There are a lot of tourist attractions in Cusco, so it really is essential that you take your time to know them correctly and not try to rush your vacations.
When we talk about Cusco, we are not only referring to Cusco city but also to the surroundings of the city, and there we include the beautiful ruins and landscapes of the Sacred Valley of the Incas including Machu Picchu. But lets first start the tourist attractions in Cusco City and the move to the surroundings.
TOURIST ATTRACTIONS IN CUSCO CITY
Map of the Tourist Attractions in Cusco City
In the following map you can find the most important tourist attractions in the City of Cusco.
Take a moment to familiarize yourself with the places you will meet and visit. Making an itinerary at a good pace is important to try to visit all the places. If you are with children or if not everyone is acclimatized to the altitude, we recommend taking much longer to complete your tours.
Start with the Plaza de Armas (The Square of Arms of Cusco)
Start at the square, where there is always life, because of it the hours do not pass. It is a meeting point for children, young and old who look in their racks for a moment of contrition and peace that this can give them and although endless day and night. The square is the motor of energy that never stops roaring in our hearts and invites us to endless fun.
This ancient central plaza of the Incas serves as a compass for all travelers who plan to make a foray around the metropolis.
In times of the Incas, the Plaza de Armas of Cusco was called “Huacaypata” Quechua word meaning place of weeping. Originally it was twice its current size, an important ceremonial place where the Inti Raymi or Fiesta del Sol was celebrated every year .
According to the legend, this square once marked the exact center of the Inca Empire, which earned Cuzco the nickname of “the navel of the world“. It was the place where Francisco Pizarro proclaimed the conquest of Cusco. With the arrival of the Spaniards at the beginning of the 16th century, two churches were erected on each side of the plaza, the Church of the Company of Jesus and the Cathedral of Cusco , where the Inca Wiracocha Palace used to be.
Today, the square contains important milestones for both Andean and Spanish history, and still functions as the historic heart of the city.
Around the square there are many downtown hotels, restaurants, shops and local tourism agencies. In this square there is activity throughout the day and night.
Recognize and Travel The Portals
Next to the square, we have the portals, 8 in total:
- The Meat Portal
- The Flour Portal
- The Portal of Breads
- The Confittery Portal
- The Trade Portal
- The Company Portal
- The Carrizo Portal
- The Portal of Bethlehem
Each of these has its own history and they have names associated with that story. You can walk around all or at least suggest the Portal de Panes , a paved place of closure full of a lively traffic of children trying to sell postcards.
There are several restaurants in these portals, if you have not had breakfast, it is a very good opportunity to do so.
Enter the Cathedral of Cusco
In the same Main Square is The Cathedral, or La Catedral, that began to be built since 1559 and took almost a century to complete it. Huge blocks of red granite taken from the Sacsayhuaman fortress sits on the foundations, and it is in the same place of the Inca Wiracocha Palace. Its gigantic lines recall the presence of a Great Fort with delicate forms, very similar to the Church of the Company of Jesus that shows its artistic bell towers occupying the south eastern side of the plaza.
The Renaissance style dominates the façade and interior, with interior decoration very rich in cedar and alder carvings. The chorus and the pulpit stand out for their beauty. It conserves an important collection of paintings of the Cusco school and objects of embossed silver.
The cathedral is one of the largest repositories of colonial art in the city, especially for works of the Cuzco school , known for its decorative combination of styles of European devotional painting of the seventeenth century with the color palette and the iconography of indigenous Andean artists.
Not to be missed is also the delicate finely carved granite altar of La Catedral and its huge canvases that represent, through their figures, the terrible earthquake that struck Cusco in 1650. Inside the Cathedral you can also see a baroque pulpit with a complicated engraving and beautiful benches in cedar wood, as well as a main altar carved in silver that is distinguished by its brilliant presence.
Ten small chapels surround the nave, among which stand out the Chapel of the Virgin of the Immaculate Conception and the Chapel of the Lord of the Earthquakes that treasures a crucifix weighing 26 kilos in pure gold inlaid with precious stones.
A classic example is the frequent representation of the Virgin Mary who wears a mountain-shaped skirt with a river running around her hem, identifying her with Pachamama (Mother Earth).
One of the most famous paintings of the Cuzco school is The Last Supper by the Quechua artist Marcos Zapata . Found in the northeast corner of the cathedral, it represents one of the most solemn occasions in the Christian faith, but it adorns it with a small feast of Andean ceremonial food; look for the guinea pig (guinea pig), fat and juicy looking, who steals the show with his feet held in the air.
Also look for the oldest painting that survived in Cuzco, showing the entire city during the great earthquake of 1650. You can see the inhabitants parading around the square with the image of The Lord of the Earthquakes, praying that the earthquake stop, which he did miraculously.
This beautiful crucifix can be seen in the alcove to the right of the door leading to El Triunfo .
Every year, on Holy Monday , the Lord goes out in a parade and the devotees throw ñucchu flowers on them, they resemble droplets of blood and represent the wounds of the crucifixion. The flowers leave a sticky residue that picks up the smoke of votive candles lit under the statue: that’s why it is now black.
The sacristy of the cathedral is covered with paintings of the bishops of Cuzco, beginning with Vicente de Valverde , the friar who accompanied Pizarro during the conquest.
The crucifixion in the back of the sacristy is attributed to the Flemish painter Anthony van Dyck, although some guides claim that it is the work of the Spanish Alonso Cano, of the seventeenth century.
The original wooden altar is in the back of the cathedral, behind the current silver altar, and in front of both is the magnificently carved choir, dating from the seventeenth century. There are also many dazzling silver and gold side chapels with elaborate platforms and altars that contrast with the austerity of the cathedral stone.
The huge main doors of the cathedral are open for free entrance to the genuine faithful for Masses everyday between 6 and 10 AM.
If you plan to visit many chuches so it is recommended to get The Ticket Religious Circuit (CTR) is the ticket that allows entry to three major destinations of religious themes such as: Cusco Cathedral, Temple of San Blas and the Archbishop’s Palace.
Enter the Church of the Society of Jesus
Also, going down from the heart of the square, we have the Church of the Company of Jesus , a sanctuary that was built in 1571 by the Jesuits on the Amarucancha (Palace of Snakes of the Inca Huayna Capac), which was renovated after the earthquake of 1650.
The original layout and façade are examples of the Andean Baroque. The cover, type “altarpiece”, is decorated with towers of medium height and its stone walls have been carefully worked.
Upon entering the temple, the main altar with three bodies and Solomonic columns, the wooden pulpit and numerous baroque, plateresque and churrigueresque altarpieces stand out. Among the works of art stands out “The marriage of Martín García de Loyola with Beatriz Clara Coya“.
Here there is a large altar covered with Gold leaf , a beautiful wooden pulpit that has a relief of Christ and also the church jealously guards various paintings and sculptures made by renowned artists of the Cusqueña School (Escuela Cusqueña) and on the sides of this are built the Chapel of Lourdes and the old oratory of San Ignacio de Loyola.
Walk down Hatun Rumiyoc Street
Then you can head towards San Blas and will have to take the Hatun Rumiyoc Street , the best-known street in the city in which is the Stone of the Twelve Angles that is part of one of the pardes of the Archbishop’s Palace , which in the past was the palace of Inca Roca.
They say that in this street the magnetism and spiritual strength of the Incas is concentrated, the visitors arrive here to carry themselves of it with the objective of blessing their lives.
Take advantage of this walk to see the different shops of handicrafts, antiques and paintings. You will find art very well done as well as art costumbrista. It will be good for you to stop from time to time because the caaminata pot this street is uphill. But do not worry because we’re talking about only about 4 blocks.
Take Picture at the Stone of the Twelve Angles
In the Hatunrumiyoc street you can see an ancient Inca wall that was part of the Inca Roca palace and that is an admirable sample of the Inca work in polishing and placing each stone. In this structure stands out the so-called “Stone of the Twelve Angles“, famous for the perfect work and assembly of its corners.
The building is a Spanish viceregal construction of Arab influence, which was built on the bases of the palace of Inca Roca, later the Archbishop Palace and is currently the headquarters of the Museum of Religious Art.
Tour the San Blas Neighborhood
Known as the Neighborhood of the Artists (Barrio de los Artistas), San Blas – originally called Toccocachi (Hueco de Sal o Salt Hole) in allusion to the cemetery from whose tombs emanated saltpeter.
Was one of the most important districts in the Inca Era and is currently the place of greatest artistic concentration of all Cusco, in its narrow streets are forged the stories of many painters, craftsmen, musicians, poets and other artists who invoke the bohemian of each day. Who visits San Blas can not stop being infected by the cheerful spirit of his plaza, which every afternoon houses its entire community at the Craft Fair on the green of its herbs and under the moon of its nights.
Its history is not known much, but the most outstanding of San Blas is the church that seems to have been built on an Inca sanctuary where the Illapa (God of thunder, lightning) was worshiped.
Enter the Parish of San Blas
In this church – a simple structure with adobe walls – there is what could be considered one of the most valuable jewels of colonial art in all of America: The Pulpit of San Blas, a unique piece made of cedar of invaluable economic quantification.
This is not a large church but you will find many art treasures. We do like ti and we think you will too. It is open daily from 10am to 6pm.
What will you find in the San Blas Church
Like any pulpit, San Blas has a balcony (bucket), a sound board (cupola), a thorax (main body) and a gallery (entrance). The balcony is spherical and contains eight bronze busts that represent (according to Catholics) the heretics as: Martin Luther, the inventor of Lutheranism and head of the religious reform in Germany and Catalina de Bora, wife of Luther, the creator of Calvinism in Switzerland and France John Calvin, Ulrich Zwingli, friend and follower of Calvin, Henry VIII, the king of England who denied the authority of the Pope and created Anglicanism, Elizabeth of England who was the daughter and follower of Henry VIII, Arius, native of Alexandria and founder of Arianism, Phocion who together with Arius made the Great Schism of the Orthodox Greeks or the Eastern Schism.
There are also the sculptures of San Bonaventure, San Tomás de Aquino, San Agustín, San Gregorio el grande, San Jerónimo, San Bernardo and San Francisco, the doctors of the church and later, crowning the pulpit and supported by five archangels is the representation of Saint Paul de Tarsus (Carreño thinks it is San Tomas and some others think it is Jesus Christ) with a crucifix in his hand; before the feet of Saint Paul there is a skull that supposedly belongs to the author of the pulpit.
Also, there are sculpted images of the four evangelists; Saint Matthew, Saint Mark, Saint John and Saint Luke. In the center is the sculpture of the Immaculate Conception . In the main body of the pulpit is the figure of San Blas, the Holy Sponsor of the parish. On this effigy is the coat of arms of Bishop Mollinedo y Angulo.
On the eastern side there is another carving made in 1678 by Tuyro Tupaq and his son Mateo that belongs to the Virgin of the Good Event . There are some other images that correspond to San Blas, San José and the Lord of the Agony that has movable limbs. Towards the side of the entrance there is a cross made with a single piece of Chachacomo wood (Andean tree). The church has a high choir with golden cedar wood supports. On the side walls there are eight anonymous covers with gilded frames that depict the San Blas torment.
Take a little ‘brake’
He already visited enough for a day. If it is lunchtime, you choose very good restaurants in San Blas like Pachapapa or return to have lunch near the Plaza de Armas. It will be much easier now because it will be down.
Be sure to rest a little before continuing with the tour.
Visit the Palace of the Admiral
To the north of the cathedral next to the Balcony of Cusco is one of the most beautiful residences of the city; the Palacio del Almirante , which has a spectacular view from Cuesta del Almirante street, which flows into the square and now houses the Inka Museum .
This museum has recently been updated and is one of the best tourist attractions in Cusco to visit and witness mummies, trepanned skulls, Inca fabrics and various Queros wooden glasses.
Tour the Koricancha or Temple of Santo Domingo
One of the most recommended places to visit is the Koricancha (Qoricancha) or Sitio de Oro , where the Convent of Santo Domingo has been built . This was the most important temple of the Inkca, where the Sun was worshiped and was built with structures of the most delicate polished stones.
The Koricancha, according to the chroniclers, was one of the most impressive buildings of the Inca Cusco; inside the walls were covered with gold plates, since it was the main temple of the Sun God. The Spaniards built on the original construction, around 1534, the church and the Dominican convent, which collapsed as a consequence of the 1650 earthquake and They were rebuilt around 1681.
Nowadays this construction is a sample of the miscegenation between the western and indigenous culture. Its imposing facade sports a vast sample of the Renaissance and its baroque tower stands out on the roof of the city.
The convent has a very valuable gallery with canvases from the Escuela Cusqueña from the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries that is worth to visit. This visit can take 2 or 3 hours.
Visit La Merced Church and Convent
If you still have time, heading south west through Portal Belen Street , you will find the La Merced Convent and Church that has one of the most beautiful cloisters in Peru.
The church, of baroque style, was built between 1657 and 1680. The sacristy keeps its most precious treasure, an impressive custody in gold and precious stones of 1.3 m high and 22 kg in weight, crowned by a large pearl in the form of a mermaid, considered the second largest in the world.
It also boasts a fausful decoration where numerous paintings are exhibited. colonial and a piece of 1.3 m high and 22 Kg., weight of pure gold with precious stones crowned by a large pearl in the shape of mermaid considered the second largest in the world.
Tour the Museum and Convent of Santa Catalina
They were built in 1605 on top of the old Acllahuasi or “House of the Chosen” (the acllas were women dedicated to special work for the Inca).
Its architecture corresponds to the last stages of the Renaissance and is characterized by its arches of Roman style. Inside, the traces of the original construction can still be seen. It has an exhibition hall of mural paintings, goldsmith work, textiles, sculptures and altarpieces.
Exhibitions of painting, textiles, wood carvings and colonial altarpieces. The pieces that stand out are Diego Quispe Tito’s paintings and the carpet of the Arcade Gallery, as well as religious ornaments with gold and silver threads.
Visit the House of the Inca Garcilazo de la Vega
House of the Inca Garcilazo de la Vega
If you feel that you still have energy and you have time left, you can visit this popular museum one block south of the Plaza de Armas.
He must have taken all day, he must be tired but happy that he knew Cusco walking, took many photos. Rest and when you recover your energies you will be able to know Cusco at Nigh.
TOURIST ATTRACTIONS IN CUSCO SURROUNDING
Map of Inca Ruins in Cusco Region and the Sacred Valley of the Incas
The Sacred Valley of the Incas
The main ruins around Cusco and Cusco itself are located in the Sacred Valley of the Incas which is a whole region in the north of Cusco and on the banks of the Urubamba . It is a fertile zone, once inhabited by the Incas. In every pre-Columbian Inca town there are Inca ruins today. The two largest are Pisac and Ollantaytambo .
This area today is home to a series of typical Andean villages running their daily lives in the Andes. Highlights include the Pisac Market and Ruins of Pisac , the Inca complexes of Moray and Salinas , and the beautiful city and ruins of Ollantaytambo .
INCA RUINS IN SURROUNDINGS OF CUSCO
Archeological Complex of Sacsayhuamán
Sacsayhuamán, is absolutely an obligatory destination in your visit to Cusco. It is not in the same city but very close. By taxi from the city and along 2 kilometers away to the north side you will reach this splendid monument made of huge stones, which leaves the thought of having been built by a civilization of giants.
Sacsayhuamán, which means Satisfied Falcon, began to be built in the 15th century during the government of Pachacútec and was continued by Túpac Yupanqui and concluded by Huayna Cápac in the 16th century.
Of dazzling structure and covered by a dense carpet of green vegetation, the imposing “Ceremonial Fortress of Sacsayhuaman” is the largest architectural military work done by the Incas in its imperial boom.
When you visit Sacsayhuaman and stroll through its shreds you can see large warehouses where it is presumed that the Incas kept many provisions and weapons, you can also find water distribution channels. The throne of the Inca is located next to the fortress and consisted of a large carved and polished stone of several levels, where the monarch presided over the celebrations and gave the orders.
In Sacsayhuamán takes place one of the ceremonies of the Inti Raymi in adoration to the Sun god. This ceremony is carried out at the beginning of the winter solstice, every June 21, time in which the Sun is in the farthest position of the earth, just the Incas knowing this phenomenon, performed the Inti Raymi for that the sun bless a new year of agricultural success, something that ultimately was in the interest of the entire town. This meeting is attended by visitors from all parts of the world.
- If you are in good physical condition and acclimatized to the height of Cusco and decide to walk it will take about 45 minutes to an hour from the Plaza de Armas.
- : If you have the opportunity to stand on top of some of the great walls of the fortress you can get a particular view of the entire city of Cusco.
It is at the eastern end of the Sacred Valley. The valley is narrow here than in Urubamba or Písac, with the closest mountains on each side, to make a more dramatic environment. Located at the foot of an ancient archaeological site, the small town of Ollantaytambo, of 2,000 inhabitants, is the most beautiful city in the Sacred Valley. The city is located further up the main road, and built on an uneven terrain. The stone stairs are beautifully framed by stone arches.
Ollantaytambo is one of the only two places in Sacred Valley where you can take the train to Aguas Calientes (the entrance to Machu Picchu). Although most people take the train from Cusco to Aguas Calientes directly, the trip from Ollantaytambo is a shorter and less expensive train journey.
This construction is known as the Baños del Inca, but there are those who maintain that it was actually a temple of water worship. The archaeological site of Tambomachay is located about 8 km north of the city of Cuzco, in the southern highlands of Peru. The beautiful fountains and rural atmosphere in this tourist attraction, one of the most visited in the area.
Small village on the banks of the Urubamba River, where traditionally a Sunday fair is held, where products are exchanged between the different towns in the area. In addition, due to the large influx of tourists you can also buy crafts and other non-agricultural products. Many people visit Pisac for the Sunday market, but there are also small markets on Tuesday and Thursday. The ruins of the citadel of Pisac, was part of the route that united the Inca Empire with Paucartambo, on the border of the oriental jungles.
Q’enqo / Quenko
Literally translated as “zig-zag ‘, Q’enqo is the name given to these most fascinating ruins, located just 4 km / 2.5 miles northeast of Cusco. The general opinion is that the archaeological site of Q’enqo was used for religious ceremonies, since the limestone monolith is carved with symbolic zigzags, possibly used for ritual sacrifices when they served as blood channels. At the top of the Q’enqo are recorded images of several animals, including a llama and the puma, while below, a large semi-circular amphitheater is kept in good condition, along with the carved stairs and tunnels.
This ancient city had been lost for hundreds of years and was rediscovered by the American Hiram Brigham in 1911. UNESCO declared it a World Heritage Site and was also considered one of the New 7 Wonders of the World. Anchored on a great mountain that dominates the canyon of the Urubamba River, Machu Picchu is located in the middle of tropical jungle that for its thick vegetation adorns with fresh green the whole stone wall producing a stunning picture for anyone who visits it.
Getting to Aguas Calientes
After having crossed 4 hours by train from Cusco through a spectacular geography you reach the town of Aguas Calientes, a peculiar village where the most outstanding are its restaurants of Peruvian food where you can find a varied menu with dishes from different regions of Peru. the Cuy Chactado, the duck rice , the Trout Baked, the Marinated Chicken, among many other options that seduce the palate. There is also a handicraft market where artists from the area and nearby places offer their works, it is advisable to spend a night to know the festive spirit of this small town that invites you
In raining seasons it is very important that you get early to Machu Picchu because clouds tend to for in the afternoon and may cutshort your visit.
Getting to Machu Picchu Citadel
In Aguas Calientes there is a stop for buses that take you to Machu Picchu a trip that takes approximately from 10 minutes. The cost of this service is 12 dollars.
Upon arriving at the entrance to Machu Picchu there is a control center where the tourist registers and pays a fee to the Peruvian INC (Instituto Nacional de Cultura, National Institute of Culture) for the admission to the citadel. You can then choose to hire a tour guide, for one or two hours depending of long you plan to stay there. Two hours or more is advisable.
Around Machu Picchu citadel
Machu PIcchu past contains the mysteries and strategies of the first Peruvians, both at the organizational level for the work of agriculture, as well as for religious concentration and the worship of the Sun God. It consists of two important areas:
- The urban part that shows the work of its walls through its temples, squares and royal mausoleums worked sacredly on rock with a distinguished perfectionist taste.
- The agricultural one; where you can see various platforms and food stores.
The city has many stone carved staircases that are the subject of admiration throughout the construction. In front of the lost city of the Incas , the Huayna Picchu hill rises, which can be reached by a narrow stone path.
In Machu Picchu you will experience the profound knowledge of the Inca about its natural resources and its deep love for the land that today the Andean man conserves for the good of humanity.
We should not miss anything from Cusco, but if we have to choose the best of the best tourist attractions in Cusco we must say it is with Machu Picchu. Very few things in life can be compared to the experience of visiting this ancient magical sanctuary.