Welcome to Cusco, the ancient capital of the Inca Empire, located in the heart of the Andes mountain range in southeastern Peru. With a population of over 428,000 people, Cusco attracts nearly 2 million visitors a year, making it one of the most popular tourist destinations in South America. The city’s rich history, breathtaking landscapes, and vibrant culture make it a must-visit for any traveler.
Cusco was once the capital of the Inca Empire from the 13th century until the 16th-century Spanish conquest. This history is still evident today, with many Inca buildings and temples still standing and the city’s layout following the Inca’s urban planning. The city was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1983 with the title City of Cuzco. In addition, the Constitution of Peru (1993) designates it as the Historical Capital of Peru.
The indigenous name of the city is Qusqu, derived from the phrase qusqu wanka (rock of the owl) in the Aymara language. According to legend, Ayar Awqa acquired wings and flew to the site of the future city and was transformed into a rock to mark the possession of the land by his ayllu (lineage).
The Spanish conquistadors adopted the local name, transcribing it according to Spanish phonetics as Cuzco or, less often, Cozco. The traditional spelling was banned by the city mayor in 1976, and a new spelling, Cusco, was ordered for municipality publications. Later authorities formalized a new spelling more closely related to Quechua, Qosqo, but this has not been widely adopted.
Cusco is a city built on layers of cultures, with Tawantinsuyu (former Inca Empire) structures built on Killke structures, and Spanish colonial buildings constructed on indigenous temples and palaces. The result is a unique blend of Spanish influence and Inca indigenous architecture, with examples including the Santa Clara and San Blas neighborhoods. The Spanish destroyed many Inca buildings, temples, and palaces, but Inca architecture withstood earthquakes, including a major one in 1950 that damaged more than one-third of the city’s structures.
Today, Cusco is the most important tourist destination in Peru, attracting visitors from all over the world. Its economy is based on agriculture, cattle raising, mining, and trade with Spain. The city is prosperous and has many churches, convents, a cathedral, university, and archdiocese. The local authorities have declared Cusco a Cultural Heritage of the Nation and the Tourism Capital of Peru.
Cusco offers visitors a range of activities and attractions, including exploring the ancient Inca ruins, trekking through the picturesque Andes Mountains, experiencing the vibrant local culture, and sampling the delicious Peruvian cuisine. Some of the must-visit attractions include the famous Machu Picchu, the Sacred Valley of the Incas, the Qorikancha temple, and the Plaza de Armas, the central square of the city. Whether you’re interested in history, adventure, or relaxation, Cusco has something to offer everyone. Come visit this enchanting destination and experience the magic of the Inca Empire for yourself!