Anyone that has considered traveling to Peru has probably done so because they wanted to see Machu Picchu. Considered one of the wonders of the ancient world, Machu Picchu offers the breathtaking experience of exploring ancient ruins built atop a mountain ridge in the Andes Mountains of southern Peru. Most of us have seen pictures of Machu Picchu but, as beautiful as the pictures are, they do not compare to being there in person. But that is not much of a secret - thousands of tourists visit the ruins each year. What many of these tourists are missing out on, however, is another remarkable experience, located just 50 miles away.
Cusco Peru - Part Of The Inca Empire
Cusco, Peru was the capital of the ancient Inca Empire until European conquests disrupted the ancient kingdom. The city stands today as a fascinating blend of cultures, clearly representing the ancient Incan culture but with a heavy European influence. Cusco is studded with a number of impressive Catholic cathedrals—the two most prominent are located in the city’s Plaza de Armas (main square). Most of the major streets are made of cobblestone and much of the architecture reflects the heavy European influence, leading many to call Cusco the most beautiful city in Peru and one of the most beautiful cities in all of South America.
In addition to beautiful European architecture, Cusco retains many Incan roots. Qorikancha serves as perhaps the best symbol of the fusion of two cultures. Qorikancha (Golden Temple) was the most important temple in the Inca Empire and was principally dedicated to Inti, their Sun God. The foundation of the temple remains to this day and built atop that foundation is the Convent of Santo Domingo, build in the Renaissance style.
Festival of The Sun
The ancient Incan celebration honoring Inti is still held every year in June. Inti Raymi (“Festival of the Sun”) is a weeklong celebration and the second largest festival in South America. It includes parades and performances that fill the cobblestone streets with performers in elaborate costumes of vivid colors and provides a glimpse into the heart of an ancient and proud culture. While much of the festival takes place in Cusco’s Plaza de Armas, one day features a procession up into the nearby hills for the dramatic recreation of an ancient Incan sacrificial ritual.
Vincent Stokes is a freelance writer for Summit Pacific. Through Summit Pacific, experiencing Bali Hai and other magical places is made easy.