Cusco is known as the ‘archaeological capital of the Americas’ (Lonely Planet). Nowhere else you have that easy access to old Inca ruins and the impressive culture of the Incas, as well in the city centre as in the wide surroundings of Cusco. The exciting en dynamic city centre was built by the Spaniards on rests of Inca temples and palaces and is nowadays still as crowded and lively as it was in the heydays of the Inca emporium. Relax and enjoy at one of the many beautiful squares of Cusco. Visit the traditional Peruvian markets or walk around in the picturesque San Blas district. Furthermore there are several museums telling the history of the Inca culture.
Cusco is surrounded by impressive archaeological sites like the citadel of Machu Picchu, the vesting of Sacsayhuaman, the old Inca city Ollantaybambo and picturesque cities like Pisaq, Calca and Yucay, which still guard the traditions of their ancestors. Cusco is also the operating base for the famous Inca trail, a four day trail over an old Inca path alongside ruins ending in Machu Picchu. Below the most important sights to visit in and around Cusco are described.
Cathedral of Cusco
Plaza de Armas
The Cathedral of Cusco was originally built inside the Inca structure of the Suntur Wasi, currently the Church of El Triunfo. Years later, the Cathedral was ordered to be rebuilt in the Kiswarcancha (Palace of Inca Wiracocha). It contains examples of liturgical and religious objects.
Qoricancha Temple of the Sun
Santo Domingo Church
The Church and Convent of Santo Domingo are, without doubt, amongst the most beautiful examples of Spanish architecture superimposed on Inca constructions to be found in Cusco. This complex was built over the original Qoricancha, meaning the Temple of the Sun. It contains original Inca architecture.
Pre-Colombian Art Museum
Plaza de las Nazarenas
The Museo de Arte Precolombino (Pre-Columbian Art Museum) was an Inca ceremonial court around 1450 AD. In 1580 it became the mansion of the conqueror Alonso Díaz and in 1850 of the Earl of Cabrera. It has been restored to be the Pre-Columbian Art Museum since June 2003. This extraordinary Cusco historic monument contains the only museum in Peru dedicated to restoring the arts of ancient Peruvian cultures.
Santa Catalina Convent
Santa Catalina 190
The current convent was reconstructed in 1653 and the church dates from 1669. It is built where the Acllahuasi was once located. It possesses a museum and contains an exhibition of religious art.
Plazoleta Espinar – Mantas
The temple is adorned with beautiful canvases of the Escuela Cusqueña. Their most valuable treasure is an object of unimaginable value: a goldsmith piece made of gold, weighing 22 kg., and measuring 1.3 meters in height, which contains 2 enormous pearls and 615 smaller pearls, 1,581 diamonds, as well as emeralds, rubies and topazes. It contains Colonial Cusco School paintings from the 17th to 18th centuries. Visit the cloister of carved stone and see other objects of religious arts.
Museum of religious Art, Archbishop's Palace
Calle Los Herraje
This is a beautiful colonial building, especially the front and side balconies. Where the Museum of Religious Art is located, there is an exhibition of religious art pieces of the colonial era.
San Blas Neighbourhood
Plaza San Blas
The San Blas neighbourhood consists of narrow and high streets, with artistic decorations, particularly the doorways, balconies, windows and balustrades. It also offers a beautiful little plaza, with an attractive fountain. In this district numerous artists and artisans reside, including the workshops of famous families such as the Mendivil, Olave and Mérida. San Blas is also home to renowned crafts people who have brought international fame to Cusqueña art. It is one of the best ways to capture the spirit of the ancient Inca capital.
There are various Inca ruins close to the city center of Cusco. The important site of Sacsayhuaman is located above the center of Cusco and Q’enqo, Puca Pucara and Tambomachay are located just behind Sacsayhuaman. It is possible to visit Cusco’s most important sights in one day with the Cusco city tour. The city tour is a half day tour to: the Qoricancha Temple of the sun, Sacsayhuaman, Qenko, Tambomochay and Puca Pucara. The tour includes transport, guide and entrance to the temple of the sun. Contact us for more information about the city tour >
The site is considered unique in the world due to its singular architectural characteristics. In building Sacsayhuaman, the Incas used stone blocks of up to 9 meters high and 5 meters wide, each fitting perfectly. The fortress is approximately 360 meters long and has doors, galleries and watchtowers at strategic points.
Q'Enqo or Kenko
This is a sanctuary dedicated to the adoration of animals. The site was formed from a rocky place, and contains zigzagging stairs. The main building is like a circular amphitheatre, where 19 window sills are located as seats. There is a labyrinth entrance to underground galleries, passages, channels, and stairs with signs of a remote culture; these reveal a series of drawings and engravings, including outstanding figures of pumas.
This Inca archaeological site, located on a hill top, was a military post and an administrative centre. It is a fortification formed by platforms, stairs, passages, turrets, windowsills and a wall that defends the whole construction in a circular shape.
This was an Inca sanctuary dedicated to the cult of the water, and it was a reserved place for the Inca. It is known as the "Baños del Inca" (Inca's spa). And is constructed of fine stonework with amazing hydraulic engineering.