Cusco is the cultural heart of the Peruvian Andes. Cusco is situated at 3300 meters above sea level, and is surrounded by dramatic mountains and valleys. It has a population of 300,000 inhabitants. Cusco is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and it's fun to go exploring the narrow cobbled colonial alleyways, and almost every street has remains of Inca Walls, arches and doorways. The city, the former capital of the Inca Empire, has a fascinating range of sites to visit: the convents, the churches, the museums, the Temple of the Sun and the Cathedral, to name a few. Nearby Cusco, there are more interesting sites to visit, such as Sacsayhuam, Kenko, Puca Pucara, Tambo Machay.
The city was founded around 1100 AD. According one of the Inca creation myths, the Sun sent his son, Manco Capac, and the Moon her daughter, Mama Occlo, to spread culture through the barbaric lands. They emerged from the waters of Lake Titicaca and began their journey in search of present-day Cusco, Manco plunged his golden staff into the ground in order to test its suitability and it sank deep into the fertile soil. This was the sign they were looking for. They named this place Cuzco, meaning "the navel of the world"
The many buildings constructed after the Spanish conquest are of Spanish influence with a mix of Inca architecture, including the Santa Clara and San Blas barrios. The Spanish undertook the construction of a new city on the foundations of the old Inca city, replacing temples with churches and palaces with mansions for the conquerors. During the colony, Cusco was very prosperous thanks to the agriculture, cattle raising, mining as well as the trade with Spain. This allowed the construction of many churches and convents, and even a cathedral, university and Archbishopric. Often, Spanish buildings were juxtaposed atop the massive stone walls built by the Inca.
A major earthquake in 1950 badly destroyed the Dominican Priory and Church of Santo Domingo, which were built on top of the impressive Coricancha (Temple of the Sun). The city's Inca architecture, however, withstood the earthquake. Many of the old Inca walls were thought to have been lost after the earthquake, but the granite walls of the Coricancha were exposed, as well as many walls throughout the city.
The rainy season in Cusco occurs from November through March. During the dry season, from April to October, the weather is generally sunny. Temperatures are hot during the day and cold at night. It is recommended that students bring a wet weather coat and warm clothes for the nights and inside buildings, as they don't have heating. In the sun it is very hot and you might get burnt easily.
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