© iStock/MarcPo
© iStock/MarcPo

Cusco, the capital of the Inca Empire

3 minutes to read

At 3400 meters above the sea level used to be the capital of the Inca EmpireCusco. All the history saved in each corner of the city made it earn the World Heritage Site denomination by UNESCO. For this one and more reasons, Cusco is undoubtedly worth a visit!

The Inca capital

The extent of the Inca Empire, at some point, achieved part of the current territories of Perú, Bolivia, Ecuador, Chile, Argentina and even a small portion of Colombia. This huge empire was divided into four big regions, and the four of them met in one specific point - Cusco!

Colonial Spanish manuscripts mention that Cusco used to have the shape of a feline. It actually was the shape of a puma, an important symbol of the Inca cosmovision, that represented the world of the alive. The puma’s tail was the junction of two rivers that nowadays cross Cusco, the body contained the Inca city and, in the head, was the Sacsayhuaman Fortress.

Sacsayhuaman Fortress, Cusco
Sacsayhuaman Fortress, Cusco
© iStock-Shirley Chen
© iStock-Shirley Chen

Cusco's constructions

From what we know, the city was impressive. Its organization, temples, palaces, streets and stonework were worthy the capital of a great empire.

In the 16th century, though, the Spanish occupation took place. And from that point, little by little, Inca buildings were replaced with Spanish ones. The cathedral of the city, for example, was built above the palace of Wiracocha, an Inca deity, considered the creator of all things.

Even so, not everything was gone. At first sight, nowadays, Cusco might seem a colonial city, but if we look carefully, we can see a curious characteristic: the base of many current buildings is a thick stone wall. Those walls were part of the original Inca buildings, above which many Spanish constructions were erected.

But there is a specific Inca wall that receives lots of visits. This wall was part of the palace of Inca Roca. It is known because of its Twelve Angled Stone, famous because its surrounding stones fit perfectly with each of its twelve angles, reflecting the perfection achieved by the Inca constructions. It gets hard to believe how that level of perfection was achieved in a period were the technology we can use nowadays was not available.

The Twelve-Angled Stone, Cusco
The Twelve-Angled Stone, Cusco
© iStock-Jean Pierre Pinochet
© iStock-Jean Pierre Pinochet

Here is a curious fact. Even though there are many stories visible in Cusco, it is known that the Inca period's biggest treasures still remain underground!

What to see around Cusco

Spending some time in Cusco is worth, not only because of its historical value, which already means a lot! Let’s find out about some extra things to do in the city.

If the lack of air caused by the 3400 meters above the sea level of Cusco does not keep you from going up, walk to San Blas and San Cristobal viewpoints. You will not only have the best views of the city but also find truly good gastronomic choices around. And if we talk about food, you will have a lot of unusual things to try in Cusco, but that is another story!

San Blas Viewpoint, Cusco
San Blas Viewpoint, Cusco
San Cristobal Viewpoint, Cusco
San Cristobal Viewpoint, Cusco

On the other hand, while getting lost on the city streets, you will find lots of Andean style handcrafts and warm winter clothes made of sheep, llama and alpaca wool.

You can also visit many archeological sites in the surroundings, as the Sacsayhuaman fortress, Puka Pukara or Rumiwasi. And, of course, a few hours away is the most sought-after site - Machu Picchu! But Cusco is also surrounded by natural wonders as the Rainbow Mountain, Humantay Lagoon and many more. In other words, Cusco is an ideal departing point to discover the region!

Puka Pukara, Cusco
Puka Pukara, Cusco
Rumiwasi, Cusco
Rumiwasi, Cusco
© iStock/Nick Kypriadis
© iStock/Nick Kypriadis

If the stones of this city could talk, they would uncover layer after layer of history, revealing all the transcendental events that took place in Cusco, the capital of the Inca Empire. Nowadays, you can simply relax and calmly observe from a viewpoint the city that used to be the home of ancient rulers.


The author

Vanesa Zegada

Vanesa Zegada

I am Vanesa and I am from Bolivia. I am in love with my homeland. It never stops surprising me, even if I am a local. It is a place full of diversity, traditions, interesting spots that I want to share with you through my stories on itinari.

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