We traveled back to Cusco from Agua Calientes (Machu Picchu) and arrived late in the evening with enough time to grab a quick bite to eat and settle in at the El Libertador El Palacio del Inca. The next day had us touring 2 of the magnificent archaeological sites around Cusco. The pano image at the beginning of this post is a 3 photo-composite of Cusco on the way to these sites and provided us with a great view. Please click on it for a larger view.
Our first stop was Sacsayhuaman which is a walled complex a mere 2 kilometers from our hotel at an altitude of 3701 meters. Beside its ingenious construction, one of its greatest attributes was its location high above the Cusco which is at an altitude of 3400 meters and provided a strategic defensive position. Within the fortress were many storage rooms which held a variety of tools and weapons. Its large plaza is capable of holding thousands of people for ceremonial reasons. The stone construction is perhaps the most precise of any that we had seen during our entire trip. The biggest carved boulder of one of the walls weighs about 70 tons and like all of the other rocks was brought from a quarry called Sisicancha, some three kilometers away.
The second stop was a smaller site known as Tambomachay. While the specific purpose of this particular site is unknown, it is thought to been used as a defensive outpost to Cusco, a spa for the elite Incan political leaders or a temple dedicated to water, or perhaps all three. It is situated on a main road allowing access to all the people of the region. This is another wonderful example how the Incas were able to harness water through their expertise in building aqueducts and canals.
By lunchtime we were back in Cusco, the historical capital of the Incan Empire from the 13th to the 16th century ending with the Spanish conquest. Cusco retains many buildings, plazas, streets and churches of pre-Columbian times and colonial buildings, which led to it being declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1983. We spent some time exploring Plaza de Armas with impressive buildings and their beautifully carved wooden balconies on its borders and the imposing Cathedral of Santo Domingo overlooking its entirety. You will see two images of an Inca statue following this narrative. I found out doing my research that this statue has only been recently unveiled and has generated its own controversy which you can read at this link.
There is much to read and research on this ancient city which is beyond the scope of my simple blog, suffice to say that this is a destination worthy of a return trip. Next blog stop – Lomas de Lachay!