Known by the Incas as the navel of the world...
Undoubtedly one of our favourite spots in Peru, the ancient city of Cusco is a wonder of Incan architecture and design and is certainly worth a night if not two to soak up its laid back atmosphere and marvel at the Incan building techniques that are prevalent throughout the city. (the wall designs using no form of cement to keep them together is mind blowing!)
Originally named “Qoosqo” (meaning “navel of the world” in Quechua), the city was thought to be founded by the revered Manco Capac and was seen as the capital of the Inca Empire that dominated the eastern reaches of South America in the second half of the 15th century under the reign of Inca Pachacutec Yupanqui. The city of today is an amalgamation of the incredible building skills of the Incans and the amendments of the Spanish conquistadors who took over the city at the end of the 1500s.
This meeting of the great histories of South America is also, very much reflected in the population and sites of the city with many of the population conversing in Spanish but retaining their Quechua roots and heritage.
The Plaza de Armas
The original centre point of the entire Inca empire still remains the main focus for the town of today, with this open square and the main cathedral being permanently busy with locals selling their wares, or hikers passing through on their way to or from the infamous Inca Trail and the citadel at Machu Picchu.
As with many of the squares of South America, it is normally in the evenings that things really start to become interesting and active, with the people of the town heading out to meet in the evening. This is, however, a great place to install yourself in one of the main restaurants and cafes that overlook what must be one of South America’s most attractive squares.
On the eastern side of the square is the magnificent Catedral building. Crafted on the Inca ruins of the palace of Inca Wiracocha and incorporating Inca stonework from the nearby Sacsathuaman fortress, the Cathedral is a good example of Spanish baroque architecture. Dating from 1559 it contains a few of the more important examples of the Escuela Cuscquena paintings as well as the most famous statue of the city known as the Nuestro Senor de los Temblores which is paraded annually around the city at Easter.