, as it was a time of occupation rather than foundations. Machupicchu was visited by explorers well before Hiram Bingham, although with little success. These included Antonio Raymondi, the Count of Sartiges and Charles Wiener. Other visits included one in July 1909 by the Santander brothers, whose inscription can be found carved into the base of the Temple of the Sun. At the same time, Peruvian explorers Enrique Palma, Augustin Lizárraga and Gavino Sánchez arrived at the citadel by the route of San Miguel.
The railway line runs parallel to the river in winding loops that follow the riverbed. From here one can seethe typical vegetation of the upper jungle, which climbs up to the top of the steep mountain range that forms the Urubamba Canyon. The train passes through the Chilca train station from where one can see the snowcapped peak called “Veronica”. With a height of 5,750 meters above sea level, it is the highest peak in the Urubamba range. The train stops at Kilometer 88, where the Inca Trail begins.
The train then continues on its way, passing through the station of Pampacahua and the town of Aguas Calientes, located at Kilometer 110. When the train line comes up against a wall of imposing granite mountains, it then plunges into two tunnels before arriving at the station of Puente Ruinas. From here, minibuses take the travelers up 8 kilometers of roads up to the Tourist Hotel. The entry control to the Inca citadel is done near the hotel.
SACRED VALLEY OF THE INKAS
This area has a beautiful landscape, surrounded by the Pitusiray and Sawasiray snow-capped mountains. The archaeological complex of Huchuy Qosqo is located in this province, as well as the medicinal hot mineral baths of Machacancha (sulfurous hot water) and Minasmoqo (cold bubbling mineral water) It is located 50 km from Cusco.
A former Inca agricultural center, this district of the province of Urubamba i made up of 10 “Ayllus” or indigenous communities. Located at 3,762 mete above sea level, Chinchero is 28 km down a modem highway from the Cusco tourist circuit. It possesses a beautiful Andean landscape and is surrounded by the year-round snow-capped peaks of Chicón, pumahuanca, Wakay Willca the sacred teardrop (commonly Called wayna willca or Veronica) .
The current town of Chinchero is a blend of Andean and Hispanic architec and is also home to a unique archaeological complex, with the remains o buildings, places of worship, and terraces for crops and for foundations .
It boast a beautiful colonial church with paintings by famous indigenous artist Chiwantito There is also a typical Sunday market, colorful and authentic where indigenous peasants from different communities congregate to trade their goods, not only in money but also trading by barter. It is well-known for its woven handcraft of the region.
Maras is a district of the Urubamba province, possible to be reached through a paved road from kilometer 50 on the road Qosqo – Chinchero – Urubamba. It is located towards the west of Qosqo at an altitude of 3300 mts. (10824 feet). It was declared ” Villa of Saint Francis of Assisi of Maras” (Villa: city or town that had certain privileges).
Maras village is famous for ”salt works”, These mines were exploited from pre-Hispanic time.The Maras “salt works” to which some people call “salt mines” are constituted by about 3000 small pools with an average area of 5 m² (53.8 ft²), constructed in a slope of the “Qaqawiñay” mountain. People fill up or “irrigate” the pools during the dry season every 3 days, with salty water emanating from a natural spring located on the top of the complex, so that when water evaporates the salt contained in it will slowly solidify.
That process will be carried out approximately during one month until a considerable volume of solid salt is obtained; about 10 cms. (4 inches) high from the floor. That solid salt is beaten thus granulated, then packed in plastic sacks and sent to the region’s markets; today that salt began being treated with iodine, thus, its consumption is not harmful.
This is a strange place. Area located at 53 km northwest of Cusco, highlights an admirable Inca experimental farm, where a natural depression has been transformed in enormous terraces superimposed in concentric form with a shape of a great coliseum, achieving up to 150 meters in difference of height levels. This technology allowed the old Inca farmers to study the effect of altitude on different plants and create diverse weathers, to experience and to obtain varieties of plants that improved their crops. It was a great laboratory.
Each terrace possesses contention walls and they are connected by a complex system of artificial channels of irrigation that are a sample of the high hydraulic technology that the Inca also reached.
This archaeological complex was a gigantic agricultural, administrative, social, religious and military center in the era of the Tahuantinsuyo. The Spaniards called it the Fortress of Ollantaytambo. It is located 97km from Cusco down a modem highway.
Once can see the architectural style of its streets and squares which are distinctly pre-Hispanic, with enormous polyhedrons forming the walls and trapezoidal doors of temples and palaces. The urban distribution was set along rectilinear and narrow streets which have been inhabited constantly by natives since the Incas’ time.
In the upper and western part of the city rises a mountain which houses innumerable pre-Hispanic constructions such as magnificent crafted temples and terraces. A striking construction is the partially destroyed main temple, where once can see the front stone carving made up of six perfectly built red monoliths. It also has stepped molds, a characteristic made by the Earth. This made academics to consider Ollantaytambo a living museum.
This picturesque town with a blend of mestizo and colonial architecture belong to the province of Calca at the entrance to the Sacred Valley of the Incas, 32Km down a modern highway from the city of Cusco .
Founded during the reign of Viceroy Francisco de Toledo, the town has both Western and native features that make it an original and typical town of the región.
Pisaq Archaeological Complex
In the upper part there are the remains of this re-Columbian settlement located a few kilometers from the mestizo town. It takes up an entire mountain made up of different neighborhood or squares, the main one being Intiwatana, which is admired for the architectural skill with which its constructions were built. At the same time, the pre-Hispani cemetery is also of great interest as it is the largest found in this part of the continent. There are thousands of tombs, some of them looted. The complex is also famous for the colossal terraces that circle the mountains and the fabulous watchtowers which were used as observation points as well as for control and military defense.
Pisaq Arts and Chafts Market
Here merchants offer for sale all sorts of handicrafts, the most important of which are the textiles and ceramic goods such as ceremonial goblets called “Q’eros”, plates, ashtrays, necklace and replicas of pre-Hispanic pottery. There are also ponchos, sweaters and bag The handicrafts fairs are held every Thursday and Sunday in the main square o Pisaq, as well as the Indian market, which is visited by inhabitants from the various native communities to stock up on supplies or sell their products. 0 Sundays, there is also the traditional Mass held in Quechua, which is attended by the Varayoc or village leaders from the surrounding communities.
Located 78km from Cusco via Pisaq and 57km via Chinchero, it is located in the heart of the Sacred Valley and is known as the “Pearl of the Vilcanota” with beautiful countrysides and a healthy climate, located at the foot of the majestic snow-capped peak Chicón.
Urubamba, the archaeological capital of Peru, has many possibilities for tourist activities, especially adventure tourism because of its natural beauty. In the rain season there is an abundance of seasonal fruit. The area was also a pre-Hispanic agricultural center.
A historic area, Yucay is a pretty valley inhabited by the Runas of the Tahuantinsuyo who built impressive works of agricultural engineering. This area is important for the palace of the Inca Sairy Tupac 11, a construction made of stone and adobe mud brick with haute- and bas-relief decorations. It was a center of agricultural production for the Incas because of its mild climate, fertile land, abundant water and vegetation, especially fruit trees.