Cusco in southern Peru is the old Inca capital and is still the jewel in the Peruvian crown. Now a World Heritage Site, it was developed by the Inca warrior king Pachacuteq during the 15thcentury. Before that, it was a centre of pre-Inca civilisation for 3,000 years. A stay here is an absolute must for any visit to Peru, as holidays in Cusco offer a multitude of amazing experiences, both in and outside the city.
The Spanish built on top of the old Inca structures, so you can literally see the city’s layers of history and culture. The Inca were master builders and their beautifully fitted and polished stonework can be seen in the Plaza des Armas, the main square, and along the pretty cobbled streets which surround it. The Inca built without mortar and their astonishing craftsmanship remains earthquake-proof, which is more than can be said for the Spanish superstructures, many of which have had to be rebuilt.
Cusco is noted for its indigenous population and dress and the native Quechua language, which are all very evident in the narrow sloping streets and the squares. There are plenty of street hawkers but these people are gentle and during your holiday in Cusco you will not be harassed.
Among the must-see sites on holidays to Cusco are the massive cathedral, built by the Spanish and the magnificent Temple of the Sun, once the most important in the Inca empire. The cathedral was built over the Inca palace of Wiracocha and completed in 1664, a hundred years after it was ordered. The building is huge and very ornamental, with astonishing quantities of gold and silver. Here you can see the fusion of the two religious cultures. The most famous example is the painting of The Last Supper, by indigenous artist Zapata, who managed, against strict Spanish rules, to incorporate the traditional Peruvian meal of guinea pig and the local drink chicha!
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