Situated high in the Peruvian Andes, Cusco is South America’s archaeological capital and oldest continuously inhabited city. Now a UNESCO World Heritage site, it is also the perfect base to explore nearby Machu Picchu and Amazon jungle.
Under the Inca ruler Pachacutec it developed into a complex urban centre with distinct religious and administrative functions. In the 16th century the Spanish conquistadors preserved the basic structure, but built Baroque churches and palaces on top of the older Inca city.
Cusco’s origins date back to the 14th century, when it grew from a small feudal settlement into the magnificent capital of the Inca Empire of the Tawantinsuyo (the four corners). Engineered in the shape of a puma, the city had many fine temples and palaces located around its wide plazas and paved streets. The first Spanish conquistadors who reached Cusco were amazed by its architecture and the riches found inside its buildings. The city gradually evolved under colonial government and was rebuilt several times following earthquakes. At this time Inca buildings were dismantled, replaced by whitewashed walls and wooden balconies reminiscent of towns in southern Spain.
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