We had a full day of leisure before our trek started and we knew we wanted to see some of the ruins around Cusco. We booked the City Tour with the tour company that was in our hotel called Eco Tour Cusco. The tour was $15 US dollars, but didn’t include entrance into the sites, basically it was for the tour guide and bus to each site.
We were the first to be picked up at our hotel at 1:20 p.m. After picking up everyone else – about an hour later (kind of annoying) we came to our first site – the Cathedral – which was located on the Plaza de Armas also known as the city square.
(no photos allowed inside the Cathedral – $10 US Dollars)
The Cathedral, the mother church of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Cusco, was built using blocks stolen from the Inca site of Sacsayhuaman. Starting in 1559, it almost took a century until it’s completion. The Cathedral boasts exquisite architecture, powerful artwork and beautiful craftsmanship.
The Inca’s Temple of the Sun dedicated to Inti, the sun god of the Incas, was the most important temple of the Inca empire. Built around 1200 AD, Coricancha was constructed using the distinctive and intricate masonry style of the Incas. The city of Cusco is said to be designed in the shape of a puma, with Coricancha located on the puma’s tail, which was a very important location as it was connected to the four districts of the empire and represented the importance of religion. In the 17th century, the city was taken by the Spanish and Coricancha, besides its stone foundation, was mostly demolished and a cathedral was built on the site. Centuries later an earthquake destroyed the Cathedral but left the foundations of the temple intact. Today, the newer cathedral, courtyard and gardens were built among and around the much older Incan structure.
Before entering the next site, we purchased a boleto parcial or a partial ticket for 70 soles or about $25 US dollars (good for one day), that got us into the following sites:
If you have more time in Cusco, you can also purchase a full tourist ticket (boleto general) that will get you into 16 sites found around the Cusco region and is about 130 soles or $45 US dollars.
Sacsayhuaman, the largest structure built by the Incas, is a fortress constructed during the reign on Pachacuti and was the head of the Puma. The most impressive feature of the site is the stonework. The fact that the Incas collected these massive stones, shaped and fit them so perfectly that mortar wasn’t even needed is incredible. The fortress was actually much bigger, higher and even had towers. After the Spanish seized the city, the fortress was dismantled and most of the complex was destroyed. Many of the stones were used on different sites around the city. Today, the stones that remain are the ones that were too big and too heavy to move.
Tambomachay, was an important center of the worship of water. Known as the “Inca baths”, Tambomachay consisted of well constructed canals, aqueducts and waterfalls that run through the terraced rocks. Nobody is certain on what this site was used for. Because of its name, Tampu means place or storage and Machay means rest, some believe the Incas came to this bath to rest.
PucaPucara meaning “red fortress” from the red granite used in its construction, was believed to be a guarding post that protected access to Cusco. It was also believed that this site was built in a hurry from immediate threat because of the poor construction and the irregular shaped rocks.
(This structure was thought to be a Puma, but was destroyed by the Spanish as they tried to rid Cusco of all iconic Inca shrines)
Q’enqo is unique temple built along a hillside that was carved out of a gigantic monolith and was thought to have been used by the Incas for ceremonial and sacrificial purposes. Qenqo means “labyrinth” or “zigzag” which may have come from a crooked canal that ran through the main structure. No one knows for sure what type of liquid the canal carried, some believe it could have been holy water, corn beer or blood. The liquid may have been used for death rituals or to determine whether a person lived a good life by the course the liquid flowed. The canal leads to and underground chamber where some believe the dead were embalmed and mummified and blood sacrifices were offered to the heavenly gods. Another large chamber looked to be an amphitheater with 19 large niches and was also probably used for ceremonial purposes. Despite the use of the temple, it’s carved tunnels and chambers are an amazing work of ancient architecture.
After the Q’enqo temple, we enjoyed the sunset over Cusco. On the way back to the city square where the tour ended, we stopped at a textile establishment that educated us on the difference between real and authentic alpaca and had a chance to do a little shopping. We returned back to the city around 6:45 p.m.
The day was great learning about the temples, the Inca culture and seeing the incredible architecture of the ancient Inca empire.
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