Travelers flock to Cusco because it’s the jumping off place to explore Machu Picchu, one of the world’s archeological wonders. But this Peruvian city high in the Andes Mountains shouldn’t be skirted. As the historic capital of the Inca Empire it’s a great place to learn about the Incan culture, adding a new dimension to the Machu Picchu experience. Considered the center of their universe by the indigenous Incas, Cusco is a beautiful city with numerous historic sites just waiting to be explored. Spanish colonial buildings and ancient Inca ruins are just some of the top tourist attractions in Cusco:
Voyagers who need to recognize what life in Peru was similar to before the Spanish arrived ought to go to the Museo Inka, one of the city’s top historical centers. The Museo Inka is loaded with Inca ancient rarities; and is particularly celebrated for its accumulation of Inca mummies and drinking vessels. Different shows spread adornments, pottery and materials. The exhibition hall, which was based on top of an Incan castle, is housed in what is known as the Admiral’s House, after the first proprietor, Admiral Francisco Aldrete Maldonado. In the sunny patio, Andean weavers exhibit their art and offer conventional materials specifically to people in general.
Most people know the Incas were great builders, but many travelers may not be aware they also were great astronomers. They defined constellations, and even constructed Cusco’s main streets so they would align with the stars at various times during the year; Cusco was, after all, the center of their universe. Visitors can learn what constellations were important to the Incas and how the stars ruled their lives during nightly tours. There is also the chance to look up at the heavens through powerful telescopes on a visit to this great attraction in Cusco. Advance reservations are required.
Every year on June 24, Cusco hosts the second largest festival in South America when it celebrates the Inti Raymi Festival. This Festival of the Sun originated centuries ago to celebrate the winter solstice, which is in June in the southern hemisphere. The festival was banned after the Spanish conquered the Incas, but returned in the mid-20th century. Today, Peruvians wear traditional costumes to celebrate with dancing and parades, but mass sacrifices are no longer carried out, as the Incas re-enact their life in its heyday. The colorful scene takes place at Sacsayhuamán just outside Cusco.
A great example of stonemason techniques practiced by the Incas is the Twelve Angle Stone found in the middle of Hatunrumiyoc, a narrow cobblestone street that is one of the best preserved Inca roads in Cusco. A wall that was once part of an Inca palace, dominates the street. The 12-sided stone structure features 12 perfect corners. The stones come together so tightly that nothing can be inserted between them, though no mortar is used. Visitors say night is the best time to get photos of the stones.