Cusco (Spanish: Cuzco, [ˈkusko]; Quechua: Qusqu or Quechua: Qosqo,
IPA: [ˈqɔsqɔ]), often spelled Cuzco (/ˈkuːskoʊ/), is a city
in southeastern Peru, near the Urubamba Valley of the
range. It is the capital of the
Cusco Region as well as the Cusco
Province. In 2013, the city had a population of 435,114. Located on
the eastern end of the Knot of Cuzco, its elevation is around
3,400 m (11,200 ft).
The site was the historic capital of the
Inca Empire from the 13th
until the 16th-century Spanish conquest. In 1983
Cusco was declared a
World Heritage Site
World Heritage Site by UNESCO. It has become a major tourist
destination, hosting nearly 2 million visitors a year. The
Peru designates it as the Historical Capital of
1 Spelling and etymology
2.3 After the Spanish invasion
2.4 Republican era
3 Geography and climate
5 Main sights
5.1 Architectural heritage
5.1.1 Barrio de San Blas
5.1.2 Hatun Rumiyuq
Convent and Church of la Merced
Plaza de Armas cusco
5.1.6 Iglesia de la Compañía de Jesús
Convent of Santo Domingo
9 International relations
9.1 Twin towns and sister cities
11 In modern culture
12 See also
14 External links
Spelling and etymology
The indigenous name of this city is Qusqu. Although the name was used
in Quechua, its origin is found in the Aymara language. The word is
derived from the phrase qusqu wanka ('Rock of the owl'), related to
the city's foundation myth of the Ayar Siblings. According to this
legend, Ayar Awqa (Ayar Auca) acquired wings and flew to the site of
the future city; there he was transformed into a rock to mark the
possession of the land by his ayllu ("lineage"):
Then Ayar Oche stood up, displayed a pair of large wings, and said he
should be the one to stay at
Guanacaure as an idol in order to speak
with their father the Sun. Then they went up on top of the hill. Now
at the site where he was to remain as an idol, Ayar Oche raised up in
flight toward the heavens so high that they could not see him. He
returned and told Ayar Manco that from then on he was to be named
Manco Capac. Ayar Oche came from where the Sun was and the Sun had
ordered that Ayar Manco take that name and go to the town that they
had seen. After this had been stated by the idol, Ayar Oche turned
into a stone, just as he was, with his wings. Later
Manco Capac went
down with Ayar Auca to their settlement...he liked the place now
occupied in this city Cuzco.
Manco Capac and his companion, with the
help of the four women, made a house. Having done this, Manco Capac
and his companion, with the four women, planted some land with maize.
It is said that they took the maize from the cave, which this lord
Manco Capac named Pacaritambo, which means those of origin
because...they came out of that cave.:15–16
The Spanish conquistadors adopted the local name, transliterating it
into Spanish phonetics as Cuzco or, less often, Cozco. Cuzco was the
standard spelling on official documents and chronicles in colonial
Cusco was also used. Cuzco, pronounced as in
16th-century Spanish, seems to have been a close approximation to the
Cusco Quechua pronunciation of the name at the time. As both
Spanish and Quechuan pronunciation have evolved since then, the
Spanish pronunciation of 'z' is no longer close to the Quechuan
pronunciation of the consonant represented by 'z' in "Cuzco". In 1976,
the city mayor signed an ordinance banning the traditional spelling
and ordering the use of a new one, Cusco, in municipality
publications. Nineteen years later, on 23 June 1990, the local
authorities formalized a new spelling related more closely to Quechan:
There is no international, official spelling of the city's name. In
English language publications both "s" and "z" can be
found. However, the Oxford Dictionary of English recognizes "Cuzco"
but not "Cusco"; the Merriam-Webster Dictionary has "Cuzco", with
"Cusco" only as a "variant"; and in scholarly writings "Cuzco" is
employed more often than "Cusco". The city's international airport
code is still CUZ, reflecting the earlier Spanish spelling.
Killke people occupied the region from 900 to 1200, prior to the
arrival of the
Inca in the 13th century. Carbon-14 dating of
Saksaywaman, the walled complex outside Cusco, established that Killke
constructed the fortress about 1100. The
Inca later expanded and
occupied the complex in the 13th century. In March 2008,
archaeologists discovered the ruins of an ancient temple, roadway and
aqueduct system at Saksaywaman. The temple covers some 2,700
square feet (250 square metres) and contains 11 rooms thought to have
held idols and mummies, establishing its religious purpose.
Together with the results of excavations in 2007, when another temple
was found at the edge of the fortress, this indicates a longtime
religious as well as military use of the facility.
Kingdom of Cusco
Kingdom of Cusco and
Cusco was long an important center of indigenous people. It was the
capital of the
Inca Empire (13th century–1532). Many believe that
the city was planned as an effigy in the shape of a puma, a sacred
Cusco was specifically built, or how its large stones
were quarried and transported to the site remain undetermined. Under
the Inca, the city had two sectors: the urin and hanan. Each was
divided to encompass two of the four provinces,
Kuntisuyu (SW) and
Qullasuyu (SE). A road led from each
of quarter to the corresponding quarter of the empire.
Each local leader was required to build a house in the city and live
part of the year in Cusco, restricted to the quarter that corresponded
to the quarter in which he held territory. After the rule of
Pachacuti, when an
Inca died, his title went to one son and his
property was given to a corporation controlled by his other relatives
(split inheritance). Each title holder had to build a new house and
add new lands to the empire, in order to own land for his family to
keep after his death.
Inca legend, the city was rebuilt by Sapa
the man who transformed the Kingdom of Cuzco from a sleepy city-state
into the vast empire of Tawantinsuyu.:66–69 Archaeological
evidence, however, points to a slower, more organic growth of the city
beginning before Pachacuti. The city was constructed according to a
definite plan in which two rivers were channeled around the city.
Archaeologists have suggested that this city plan was replicated at
The city fell to the sphere of
Huáscar during the
Inca Civil War
after the death of
Huayna Capac in 1527. It was captured by the
Atahualpa in April 1532 in the Battle of Quipaipan.
Nineteen months later, Spanish explorers invaded the city (see battle
of Cuzco) and gained control because of their arms and horses,
employing superior military technology.
After the Spanish invasion
The first image of
Cusco in Europe. Pedro Cieza de León. Crónica del
The first three Spaniards arrived in the city in May 1533, after the
Battle of Cajamarca, collecting for Atahualpa's Ransom Room. On 15
Francisco Pizarro officially arrived in Cusco. "The
capital of the Incas...astonished the Spaniards by the beauty of its
edifices, the length and regularity of its streets." The great square
was surrounded by several palaces, since "each sovereign built a new
palace for himself." "The delicacy of the stone work excelled" that of
the Spaniards'. The fortress had three parapets and was composed of
"heavy masses of rock." "Through the heart of the capital ran a
river...faced with stone." "The most sumptuous edifice in Cuzco...was
undoubtedly the great temple dedicated to the Sun...studded with gold
plates...surrounded by convents and dormitories for the priests." "The
palaces were numerous and the troops lost no time in plundering them
of their contents, as well as despoiling the religious edifices,"
including the royal mummies in the Coricancha.:186–187,
Pizarro ceremoniously gave Manco
Inca the Incan fringe as the new
Peruvian leader.:221 Pizarro encouraged some of his men to stay
and settle in the city, giving out repartimientos to do so.:46
Alcaldes were established and regidores on 24 March 1534, which
included his brothers
Gonzalo Pizarro and Juan Pizarro. Pizarro left a
garrison of 90 men and then departed for
Jauja with Manco
Pizarro renamed it the "Very noble and great city of Cuzco". Buildings
constructed after the Spanish invasion have a mixture of Spanish
Inca indigenous architecture, including the Santa Clara
and San Blas neighborhoods. The Spanish destroyed many
temples and palaces. They used the remaining walls as bases for the
construction of a new city.
Vincente de Valverde
Vincente de Valverde became the Bishop of
Cusco and built his
cathedral facing the plaza. He placed a
St. Dominic monastery on the
ruins of the House of the Sun and a nunnery where the House of the
Virgins of the Sun was stood.:222
The city was retaken from the Spanish during the
Siege of Cuzco
Siege of Cuzco of
1536 by Manco
Inca Yupanqui, a leader of the Sapa Inca. Although the
siege lasted 10 months, it was ultimately unsuccessful. Manco's forces
were able to reclaim the city for only a few days. He eventually
retreated to Vilcabamba, the capital of the newly established small
Inca State, which lasted for another 36 years but he was never
able to return to Cuzco. Throughout the conflict and years of the
Spanish colonization of the Americas, many Incas died of smallpox.
Cusco stands on layers of cultures, with the
Tawantinsuyu (old Inca
Empire) built on
Killke structures and the Spanish replacing
indigenous temples with Catholic churches and palaces with mansions
for the invaders.
Cusco was the center for the Spanish colonization and spread of
Christianity in the Andean world. It became very prosperous thanks to
agriculture, cattle raising and mining, as well as its trade with
Spain. The Spanish colonists constructed many churches and convents,
as well as a cathedral, university and Archbishopric.
Cristo Blanco in the surrounding mountains of Cusco
Night view of
Plaza Regocijo, Cusco
Night view of the
Qurikancha and Convento de Santo Domingo
Peru declared its independence in 1821,
Cusco maintained its
importance within Peru's administrative structure. Upon independence,
the government created the Department of Cuzco, maintaining authority
over territory extending to the Brazilian border.
Cusco was made
capital of the department; subsequently it became the most important
city in the south-eastern Andean region.
At the beginning of the 20th century, the city's urban sprawl spread
to the neighboring districts of
Santiago and Wanchaq.
In 1911, explorer Hiram Bingham used the city as a base for the
expedition in which he rediscovered the ruins of Machu Picchu.
A major earthquake on 21 May 1950 caused the destruction of more than
one third of the city's structures. The Dominican Priory and Church of
Santo Domingo, which were built on top of the impressive Qurikancha
(Temple of the Sun), were among the affected colonial era buildings.
Inca architecture withstood the earthquake. Many of the old
were at first thought to have been lost after the earthquake, but the
granite retaining walls of the
Qurikancha were exposed, as well as
those of other ancient structures throughout the city. Restoration
work at the
Santo Domingo complex exposed the
Inca masonry formerly
obscured by the superstructure without compromising the integrity of
the colonial heritage. Many of the buildings damaged in 1950 had
been impacted by an earthquake only nine years previously.
Since the 1990s, tourism has increased. Currently,
Cusco is the most
important tourist destination in Peru. Under the administration of
mayor Daniel Estrada Pérez, a staunch supporter of the Academia Mayor
de la Lengua Quechua, between 1983 and 1995 the Quechua name Qosqo was
officially adopted for the city.
In 1933, the Congress of Americanists met in La Plata, Argentina and
declared the city as the Archeological Capital of the Americas.
In 1978, the 7th Convention of Mayors of Great World Cities met in
Milan, Italy and declared
Cusco a Cultural Heritage of the World.
In 1983, UNESCO, in Paris,
France declared the city a World Heritage
Site. The Peruvian government declared it the Tourism Capital of Peru
and Cultural Heritage of the Nation.
In 2007, the New7Wonders Foundation designated
Machu Picchu one of the
New Seven Wonders of the World, following a worldwide poll.
Geography and climate
Cusco extends throughout the Huatanay (or Watanay) river valley.
Located on the eastern end of the Knot of Cusco, its elevation is
around 3,400 m (11,200 ft). To its north is the Vilcabamba
mountain range with 4,000–6,000-metre-high (13,000–20,000-foot)
mountains. The highest peak is
Salcantay (6,271 metres or 20,574 feet)
about 60 kilometres (37 miles) northwest of Cusco.
Cusco has a subtropical highland climate (Köppen Cwb). It is
generally dry and temperate, with two defined seasons. The dry season
lasts from May to August, with abundant sunshine and occasional
nighttime freezes; July is the coolest month with an average of
9.7 °C (49.5 °F). The wet season lasts from December to
March, with night frost less common; November averages 13.3 °C
(55.9 °F). Although frost and hail are common, the only snowfall
ever recorded was in June 1911. Temperatures usually range from 0.2 to
20.9 °C (32.4 to 69.6 °F), but the all-time temperature
range is between −8.9 and 30 °C (16.0 and 86.0 °F).
Sunshine hours peak in July; the equivalent of January in the northern
hemisphere. In contrast, February, the equivalent of August in the
northern hemisphere, has the least amount of sunshine.
Cusco was found in 2006 to be the spot on Earth with the highest
average ultraviolet light level.
Climate data for
Cusco (Alejandro Velasco Astete International
Airport) 1961–1990, extremes 1931–present
Record high °C (°F)
Average high °C (°F)
Daily mean °C (°F)
Average low °C (°F)
Record low °C (°F)
Average precipitation mm (inches)
Average precipitation days (≥ 1.0 mm)
Average relative humidity (%)
Mean monthly sunshine hours
Source #1: NOAA, Meteo Climat (record highs and lows)
Deutscher Wetterdienst (mean temperatures 1961–1990,
precipitation days 1970–1990 and humidity 1954–1993) Danish
Meteorological Institute (sun 1931–1960)
Tourism has been the backbone to the economy starting in the early
2000s, bringing in more than 1.2 million tourists per year. In
2002, the income
Cusco received from tourism was $837 million USD. In
2009, that number increased to $2.47 billion USD.
Ruins of Saksaywaman
Killke culture built the walled complex of Saksaywaman
about 1100. The
Killke built a major temple near Saksaywaman, as well
as an aqueduct (Pukyus) and roadway connecting prehistoric structures.
Saksaywaman was expanded by the Inca.
The Spanish explorer Pizarro sacked much of the
Inca city in 1535.
Remains of the palace of the Incas,
Qurikancha (the Temple of the Sun)
and the Temple of the Virgins of the Sun still stand.
and foundations in some cases proved to be stronger than the
foundations built in present-day Peru. Among the most noteworthy
Spanish colonial buildings of the city is the Cathedral of Santo
The major nearby
Inca sites are Pachacuti's presumed winter home,
Machu Picchu, which can be reached on foot by the
Inca Trail to Machu
Picchu or by train; and the "fortress" at Ollantaytambo.
Qurikancha, Convento de
Santo Domingo and Intipanpa
Less-visited ruins include: Incahuasi, the highest of all
at 3,980 m (13,060 ft); Vilcabamba, the capital of the
Inca after the capture of Cusco; the sculpture garden at Ñusta
Hisp'ana (aka Chuqip'allta, Yuraq Rumi);
Tipón with working water
channels in wide terraces; as well as Willkaraqay, Patallaqta,
Vitos and many others.
The surrounding area, located in the Watanay Valley, is strong in gold
mining and agriculture, including corn, barley, quinoa, tea and
Cusco's main stadium
Estadio Garcilaso de la Vega
Estadio Garcilaso de la Vega was one of seven
stadiums used when
Peru hosted South America's continental soccer
championship, the Copa América, in 2004. The stadium is home to one
of the country's most successful soccer clubs, Cienciano.
The city is served by Alejandro Velasco Astete International Airport.
Arc of Barrio de Santa Ana, Cusco
View of the city from Saksaywaman. Roofs of Colonial architecture.
Because of its antiquity and importance, the city center retains many
buildings, plazas, streets and churches from colonial times, and even
some pre-Columbian structures, which led to its declaration as a World
Heritage Site by
UNESCO in 1983. Among the main sights of the city
Barrio de San Blas
This neighborhood houses artisans, workshops and craft shops. It is
one of the most picturesque sites in the city. Its streets are steep
and narrow with old houses built by the Spanish over important Inca
foundations. It has an attractive square and the oldest parish church
in Cusco, built in 1563, which has a carved wooden pulpit considered
the epitome of Colonial era woodwork in Cusco.
The Quechua name of this neighborhood is Tuq'ukachi, which means the
opening of the salt.
This street is the most visited by tourists. On the street Hatun
Rumiyoq ("the one with the big stone") was the palace of
which was converted to the Archbishop's residence.
Along this street that runs from the
Plaza de Armas to the Barrio de
San Blas, one can see the Stone of Twelve Angles, which is viewed as
marvel of ancient stonework and has become emblematic of the city's
Convent and Church of la Merced
Calle Mantas to the right is the belltower of the Iglesia y Convento
de La Merced
Its foundation dates from 1536. The first complex was destroyed by the
earthquake of 1650. Its rebuilding was completed in 1675.
Its cloisters of Baroque
Renaissance style, choir stalls, colonial
paintings and wood carvings are highlights, now a popular museum.
Also on view is an elaborate monstrance made of gold and gemstones
that weighs 22 kg (49 lb) and is 130 cm (51.18 in)
Main article: Cathedral of Santo Domingo, Cusco
The first cathedral built in
Cusco is the Iglesia del Triunfo, built
in 1539 on the foundations of the Palace of Viracocha Inca. Today,
this church is an auxiliary chapel of the Cathedral.
The main basilica cathedral of the city was built between 1560 and
1664. The main material used was stone, which was extracted from
nearby quarries, although some blocks of red granite were taken from
the fortress of Saksaywaman.
This great cathedral presents late-Gothic, Baroque and plateresque
interiors and has one of the most outstanding examples of colonial
goldwork. Its carved wooden altars are also important.
The city developed a distinctive style of painting known as the "Cuzco
School" and the cathedral houses a major collection of local artists
of the time. The cathedral is known for a
Cusco School painting of the
Last Supper depicting
Jesus and the twelve apostles feasting on guinea
pig, a traditional Andean delicacy.
The cathedral is the seat of the Archdiocese of Cuzco.
Plaza de Armas cusco
Plaza de Armas of the city of Cuzco, Peru, at night
Plaza de Armas of Cusco
Known as the "Square of the warrior" in the
Inca era, this plaza has
been the scene of several important events, such as the proclamation
Francisco Pizarro in the conquest of Cuzco.
Plaza de Armas was the scene of the death of Túpac
Amaru II, considered the indigenous leader of the resistance.
The Spanish built stone arcades around the plaza which endure to this
day. The main cathedral and the Church of La Compañía both open
directly onto the plaza.
Iglesia de la Compañía de Jesús
Iglesia de la Compañía de Jesús
This church (Church of the Society of Jesus), whose construction was
initiated by the Jesuits in 1576 on the foundations of the Amarucancha
or the palace of the
Inca ruler Wayna Qhapaq, is considered one of the
best examples of colonial baroque style in the Americas.
Its façade is carved in stone and its main altar is made of carved
wood covered with gold leaf. It was built over an underground chapel
and has a valuable collection of colonial paintings of the Cusco
Convent of Santo Domingo
Main article: Qurikancha
Qurikancha ("golden place") was the most important sanctuary
dedicated to the Sun God (Inti) at the time of the Inca
Empire.According to ancient chronicles written by Garcilaso de la Vega
Qurikancha was said to have featured a large solid
golden disc that was studded with precious stones and represented the
Inca Sun God – Inti. Spanish chroniclers describe the
in front of the temple as a garden of golden plants with leaves of
beaten gold, stems of silver, solid gold corn-cobs and 20 life-size
llamas and their herders all in solid gold.
The temple was destroyed by its Spanish invaders who, as they
plundered, were determined to rid the city of its wealth, idolaters
and shrines. Nowadays, only a curved outer wall and partial ruins of
the inner temple remain at the site.
With this structure as a foundation, colonists built the
Santo Domingo (St. Dominic) in the
Renaissance style. The building,
with one baroque tower, exceeds the height of many other buildings in
Inside is a large collection of paintings from the Cuzco School.
Cusco has the following important museums:
Museo de Arte Precolombino (Peru)
Casa Concha Museum (
Machu Picchu Museum)
Museo Histórico Regional de Cuzco
Centro de Textiles Tradicionales del Cuzco or Center of the
Traditional Textiles of
Cusco in English
Museum of Sacred, Magical and Medicinal Plants (Museo de plantas
sagradas, mágicas y medicinales)
ChocoMuseo (The Cacao and Chocolate Museum)
There are also some museums located at churches.
The city had a population of about 434,114 people in 2013 and 434,654
people in 2015 according to INEI.
Financial Center of the City, Av. de la Cultura, Cusco
Population by district
2007 census (hab)
*Census data conducted by INEI
As capital to the
Cusco was an important agricultural
region. It was a natural reserve for thousands of native Peruvian
species, including around 3,000 varieties of potato cultivated by the
people. Fusion and neo-Andean restaurants developed in Cusco, in
which the cuisine is prepared with modern techniques and incorporates
a blend of traditional Andean and international ingredients.
See also: List of twin towns and sister cities in Peru
Twin towns and sister cities
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Cusco is twinned with:
La Paz, Bolivia
Mexico City, Mexico
Jersey City, New Jersey, United States
Kaesong, North Korea
La Habana, Cuba
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Madison, Wisconsin, United States
Tempe, Arizona, United States
Kraków in Poland
Chapel of the Holy Family / Capilla de la Sagrada Familia
Old streets in the city center
Cristo Blanco (White Christ)
Statue to Pachacuti, Sapa Inca
Street in old city
In modern culture
In the film
The Emperor's New Groove and its spin-off animated
television series The Emperor's New School, the main protagonist is
"Kuzco", the young, often immature fictional emperor of the Incas.
"Cuzco" was the name of a song on E.S. Posthumus' 2001 album
Unearthed. Each song on the album was named after an ancient city.
Anthony Horowitz novel Evil Star takes place partly in Cusco.
BBC radio 1
BBC radio 1 DJ
John Peel died in
Cusco on a working holiday in 2004.
Governorate of New Castile
Inca religion in Cusco
Inca road system
Iperu, tourist information and assistance
List of archaeoastronomical sites sorted by country
Inca religious site
Tourism in Peru
New7Wonders of the World
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Wikimedia Commons has media related to Cusco.
Cusco travel guide from Wikivoyage
Cusco official website
World Heritage Sites in Peru
Chan Chan Archaeological Zone
Chavín Archaeological Site
City of Cuzco
Historic Centre of Lima
Historical Centre of the City of Arequipa
Historic Sanctuary of Machu Picchu
Huascarán National Park
Manú National Park
Lines and Geoglyphs of Nasca and Pampas de Jumana
Rio Abiseo National Park
Sacred City of Caral-Supe
Archaeological sites in Peru
Amaru Marka Wasi
Awila Qhincha Mach'ay
Baths of Boza
Caves of Sumbay
Chavín de Huantar
Huaca de la Luna
Huaca del Dragón
Huaca del Sol
Huaca San Marcos
Huaca Santa Ana
Huamanmarca, La Convención
Inka Raqay, Apurímac
Inka Raqay, Ayacucho
Inka Tampu, Cajamarca
Inka Tampu, Huayopata
Inka Tampu, Vilcabamba
Inka Wasi, Ayacucho
Inka Wasi, Huancavelica
Inti Watana, Ayacucho
Inti Watana, Calca
Inti Watana, Urubamba
Intini Uyu Pata
Jisk'a Iru Muqu
Laguna de las Momias
Llaqta Qulluy, Acoria
Llaqta Qulluy, Conayca
Llaqta Qulluy, Tayacaja
Llaqta Qulluy, Vilca
Mawk'allaqta, La Unión
Ñawpallaqta, Huanca Sancos
Pirca Pirca, La Libertad
Pirca Pirca, Lima
Pukara, Vilcas Huamán
Pumamarka, San Sebastián
Quriwayrachina, La Convención
Tampu Mach'ay, Huancavelica
Templo del Zorro
The Toads of Wiraqucha
Ventanillas de Otuzco
Yanaqi - Qillqamarka
Peruvian cities with a population of over 100,000
American Capitals of Culture
Spanish / Hispanic Colonial architecture
Cartagena de Indias
San Miguel de Allende
List of Spanish missions
Churches and monasteries
Baroque Churches of the Philippines
Caribbean coast of Panama
Bridges and roads
Camino Real de Tierra Adentro
Other buildings types
Haciendas in the Valley of Ameca
Colonial universities in Hispanic America
Colonial universities in the Philippines
Modern Revival Style
Spanish Colonial Revival architecture
Mission Revival architecture
1It occured when it was part of the Spanish kingdom Category
Regional capitals of Peru
Cerro de Pasco