General Data

• Location: The department of Cusco is located in the southeastern region of Peru.

• Area: 72 104 km2

• Capital: Cusco (3 399 masl)

• Altitude: 532 masl (Pilcopata) Lowest town. 4 801 masl (Suyckutambi) highest town.

• Average annual temperature: 11º C (17º C maximum and -02º C minimum).

• Rainy season: November to March.

Access Routes

• By land: The most recommended is the Lima-Arequipa-Cusco route (1 650 km). The trip takes about 24 h by car.

• There is also another route from Lima-Nasca-Puquio-Avabcnay-Cusco (1 131 km). This trip takes about 26 h by car.

• By railroad: There is a train service linking Cusco from city of Puno. The trip along the Juliaca-Puno-Cusco route (435 km) takes about 11h.

• By air: There are daily flights from Lima to Cusco (about 1 h).

Historical Overview

According to the legend, Cusco, the sacred city and capital of the Tahuantinsuyo empire, was founded around the eleventh and twelfth century AD by Inca Manco Cápac, who emerged from Lake Titicaca. Cusco was the center of government of four large administrative regions of the Inca empire that extended over most of what is now Ecuador, Colombia, Peru, Bolivia, Argentina and Chile. The Inca society was an admirable example of political and social organization. The Incas possessed vast knowledge in the areas of architecture, hydraulics, medicine and agriculture. On March 23rd, 1534, Francisco Pizarro founded a Spanish city upon the foundations of the Inca buildings which makes Cusco a typical example of cultural fusion, which has also inherited invaluable monuments and works of art. Important insurrections against Spanish domination took place in Colonial Cusco such as the ones led by José Gabriel Condorcanqui (Túpac Amaru II) in 1 780, the Angulo brothers in 1 813 and Mateo Pumacahua in 1 814. In 1 911, American investigator Hiram Bingham discovered the impressive Inca citadel of Machu Picchu. Today, tourism and agriculture are Cusco’s main economic activities.

Attraction in the city

The Main Square (Plaza de Armas)
Known in Inca times as Huacaypata or the Warrior’s Square, this was the scene for many key events in Cusco’s history. It was here that the Inty Raymi or Sun Feast was hosted every year; and it was also here that Francisco Pizarro declared the conquer of Cusco. With the arrival of the Spaniards, the square was fringed by beautiful stone arches which remain in place to this day.

The Cathedral
Main Square. Visits: Monday to Saturday 8:00-12:00 and 14:00-17:00. It was originally built on the site of the old temple of Sunturwasi (House of God), in what is now the El Triunfo church. It was built later on the top of the Palace of Inca Wiracocha. Its façade and interior were both built in Renaissance style. The interior is decorated with cedar and alder wood carvings. To be noted are the carvings by Martín Torres and Melchor Huamán. Of particular value are the choir, the pulpit, the engravings in the altars and furniture. Other highlights include the paintings by important artists and embossed silver work.

San Blas Quarter
Located 4 blocks from the Main Square. One of the most picturesque quarters in Cusco, known as the Craftmen´s District, it houses the city’s most important popular artists. Colonial constructions of great charm are built along Its narrow, steep streets. There are family accommodations for tourists who are allowed to share the well-known hospitality and friendship of the Andean people as well as their customs and food.

La Compañía de Jesús Church
Main Square, beside the Cathedral. Visits: Monday to Sunday 6:00-9:00 and 18:00-21:00. Formerly known as Amaru Cancha (The Snake’s Fence), the palace of Inca Huayna Cápac is a splendid stone building. The splendid temple houses paintings such as the one depicting the wedding of a nephew of Saint Ignatius of Loyola with a native princess.

La Merced Church and Convent
Calle Mantas. Visits: Monday to Saturday 8:00-12:00 and 14:00-17:00. Founded in 1 536, it has a beautiful Baroque stonework cloister. The sacristy houses a monstrance made of gold and precious stones.

Santo Domingo Church and Convent / Koricancha
Corner of Av. El Sol and calle Santo Domingo. Visits: Monday to Saturday 8:00-17:00. Spanish construction belonging to the Dominican Order built upon the foundations of the Inca temple of Koricancha or Temple of the Sun. Koricancha (in quechua, site of gold) was the main religious building of the Incas dedicated to the worship of the Sun and whose walls, according to the chroniclers, were plated with sheets of gold. Magnificent blocks of finely carved stone were used in its construction.

Santa Catalina Church and Convent
Calle Santa Catalina Angosta. Visits: during Mass hours. Its architecture belongs to the last stages of Renaissance with the presence of Roman-style arch.

Calle Loreto. Visits: during Santa Catalina Convent’s Mass hours. House of the Virgins of the Sun. This place served as home for selected women.

San Blas Church
Plazoleta San Blas. Visits: Monday to Saturday 14:00-17:30. The oldest parish church in Cusco, San Blas is located in the Craftsmen’s quarter. Its impressive pulpit is an outstanding example of woodcarving in pure Spanish Baroque style.

San Francisco Church and Convent
Plaza San Francisco.
Visits: Monday to Saturday 14:00-17:00. The convent houses a huge 12 m x 9 m painting by Juan Espinoza de los Monteros showing the Franciscan family tree.

The Archbishop’s Palace
Corner of calle Hatun Rumiyoc and Jr. Herrajes. Visits: Monday to Saturday 8:00-11:00 and 15:00-17:30. At present a religious art museum, this colonial construction with Arab influence was built upon the foundations of the palace of emperor Inca Roca.

The Admiral’s Palace
Calle Cuesta del Almirante 153. Visits: Monday to Saturday 8:00-17:00. Seat of the Inca museum that houses a large variety of archaeological remains found in the Cusco area including pottery, textiles, gold and silver articles and Inca mummies.

The House of the Four Busts
Calle San Agustín 400. No admittance. Colonial-style mansion which shows in its façade four busts, a coat of arms and a small shield.

House of Inca Garcilaso de la Vega
Calle Heladeros s/n. Visits: Monday to Saturday 8:00-17:30 This house belonged to the renowned chronicler. Built over an Inca terrace, it is a unique example of colonial architecture. At present, the seat of the Regional Historical Museum, the house keeps paintings from the colonial Cusco School.

Kiswar Kancha
Located in the Main Square. No admittance. Beside the church of la Compañía de Jesús. It was the home of Inca Huiracocha.

Calle Hatun Rumiyoc No admittance. Two blocks from the Main Square. It was the home of Inca Roca and one of its walls, which faces the street of the same name, features the famous 12-cornered stone.

Outskirts of the city

At 2 km and about 10 minutes drive or 25 minutes walk from Cusco, this huge Inca fortress is built on three overlapping platforms, each of them over 360 m long. These platforms are connected by stone stairways and access doors, one of which is 9 m high and 5 m wide.

At 3 km and about 15 minutes drive from Cusco, it is said to have been a worship site. There is a huge 5,9 m high stone block that looks like a puma. There are also passages, canals and stairways with stone engravings representing animals.

Puca Pucará
At 6 km and about 30 minutes drive or 2 h walk from Cusco, it was an administrative and military center formed by terraces, stairways, passages, turrets and vaulted niches.

At 7 km and about 35 minutes drive from Cusco. Known as the Inca Baths, this site was meant for the cult of water.

The Sacred Valley of the Incas
The Valley of the Urubamba or Vilcanota river; the valley includes the following towns:

At 32 km and just 1 h drive from Cusco, this town is very reputed for its market fair, its irrigation system and astronomic observatory. Other highlights include the Intiwatana and the terraces.

At 68 km and 1 h 30 minutes drive from Cusco on a beautiful fertile and tempered-climate valley. Some highlights of this locality include the Palace of Inca Manco Sairy Túpac Segundo. Yucay was an important Inca agricultural production center.

At 50 km and about one hour’s drive from Cusco, Calca attracts visitors because of its beautiful landscapes enhanced by the Pitusiray and Sawasiray snow-capped mountains. This province houses the archaeological complex of Huchuy Qosqo, the thermal-medicinal baths of Machacancha (sulphur baths) and Minasmoqo (cold carbonated waters).

At 32 km and just 1 h drive from Cusco, this town is very reputed for its market fair, its irrigation system and astronomic observatory. Other highlights include the Intiwatana and the terraces.

At 32 km and just 1 h drive from Cusco, this town is very reputed for its market fair, its irrigation system and astronomic observatory. Other highlights include the Intiwatana and the terraces.

At 32 km and just 1 h drive from Cusco, this town is very reputed for its market fair, its irrigation system and astronomic observatory. Other highlights include the Intiwatana and the terraces.

At 78 km and about 1 h 25 minutes drive from Cusco following the Pisaq route, and 57 km and about 45 minutes drive following the Chinchero route, this town is located in the heart of the Sacred Valley. It was another pre-Hispanic agriculture center. A fertile and friendly zone where it is possible to stay overnight to start several excursions.

Archaeological park at 97 km, and two-and-a-half hours drive from Cusco. The Ollantaytambo area, known as Valle de Tambo, spreads along the bank of the Vilcanota river up to Machu Picchu, featuring multi-colored fields of maize crops.

At 24 km southwest of Cusco and about 30 minutes drive from the city. It could be called the Land of Bread due to its many ancient domestic ovens still used for making an excellent farm-style bread.

These ruins belonging to the Wari (pre-Inca) culture are located 30 km south of Cusco, about 45 minutes drive. The site was built to fend off military attacks and as a produce warehouse.

Located 39 km south of Cusco and just 1 h drive, its church was founded in 1 580. Its simple façade is in sharp contrast with the expressive richness of the Colonial Baroque art found inside (gold-leaf-covered altars, frescoes, paintings and polychromed ceilings).

Chinchero - Maras Circuit

Located 28 km from Cusco at 3 772 masl, this Inca archaeological complex has also a Colonial church with paintings from the Cusqueña School. Barter is a common activity in Its typical Sunday market.

Located 48 km north of Cusco and about one hour’s drive, Maras was a very prosperous community in Colonial times and has a church and several big houses bearing the coats of arms of indian noblemen. The population is engaged in farming and irrigation activities, particularly sowing and harvesting.

Located 9 km from Maras and about 25 minutes drive, Moray, an experimental Inca farming station, features slightly elliptical terraces.

Salineras (Salt Pans)
Located 10 km from the town of Maras and about 30 minutes drive or 2 h walk, these famous salt mines have been exploited since Inca times. Within the scope of the Interactive Tourism project, PromPerú sponsors the development of certain programs such as:

Interactive Tourism in the Sacred Valley

This program comprises three communities in the Sacred Valley: Pumahuanca, a community that offers visitors the possibility to learn the Andean cultivation techniques along with the local population; the Salineras de Maras where tourists intervene in the process of salt extracting, from a series of more than three thousand pools dating back to pre-Hispanic times; and lastly, Yucay, a locality where agrotourism is practiced in an environment dominated by a system of Inca terraces (former personal possession of Inca Huayna Cápac) and complex hydraulic technology that reveal its historic and agricultural importance.
For more information please send us an e-mail to:

Ancient Routes of Ollantaytambo

Made up of a menu of circuits linking spots with archaeological, landscape and cultural value located in Ollantaytambo, the living Inca city. The routes lead to: •Pumamarca (pre-Inca fortress with an impressive view of the Patacancha valley). •Wílloc (peasant community heiress of the ancient post-Inca ayllus). •Cachiccata (where the stone quarries used to build some of Ollantaytambo’s buildings are located). •Páchar (former hacienda with an interesting archaeological site). •The deposits of Cerro Pinkuylluna. •Lake Yanacocha (the water that used to feed the archaelogical complex was channeled from here).
For more information please send us an e-mail to:


Cusco is characterized by its various folklore expressions, notably the dance of the Chunchos, the Qollas, the Carnival of Cusco, the Dance of the Doctorcitos, the Dance of the Negritos, the Contradanza, the Saqra K’achampa, the Saqsa chilenos, the Panadero, among others.


Cusco’s textiles date back from ancient times, as well as its ceramics. The artisans of the District of San Blas, among them, the Mendivil’s with their peculiar religious images, Edilberto Mérida with his sculptures, Antonio Olave and Gregorio Béjar with their Niños Manuelitos enjoy general recognition in art circles.


Food forms part of the friendly atmosphere found by tourists. Chicherías and picanterías are no longer private sites for Cusqueños and, as everything in the city, they are now centers of attraction. The typical dishes include:

• Kapchi (lima bean or mushroom casserole or soup with potatoes, milk, eggs and cheese.)

• Chicharrón con mote (pork cracklings served with separated mature corn or maize kernels.)

• Humitas (steamed sweet corn dough stuffed with cinnamon and raisins, wrapped in maize leaves).

• Tamales (steamed corn dough stuffed with meat, wrapped in banana leaves).

• Chuño cola (a soup based on meat, rice, chickpeas and chuño or potato flour).

• Lawa (soup based on fresh corn, lima beans, dry chili peper and a variety of mint known as huacatay.)

• Adobo (pork marinated with chicha and species, cooked in a covered saucepan).

• Olluco con carne (casserole based on ollucos and cured llama meat).


Qoyllority (May)

Traditional and solemn Andean-Catholic festivity, it is a mass pilgrimage to snow-capped mountains, including a procession and benediction, folkloric dances and bands of musicians, fireworks, symbolic market of Alacitas. This festivity takes place at 4 000 masl.

Corpus Cristi (June)

Solemn procession of the monstrance and the images of the 16 patrons accompanied by bands of musicians and folkloric groups and gastronomical specialties such as Chiri uchu or Llaqway uchu. One of the most important religious festivities of the year.

Inti Raymi (June)

The Sun Festival is held on the impressive Fortress of Sacsayhuamán. The celebration includes a performance to show gratitude to the God Sun. Several cult and appreciation activites are carried out during the entire celebration and when the sun is on the west, the Inca orders withdrawal.

Nuestra Señora del Carmen (July)

Traditional presentation of 16 folkloric dances with a special program by every group of dancers. It is considered the best folkloric expression in the region.

Santuranticuy (December)

Handicrafts fair held in Cusco’s Main Square. During this event, Artists, following the tradition of Andean fairs, spread their blankets out on the sidewalks to display their products. Here tourists can find all types of handicrafts such as wood carvings, ceramics and altarpieces.


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