A quick history of Cusco City, hotel Recommendations and some of our favorite suggestions of what to do in the city.
Quick History of Cusco
Many people struggle to tell the ancient civilizations of the Americas — Mayan, Inca, and Aztec— apart. The Inca Empire was actually the largest and most prolific of the three, and despite being seated in the great heights of the Andes Mountains, its capital Cusco had as many as 200,000 people. This was a staggering amount for the 1400s (more than London and Rome combined at that time).
The Inca population was so large despite the mountainous conditions because the people had toiled to build over 14,000 miles of roads. They developed impressive irrigation techniques to deliver water to such a lofty altitude. At the heart of it all was (and is!) the grand city of Cusco, Peru, which sat sacredly at the meeting point of three rivers: Huatanay, Tullumayo, and Chunchul. The Inca people took advantage of these to construct their masterful canals and irrigation system, which led not only to agricultural growth, but eventually paved the way to great prosperity. This wealth is most easily seen in Cusco’s biggest structure, Coricancha, which was covered in gold and emeralds and was a shrine to their main god, the sun god Inti.
Inca rulers didn’t live in Coricancha, though; they always built their own large palace, and from that vantage point, commanded a strong military through which the Inca Empire conquered more and more surrounding lands. Cusco itself was built in the shape of a puma, an animal with religious significance because it was associated with the sky and thunder god, Viracocha.
Besides the puma-like strength with which the Incas took over neighboring lands, the Inca people also had strong spirits of merriment. Poorer people (who lived at a lower elevation on the “body” of the puma) and richer people (who lived at a higher elevation on the “head” of the puma) still gathered together often as equals, at the “center” of the puma’s body. This was the main hub of the city, with two beautiful plazas. Real beach sand was imported to these terraces, and religious celebrations were hosted there — with a giant golden bowl of beer as the centerpiece of many holidays!
Today, Cusco maintains much of the structure and many of the original buildings of the great Inca Empire. From residential homes to temples and churches, visitors to Cusco will have a lot of ancient preserved majesty to take in. Understanding the cultural background of the Inca Empire makes this sightseeing even more rewarding.
Where to stay in Cusco?
Cusco has a tremendous amount of hotels now that tourism has become so big. And the service and rooms are really top notch even when you don't have a big budget. Staying close to the main square is useful as its close to everything you will want to visit and also to our offices. Pick up and drop off is easiest when staying is this area as well. We do recommend avoiding Air BnBs as the locations are hard to find and takes a very long time for pick up since they are often on very small streets that our vans can't drive down. Here are some of our favorite spots...
Tierra Viva San Blas
Amaru Hostel I
Monday through Saturday 9AM - 1PM & 3PM - 7:30PM
Sunday 4:30PM - 7:30PM
SALES TEAM HOURS
Monday through Friday 9:00AM - 1:00PM & 3:00PM - 7:30PM
Saturday 8:30AM - 1PM
**All Bookings done during weekends will be confirmed Monday morning.**
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