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Sites to Visit in Cusco

Cusco has several attractions worth exploring before starting your trip to the Inca Trail and/or visiting Machu Picchu. A city tour of Cusco upon arrival is an excellent way to start, to help you get a feel for the sites you may wish to explore further.

The Plaza de Armas, which is also a central meeting and gathering point, is an excellent place to start.

In this picturesque plaza you will find a tourist information office, as well as bars and stores, and it is within walking distance of many of the attractions you will want to see during your stay. In the center of the square is a fountain with a statue of an Inca pointing toward the ancient citadel of Sacsayhuaman (also known as Saqsaywaman). To the northeast is one of Cusco’s most emblematic buildings: its cathedral.

The Cathedral of Cuzco was built by the Spanish over a century, starting in 1559, and is imposing in Gothic-Renaissance style.

Made of stones taken from Sacsayhuaman, the cathedral houses several important pieces of colonial art, notably Marcos Zapata’s Last Supper, which features a guinea pig as part of the meal. The cathedral is framed on the left by the Church of Jesus Maria, and on the right by El Triunfo, which was the first church established in Cusco.

A few steps from the Plaza de Armas is the neighborhood of San Blas. Reserved for centuries for artists and artisans, strolling through its narrow (and sometimes very steep) streets is like stepping back in time. This area has artists’ studios, galleries, cafes, restaurants and also features the small church of San Blas with its intricately carved wooden pulpit.

Moving on to historical sites, one must see Coricancha, the Temple of the Sun. A few steps from the Plaza de Armas, this was an important place for Inca worshippers of the deities of the sun and moon. At that time, it would have been majestic, covered with gold leaf and filled with silver and gold statues.

Shortly after the Spanish colonization, all of Coricancha’s valuable metals were extracted and melted down: irreplaceable treasures lost forever. A little further, about 2.5 kilometers north of Cusco, lies Sacsayhuaman.

The Incas established this site as a fortress and temple, using large stones to build impressive walls that still stand proudly to this day. Explorers who want to learn more about the history of the area before embarking on the Inca Trail will not be disappointed with these sites.

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