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Cuzco, Peru

Here's a video of Cuzco and the surrounding area, shot during our 'Jaguar' trip:

The ancient Inca capital is said to have been founded around 1100 AD. It is today a major commercial centre of 275,000 permanent residents, most of whom are Quechua. The city council has designated the Quechua, Qosqo, as the official spelling.

Cuzco is considered the oldest continuously inhabited city in the western hemisphere and is of major historical importance. Cuzco was more than just a capital city to the Incas and the millions of subjects in their realm. It was a Holy City, a place of pilgrimage with as much importance to the Quechuas as Mecca has to the Moslems. Every ranking citizen of the empire tried to visit Cuzco once in his lifetime; to have done so increased his stature wherever he might travel.

According to Inca myth, the Sun sent his son, Manco Capac, and the Moon sent her daughter, Mama Ocllo, to spread culture and enlightenment throughout the dark, barbaric lands. They emerged from the waters of Lake Titicaca and began their journey in search of the place where they would form their kingdom. When they reached the present-day Cuzco, Manco plunged his golden staff into the ground in order to test its suitability, and it duly sank deep into the fertile land. This was the sign they were looking for to choose the capital of their empire. They named the spot Cuzco - meaning 'navel of the earth'. Thus was the significance of Cuzco and the Sacred Valley established for many hundreds of years to come.

Cuzco is still laid out much as it was in Inca times. The Incas conceived their capital in the shape of a puma with the river serving as the spine, Sacsayhuaman the head and the main city centre the body. Almost every central street has remains of Inca walls, arches and doorways. Many streets are lined with Inca stonework, now serving as foundations for more modern buildings. Inca stonework is tapered upwards (battered) and every wall has a perfect line of inclination towards the centre, from bottom to top. The stones have each edge and corner rounded.

Cuzco is the archealogical capital of the Americas and has something for everybody. The variety of museums, religious and historical sites will keep you occupied for as long as you are willing (access to the sites listed below are included in your trip fare). If you want entertainment, fine food, great coffee, and awesome shopping, there's no better place than Cuzco.

 

Wonderful Trip

“Terrific Trip!! Beautiful Country! Terrific Organization! Wonderful Guides! Great Food! I was very impressed with Cynthia and Puma and all the others that contributed to making this kind of trip possible. It is a sign of a well run organization when it values and hires such terrific people. They took very good care of us, were extremely well educated, and were very easy to get along with not to mention patient and fun. The Inca Trail views were absolutely breath taking but this really was a very well rounded trip. I enjoyed the cities of Cuzco and Puno, the trip to Porto Maldonado and the jungle with the extremely interesting hotel, and Lake Titicaca with our trips to a couple of the islands and stay with one of the families. Our tour of Lima was a great way to finish off our trip. One more thing-the food was absolutely the best. I have never eaten that well.”
Minnesota, United States
Jaguar 2017, August 2016
Read Reviews

Cuzco, Peru

Spend 4 days in Cuzco on our Ultimate Peru Adventure 'Jaguar' trip:

 

 

Weather

Cuzco has an agreeable climate with an average annual temperature of around 68 degrees Farenheit. Nights are cool and comfortable, mornings are generally fresh and the sunshine hours are high.

Things to see in Cuzco

Plaza de Armas
In Inca times, the plaza was twice as large as it is today. It was the heart of Inca Cuzco and remains the heart of the modern city. Two flags fly here, the red and white Peruvian flag and the rainbow colored flag of Tahuantinsuyo (representing the four quarters of the Inca empire.) Colonial arcades, cathedrals and Inca walls surround the plaza. Extending from the plaza are many cobbled pathways leading to the fascinating sites around the city.

La Catedral
Started in 1559 and taking almost a hundred years to build, the cathedral is Cuzco's main main church and also one of the cities greatest repositories of colonial art. Many of the hundreds of canvases are from the Cuzco school of painting. Cuzcos' cathedral is elaborate, ornate and will take you back in time.

La Compania
This church on the Plaza de Armas is often lit up at night and can be seen from Machu Picchu after dark - a splendid sight. Its foundations are built from the palace of Huayna Capac - the last Inca to rule an undivided, unconquered empire. This church was built by the Jesuits, commencing work in 1571. They planned to make it the most impressive church in Cuzco however the bishop of Cuzco complained that its splendour should not rival that of the Cathedral and Pope Paul III was called upon to arbitrate. His decision was in favour of the cathedral, but by the time word reached Cuzco, La Compania was almost complete.

Inca Ruins in Cuzco
Most of the Inca ruins in Cuzco have been converted into colonial or modern buildings, but their walls remain visible. The main ruin within Cuzco is Coricancha. This Inca ruin forms the base of the colonial church of Santo Domingo. Today, all that remains of Coricancha (once the Inca empires richest temple) is the stonework - the precious stones and metals were looted by the conquistadors.

In Inca times, Coricancha was literally covered in gold. The temple walls were lined with some 700 solid goldsheets, each weighing about five pounds. There were also lifesize solid gold replicas corn, llamas, as well as a replica of the sun. Various religious rites took place in Coricancha or the temple of the sun which is why it was one of the most important sites in the entire empire.

Inca empire
There are many other Inca walls in Cuzco that are not visitor sites in themselves but are equally as impressive. These are all visible around the city centre.

Sacsayhuaman
This huge ruin is the most impressive in the immediate Cuzco area. This mountaintop site overlooking the city is shrouded in mystery. Its precise function is still not known however most authorities agree that the site had important religious and military significance. Sacsayhuaman hosted one of the fiercest battles between the Incas and their Spanish Conquistadors. The fortresses' zigzag ramparts form the teeth of the 'puma' and contain rocks weighing as much as 300 tons.

Museums:
Museo Arqueologico Q'orikancha
This small underground museum is in front of the Church of Santo Domingo and is entered from Avenida del Sol. There are various archaeological displays that interpret both Inca and pre-Inca cultures.
Museo de Historia Regional
This museum is in the colonial Casa Garcilasode la Vega, the house of the Inca historian that is buried in the cathedral. The chronologically arranged collection holds artifacts from the many pre-Inca and Inca cultures that thrived in Peru.
Museo Palacio Municipal
This small museum has a small collection of local modern art on display. Well worth a look.

Eating

If one thing is certain, you won't go hungry here. Cuzco has a great variety of restaurants catering to every taste and budget.

Restaurants:

Kusikuy has plenty of Peruvian and international dishes.
Pucara has good food and menus with photographs, so even the linguistically challenged can order chicken and not get eggdrop soup.
Govinda Vegetarian Restaurant has fantastic vegetarian food, and is highly recommended.
Inka Grill is deservedly popular and recommended for its high quality food and service.
Los Perros is a favourite amongst the Active Adventures South America crew. The food is fantastic and the service is second to none.

 

Trip Reviews

  •   4.53 out of 5 (from 947 reviews)

    Generally enjoyed the trip but I fell down on the second day of the W-trek in Patagonia. We Had great tour guides and company which made up for the disappointment of not being able to fully participate in the trip.
    Siew Hong Lim Review Image
    – Singapore, Singapore
    Condor, March 2017
  •   4.53 out of 5 (from 947 reviews)

    Patagonia at its Best

    This was a fantastic trip which was well planned with quality places to stay, eat, and view the wonders of Patagonia. The guides were all excellent and knowledgeable making the trip super informative. Other activities such as kayaking, glacier hike, and mountain biking added to the exploration of a very unique and diverse environment. The transportation from locations was very comfortable. The Patagonia of Chile and Argentina was stunning and the organization by Active Adventures created the perfect experience.
    Donna Small Review Image
    – Oregon, United States
    Condor, March 2018
  •   4.48 out of 5 (from 82 reviews)

    A stellar bucket list trip with outstanding guides. The Peru part of our trip was complicated by a local strike causing havoc with our original itinerary but Zac and the Active Adventures folks were amazing in rearranging the itinerary, lodging, meals, etc. Pepo was super in the Galagagos. Both parts of the trip were great fun and very professionally run. Very active but doable for four of us in our 60's.
    Jim Miller Review Image
    – Illinois, United States
    Iguana, October 2016
  •   4.53 out of 5 (from 947 reviews)

    Condor

    This trip was excellent. The guides were fantastic (super friendly and great with seamlessly managing various ages of people and fitness levels), it was very well organized and the weather held all but two days of the entire trip allowing really amazing views of most mountain vistas. A real must for the bucket list.
    Kathleen Christians Review Image
    – Wisconsin, United States
    Condor, March 2017
  •   4.55 out of 5 (from 1341 reviews)

    Incredible experience

    We had an amazing time in the Galapagos!
    Everything was perfectly organized for us. All we had to do was show up - just as it said in the description of the tour.
    Our tour guide Zambo would always tell us well in advance what we would be doing on the next day, what we had to bring, what we should wear.
    The food was always organized for us; they would always ask us beforehand what we wanted to eat.
    Everywhere we went they were expecting us and everything went smoothly.
    Zambo was an amazing guide! He was extremely knowledgeable. He had an answer for everything and he was very patient with our kids. One could see that he enjoyed showing his home to us.
    The encounters with the animals were truly amazing. We saw blue footed boobies, frigate birds, hammerhead sharks, eagle rays, sting rays, penguins, hundreds of sea lions, sea iguanas, etc.
    The animals seemed at ease with the humans around them in some cases almost curious.
    Pirko Hamer Review Image
    – Sai Kung, Hong Kong
    Tortuga, April 2017

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Why travel with Active Adventures?

Above all, we aim to be amazing hosts. We're proud of our kiwi roots, and our professional, warm and relaxed style of running trips around the world is unforgettable.

We're VERY picky about who we select to work in our team, and we have people from all over the world lining up to guide our trips. So we get to hire the absolute BEST in the business.

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It's all about getting there under your own steam – on foot, in a sea kayak, or by bike. What better way is there to experience mind blowing scenery? If it's your first time, no worries – our expert guides have got you covered.

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