Cusco, otherwise written as Cuzco or times even in Quechua as Q’osqo, was the capital of the Incan Empire for over one hundred and fifty years, and is now the tourism and adventure capital of South America. Currently there are around 400,000 people living in this beautiful, colonial, ans Spanish-tiled city which is located at a lung-bursting altitude of nearly 12,000 feet above sea level
There are several Incan archaeological sites strung out in a line just on the highway just above Cusco, but the reality is that the entire city is an Incan archaeological museum.Most of the modern buildings on and around the main square, the Plaza de Armas, are built on top of original Inca foundations. Everywhere you look you will find Inca stones, including the famous 12 sided stone just a bit above the Plaza de Armas. Yes, it is a very ‘touristy’ city but it is quite beautiful and not a bad place to spend a day and a night if you don’t mind big cities – however, we highly recommend doing this at the end of your trip rather than the beginning after you have acclimated. Many people get sick upon arriving due to the high altitude and rigors of international flight.
There are a couple museums and churches on the main square, but the highlight in our opinion is the string of Incan sites located just above and outside of the city. It is possible to walk the entire route if you have the entire day and want the workout, otherwise a better option is to take a taki up to the last site (Tambo Machay), then you can walk back down to Cusco, downhill, while visiting the sites along the way. Tambo Machay is an awesome site featuring carved stones built for the purpose of the glorification of water – very cool ! After that is Puka Pukara (“red fort” in Quechua) that is an interesting site to stop in at, followed a bit further downhill towards Cusco the site of Q’uenko, with its countless stones carved into channels and designs as though it were soft butter rather than hard granite. Last and nearest to Cusco is the crown jewel, Sacsayhuaman (sometimes called “sexy woman” since it is easier to pronounce and a bit funner to say). Sacsayhuaman is the foundations of what was once an incredible set of towers overlooking the city in Incan times. Seeing the foundation, one can only imagine what the towers must have looked like. That they were able to carve and then place these massive, massive blocks of stone atop one another is a real tribute to the Incas and their engineering skills. It costs 40 soles to get into any one of these sites, much better is to buy a partial Boleto Turistico (Tourist Ticket) that gets you into all of these sites for 70 soles, or else the full monte Bolteo Turistico which costs 140 soles but also includes Pisaq, Ollantaytambo, Moray, and Chincheros.