Cuzco, founded in 1100 A.D., is the oldest continually inhabited city in the Western hemisphere. Built in a mountainous region considered among the most beautiful on the planet, Cuzco was once the flourishing capital of the Inca Empire. Natives and visitors alike consider it the most impressive of all Peruvian cities for both its history and its remarkable mix of Incan and Spanish colonial architecture. And we've yet to mention the breathtaking beauty of the local terrain and the warmth of the local people.
Cuzco is an ideal base from which to explore Peru, since it's situated in the same region as the ruins of Machu Picchu and the Inca Trail. Because the city lies at high elevation (3350 meters above sea level), nights can be cold and days cool. You won't need to worry about the chilly temperatures, however; you can keep warm donning one of the unique woolen sweaters or other colorful indigenous textiles for sale one of Cuzco's numerous markets.
Walking through the city you will find colonial buildings erected atop the stone foundations of Inca temples and churches or convents sprawled out alongside the Temple of the Sun. All around you lay palpable reminders of Cuzco's rich past and vibrant present. For those who want to acquire an encompassing vision of Peruvian history and culture, Cuzco is truly the ideal place to learn Spanish.
A view of Cuzco
The Plaza de Armas
Fiestas and celebrations in Cuzco
Every year on the 24th of June, Cuzco celebrates the festival of Inti Raymi. This festival was the most important of the year for the Incas, and was reintroduced in the 20th century, after having been outlawed by the Spanish during the conquest of Peru. The celebration honors Inti, the Incan Sun God. The Inti Raymi symbolizes the eternal consecration of marriage between the Sun and his children, the family of human beings.
On the 24th of June the locals celebrate the winter solstice and the beginning of the Sun's New Year. Although scientifically the solstice begins on the 21st of June, the Pacha Unachaq, a sundial used by the Incas, showed the sun to stay some days in the same place before rising on the 24th of June. Thus the 24th became Inti Raymi, the Sun's New Year. People line one of Cuzco's central squares early that day, to await the arrival of Inti. When he rises in all his glory, the celebrations begin: expositions, street and square activities, live music and a theatrical presentation, in Quechua, the language of the Incas, of the traditional Incan ceremony of Inti Raymi. Cuzco's annual celebration of the Sun is the second largest festival in Latin America, after the carnival of Rio.
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