One of my favorite cities, Cuzco is located in southeastern Peru in the towering Andes mountains of South America. Founded in 1100 in a fertile valley, this city rests at an elevation of 11,152 feet (3,400 m). It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The two most notable human influences of Cuzco (also spelled Cusco) are the Inca civilization, occupying Cuzco from the 13th to the 16th Centuries; and the Spanish culture which took over in 1532. Many native cultures occupied Cuzco before the Inca, less is known.
The beauty of Cuzco today is the combined cultures of the past.
Another major influence of the region are the colossal Andes mountains. The longest mountain range in the world, and the highest outside of Asia, the mountains loom large in every aspect of Cuzco…as they have for tens of millions of years.
Isolated by the mountains, the people of this area have perpetuated skills and crafts over the centuries. Textiles, agriculture, and an array of ancient techniques that were practiced centuries ago still flourish today. Flora and fauna are also unique to the high altitudes.
During the Inca civilization, communities were masterfully constructed. They built exquisite walls of granite and limestone, designed to utilize the commanding topography. Temples, roadways, domiciles, and aqueducts dominated the land.
When the Spanish conquered the area in 1532, they built their structures over the Inca city and its magnificent walls. Colonial cathedrals and other Spanish architecture can be seen today in Cuzco, most prominently in the center of town at the Plaza de Armas.
Fortunately, the Inca structures were not lost. In fact, my favorite part of the area are the Inca ruins.
Today, the ruins of these walls can be found throughout the Cuzco region. They are not only in the city, but in surrounding towns; the most famous complex being Machu Picchu.
Links of interest:
With the vast array of incredible stone masonry from the Inca, as well as colonial architecture that still stands, it is easy to wander around in Cuzco and its mountaintops imagining life as it was in earlier centuries.
Written by Jet Eliot.
Photos by Athena Alexander unless otherwise specified.