We continue our tour of Cusco

Cusco Travel Blog

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An entrance

We decided to make reservations for an afternoon City Tour with SAS Travel that would take us to the most important locations in and around Cuzco: The Cathedral, Santo Domingo Church and Coricancha, Sacsayhuaman, Q'enko, Puca Pucara and Tambomachay.

 

We spent the morning walking around and going to the Tourist Office because we had to buy the “Boleto Turistico” which is required for access to these sights. It can be bought at the Oficina Ejecutiva del Comité (OFEC), Av Sol 103, Cuzco.

There are three different kind of tickets:

  • A full ticket (valid for ten days and for all sites), 70 soles;
  • A student ticket (ISIC sudentcard required as proof), 35 Soles;
  • A partial ticket, (only valid for one day and a limited number of sites) 40 Soles.

We started our tour with a visit to the Cathedral which dominates the north-east side of the Plaza de Armas and sits squarely on the foundations of the Inca Viracocha's palace.

Pedro at Santo Domingo Church and Coricancha
The Cathedral was begun in 1550 and completed nearly 100 years later, constructed in the shape of a Latin cross. The three-aisled nave is supported by only fourteen massive pillars. It contains nearly 400 colonial paintings including the Last Supper by Marcos Zapata showing Christ and the Apostles about to dine on guinea-pig, washed down with a glass of chicha! In the sacristy there's a painting of the crucifixion attributed to Van Dyke. Ten smaller chapels surround the nave, with the Chapel of the Immaculate Conception, and the Chapel of El Señor de los Temblores (The Lord of Earthquakes) are worthy of special attention.


The Cathedral's real magic lies in the mingling of history and legend. It is said that when the Cathedral was built an Inca prince was walled up in one of the towers and that when the tower falls the Inca will emerge to claim his birthright and free his people. After the earthquake of 1950 thousands of believers waited hopefully for the tower to collapse, but despite severe damage, they did not and were later repaired. We continued our tour of the Cathedral complex to El Triunfo.


El Triunfo is on the right hand side and was the first Christian church in Cusco. It was built on the site of Suntur Huasi, the main Inca armoury where the Spanish were trapped during Manco Inca's siege in 1536. When the Incas burned the city the thatched roof of Suntur Huasi caught fire, but then mysteriously went out. The Spanish later broke out and recaptured Sacsayhuaman, ending the siege. The church was built to commemorate this victory and the miracle.


Next we went to Santo Domingo Church and Coricancha.

An ancient Inca Gold Plate
Santo Domingo was built in the 17th century on the walls of the Coricancha Temple of the Sun. The uninspiring Baroque decoration of Santo Domingo makes a poor contrast to the superbly crafted Inca masonry - in fact much of the cloister has been gutted to reveal four of the original chambers of the great Inca Temple. The finest Inca stonework in existence today is the curved wall beneath the west end of the Church. In Inca times the walls of the Coricancha were lined with 700 solid-gold sheets weighing two kilos a piece. There were life-size gold and silver replicas of corn, golden llamas, figurines and jars. All that remains today is the stonework; the conquistadors took the rest - unfortunately all the exquisite treasures ended up being melted down; nothing survived. However the fist conquistadors to arrive did not remove the holiest religious symbol of the empire, the golden sun disc, though they reported its existence. This solid gold disc, far larger than a man, mysteriously vanished before the main party of Spaniards arrived. It has never been found to the present day. The disc was positioned to catch the morning sun and throw its rays into the gold-lined temple, filling it with radiant light and bathing the mummies of the dead Inca rulers in sunshine which were seated in niches along the walls.


The entire temple complex was also an intricate celestial observatory. Every summer solstice, the sun's rays shine directly into a niche - the tabernacle - in which only the Inca was permitted to sit. Along with the main temple dedicated to the Sun, there were others for the adoration of lesser deities - the Moon, Venus, Thunder and Lightning, and the Rainbow. 

 

Our next stop was the Sacsayhuaman ruins. Visitors to this magnificent Inca fortress, which overlooks the city of Cusco, cannot fail to be impressed by the beauty and monumental scale of this important Inca construction.

Pedro getting "fresh" water
Sacsayhuaman can be variously translated as 'speckled falcon' or 'speckled head'. The last interpretation refers to the belief that the city of Cusco was set out in the form of a puma whose head was the hill of Sacsayhuaman. The origins are uncertain but the fortress is generally attributed to the period of Inca Pachacuti, the man who essentially founded the Inca Empire.

 

The main ramparts consist of three massive parallel walls zigzagging together for some 400m, designed to make any attacker expose his flanks. The massive blocks, the largest being 8.5m high and weighing nearly 300 tonnes, are fitted together with absolute perfection. The foundations are made of Yucay limestone brought from over 15km away. The outer walls are made from massive diorite blocks from nearby, and the inner buildings and towers are made from dark andesite some of it brought from over 35km away. With only natural fibre ropes, stone hammers and bronze chisels it must have been an enormous task. The chronicler Cieza de Leon, writing in the 1550's, thought that some 20,000 men had been involved in its construction: 4000 men cutting blocks from the quarries; 6000 dragging them on rollers to the site; and another 10,000 working on finishing and fitting them into position. According to legend, some 3000 lives were lost when one huge stone that was being dragged uphill broke free.

  

Sacsayhuaman played an important part in the final defeat of the Inca Empire by the Spanish. Pizarro's party entered Cusco unopposed in 1533 and lived there securely for more than two years before finally being caught unprepared by the rebellion of Manco Inca in 1536.    

  

Manco's troops took the fortress of Sacsayhuaman, overlooking the city, and used it as his base to attack the Spanish.

Giant rocks at Sacsayhuaman ruins
After weeks under siege in the city the Spanish broke out and charged into the surrounding hills to the northwest above the city. They then doubled back to capture the rocky outcrop opposite the fortress. From this outcrop they made repeated attacks across the flat plaza against the walls of the fortress. All the Spanish reinforcements on their way from Lima to Cusco had been massacred, so if the Spanish failed to take the fort they were doomed. In the evening, against all odds, the Spanish eventually broke through the Inca defenses and scaled the walls of the fort driving the defenders into the fortified complex dominated by 3 towers (foundations only remain today). After two more days of fighting the Conquistadors finally overwhelmed the natives, putting them all to the sword. It was said that during the battle a leading Inca nobleman, armed with a Spanish sword and shield, caused havoc by repulsing every enemy who tried to scale the last tower left in Inca hands. Having sworn to fight to the death, he leapt from the top of the tower when defeat was inevitable, rather than accept humiliation and dishonor.

 

At this site we had the chance to get a bird’s eye view of Cuzco. For panorama lovers the site was magnificent!!! We took great photos of the city.


Next on our Schedule was Q’enko. This is one of the finest examples of a rock artfully carved insitu showing complex patterns of steps, seats, geometric reliefs and a puma design. The rock is an excellent example of the Inca 'Rock Worship'. In Inca cosmological beliefs the Incas held large rocky outcrops in reverence, as if they possessed some hidden spiritual force. On top of the rock are zigzag channels which served to course chicha (local maize beer) or sacrificed llama blood for purposes of divination; the speed and route of the liquid, in conjunction with the patterns made in the rock, gave the answers to the priest's invocations.

A Panoramic view of Cusco
Inside the rock are large niches and a possible altar. This may have been a place where the mummies of lesser royalty were kept along with gold and precious objects.


We continued on to Puca Pucara, situated on a hill with superb views over the surrounding countryside. Puca Pucara was more likely a tambo, or kind of post house than an actual fortress. Travelers may have lodged here with their goods and animals before entering or leaving Cusco. An alternative theory is that it served as a guard post controlling the flow of people and produce between Cusco and the Sacred Valley.


Finally Tambomachay, commonly referred to as the 'Baños del Inca' or Inca baths, Tambomachay was a site for ritual bathing. The excellent quality of the stonework suggests that its use was restricted to the higher nobility, who maybe only used the baths on ceremonial occasions. The ruins basically consist of 3 tired platforms. The top one holds four trapezoidal niches that perhaps were used as seats; on the next level an underground spring emerges directly from a hole at the base of the stonework and from here cascades down to the bottom platform, creating a cold shower just high enough for an Inca to stand under. On this platform the spring water splits into two channels, both pouring the last meter down to ground level.

 

We returned to the hotel to freshen up and went out for dinner. The next day would exhaustive!

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An entrance
An entrance
The Plaza de armas
The Plaza de armas
Pedro at Santo Domingo Church and …
Pedro at Santo Domingo Church and…
An ancient Inca Gold Plate
An ancient Inca Gold Plate
Pedro getting fresh water
Pedro getting "fresh" water
Giant rocks at Sacsayhuaman ruins
Giant rocks at Sacsayhuaman ruins
A Panoramic view of Cusco
A Panoramic view of Cusco
Santo Domingo Church and Coricancha
Santo Domingo Church and Coricancha
The Plaza de Armas
The Plaza de Armas
Typical Cusco street
Typical Cusco street
Just walking around
Just walking around
Pervert!
Pervert!
Our final coffee of the day
Our final coffee of the day
What the XXXXX!
What the XXXXX!
The Plaza de Armas
The Plaza de Armas
The Church
The Church
Santo Domingo Church and Coricancha
Santo Domingo Church and Coricancha
Santo Domingo Church and Coricancha
Santo Domingo Church and Coricancha
Yummy!
Yummy!
Typical street
Typical street
Nice architecture
Nice architecture
Some shurch
Some shurch
Just another entrance
Just another entrance
The Cathedral
The Cathedral
Another street
Another street
Chocolate Factory
Chocolate Factory
Another street
Another street
Another church
Another church
Another typical street
Another typical street
The entrance to our Hotel
The entrance to our Hotel
A Peruvian dog
A Peruvian dog
Inca wall
Inca wall
Typical street
Typical street
Typical street
Typical street
Typical street
Typical street
Nice door
Nice door
A church
A church
Elsa and Rute Pinheiro walking aro…
Elsa and Rute Pinheiro walking ar…
Typical street
Typical street
Typical street
Typical street
The Church
The Church
Santo Domingo Church and Coricancha
Santo Domingo Church and Coricancha
A view from Santo Domingo Church a…
A view from Santo Domingo Church …
Lamas
Lamas
Sacsayhuaman ruins
Sacsayhuaman ruins
Sacsayhuaman ruins
Sacsayhuaman ruins
Sacsayhuaman ruins
Sacsayhuaman ruins
A beautiful view of Cuzco
A beautiful view of Cuzco
Cuzco
Cuzco
Can you see a panther?
Can you see a panther?
Q’enko from a distance
Q’enko from a distance
Puca Pucara
Puca Pucara
Puca Pucara
Puca Pucara
Puca Pucara
Puca Pucara
Cusco
photo by: Vlindeke