Navel of the world and surrounding archaeological treasures
10.01.2012 - 14.01.2012 20 °C
A week ago we arrived in Cusco, the ancient capital of the Incan empire. With an elevation of 11,200 feet, Cusco (or Q'osco in Quechua) means "navel of the world." We spent the first few days acclimating and bumming around the Plaza de Armas, the central square.
On Wednesday, January 11 we took a guided city tour and saw the following sites:
An Incan temple that the Spaniards quarried and used as the foundation for a Dominican monastery and church.
Notice the three levels of stones: pre-Incan, Incan, and Spanish colonial. The Incan engineering has proven to be superior in sustaining the numerous earthquakes that have rocked this town in the last 500 years!
Pronounced "Sexy Woman," this is the religious and ceremonial section of Cusco that was home the final battle between the conquistadors and the Incans in the 1530s. Some of these stones weigh nearly 200 tons. The Incan capital, Cusco, was originally shaped like a puma with Saqsayhuaman as the head.
A nearby religious site devoted to Pachamama, "Mother Earth." This picture shows a sacrificial altar in a cave. Usually, black llamas were sacrificed because their color retained more heat from the sun and thus they were holier.
A pre-Incan guard tower used by the Incas for its strategic vantage point.
A site used for water rites and worship of the water deity.
The Sacred Valley
Thursday was spent on a day long tour of the Sacred Valley, the area leading up to Machu Picchu. The following pictures show our enjoyment of the local culture, markets, vistas and the native corn-based beer, chicha!
A mainly agricultural site (notice the terrace steps used for growing corn and other staples) that also houses thousands of tombs in the mountain side.
Easily the second greatest archaeological site for the Incas (from our perspective) due to its beautiful placement, temples, fountains, granaries and huge images carved in the rock that dot the hillside. Some 300 distinct ruins surround the city.
Notice the face of the deity carved in the rock, best seen from the temple. His "back" was the main granary.
Check out the wind blowing from the Sacred Valley to Machu Picchu at the temple of the sun of Ollantaytambo here!
Our final stop of the day, an agricultural town with some amazing views of the surrounding glaciers.
This tour, and the experiences we had, easily made it one of the best days of entire trip. Each site was more magnificent than the one before, and prepared us for our voyage to Machu Picchu!