Cuzco is the oldest continuously inhabited city in America. It is the archaeological capital of the continent. The name of the city is derived from the Quechua word Qusqu, which means “navel of the world”. The importance of the city derives from its role as the capital of the Inca Empire. According to legend, the city was founded by the Inca Manco Capac in the 12th century.
After Pizarro conquered Cuzco in 1533, the Spaniards were expelled again in 1536. After the reconquest, the Spaniards were able to integrate the city into their colonial empire and secure it as a base. They built richly decorated churches over Inca temples. Today, therefore, visitors are presented with the image of a city with influences from the Incas, from the colonial times and modern tourist influences.
Cuzco is located at 3400m above sea level and has around 400.000 inhabitants. The old traditions have not been forgotten. Colored textiles keep the past alive. Indigenous rites and Catholic ceremonies meet in the fiestas and the carnival.
Most of the sights are around the Plaza de Armas. The impressive cathedral is on the square. The Iglesia de la Compañia de Jesus was built on the site of the last Inca ruler Huayna Cápac. Several museums illuminate the different historical epochs of the city and Machu Picchu.
In addition to the famous ruins of Machu Picchu, there are several other notable destinations for day trips: in the sacred valley you can visit interesting old ruins, small colonial towns and beautiful markets. The rainbow mountain offers a fascinating, colorful sight. Several Inca ruins, including Saqsaywamán, are in the immediate vicinity of Cuzco.