Cuzco is really the gateway to the Sacred Valley. Due to the city being the historic capital of the Incan Empire, it was given World Heritage Site status in 1982 soon after Peru recognised the World Heritage convention. There are eleven such sites in Peru. Our elevation? 3,400 meters.
Situated in the Peruvian Andes, Cuzco developed, under the Inca ruler Pachacutec, into a complex urban centre with distinct religious and administrative functions. It was surrounded by clearly delineated areas for agricultural, artisan and industrial production. When the Spaniards conquered it in the 16th century, they preserved the basic structure but built Baroque churches and palaces over the ruins of the Inca city.
Our walking tour started at the Koricancha (Sun Temple), or Quikancha. This temple was the most important temple in the Inca Empire, dedicated primarily to Inti, the Sun God. The carving and placement of the stones had great significance in relation to the rising and setting of the sun. The positions of the stars at specific times of the year, were also taken into account.
The coach takes us to see and wander through the ruins of the Sacsayhuaman fortress on the hill overlooking this busy city of between 5 and 700,000 people (No one is quite sure). The way the Incas moved enormously large stones and shaped them to fit within a wall, is mind boggling.
We then return to the city square and take a tour through Cuzco’s largest Cathedral, which really appears to be three cathedrals side-by-side.
Our afternoon is free to do as we please. Some of us turn up at the Irish Pub for lunch. The only Irish, or close to Irish, we saw were a young couple from the UK. Despite it being a ‘pub’, they did serve up a good plate of Nachos. After a necessary sleep, we wandered around the shops for the afternoon, looking at ways we could help the local economy.
Tomorrow is a full free day in this busy and intriguing city in the Andes.