History: Cusco was the capital of the Inca Empire which extended through the west coast and highlands of the South American continent. This and its surroundings were the first settlement of the Incas, which happened on early 13th century.
From that moment, Inca people developed a kingdom and later an Empire by conquests and wars, but also by agreements with other kingdoms in the Southern highlands (Titicaca Lake), west coast, and Northern coast and highlands.
Cusco, Cuzco or Qosqo are some of the names that this ancient Incan capital is known by. Cusco was the administrative center of the Spanish Empire's Viceroyalty of Peru. A vast amount of art and colonial architecture remains throughout the city, especially in the Plaza de Armas. Currently, Cusco is the greatest tourist region of the country and receives over a million visitors a year.
The visitor to Cuzco can't help but be awed and impressed by a city that was the capital of the Inca Empire. Today's Cuzco combines the ancient city, the colonial additions and the modern buildings and amenities in a splendid reflection of culture and tradition-and reminds us that the sophisticated Incan civilization was not erased by the colonial invaders or tourists.
Qosqo, meaning navel or bellybutton in Quechua, is located in a fertile valley that supported civilization before the Incas, but it is more closely associated with the organized society in which everyone had a role to play, and a function to perform.
Inca builders laid out the city in the form of a puma, with the fortress of Sacsayhuaman as the head, the plaza of Huacaypata as the belly, or navel, and the converging Huatanay and Tullumayo rivers as the tail. The ancient plaza was the core of the suyos, the Four Regions of the Inca Empire reaching from Quito, Ecuador to northern Chile. Cuzco was the seat of government as well as a city. The capital city of Cuzco was the heart of the empire. It was situated about 11,000 feet above sea level high in the Andes Mountains.
It was a beautiful city. There were palaces, temples, schools, houses, and government buildings. It had gardens filled with exotic herbs, trees, and flowers. There was a huge public square for ceremonies and gatherings. The streets were paved. Water was brought in by aqueducts to supply the palaces. Most of the buildings were made of stone. The city was always under construction. Each emperor ordered a new palace to be built for his use.
The famed Temple of the Sun was in the center of the city. The temple had six chapels built around a central courtyard. The walls were made of perfectly fitted stone covered with sheets of gold.
A massive fortress guarded the city. You had to pass through a huge tollgate to enter the city. The gateway guards checked everyone who came and went.
Not very many of the common people lived in the city. Most of the people were farmers. They lived in farming communities. The only people who actually lived in or just outside the city were the artisans who made artwork for the temples. The city was mainly used for the government.
Climate: It is sunny and warm during the day but cold at night, with a yearly main temperature of 15°C (59°F).