On our return to Cusco, we had the fortune to stop for a short time to see Saksaywaman. We then proceeded to our hotel, arriving late in the evening. Dinner was provided but we were able to take part at our leisure.
Saksaywaman is a citadel located on the northern outskirts of the city of Cusco. Sections were first built around 1100 by the Killke culture who had occupied the area since 900. Beginning in the 13th century, the Inca expanded the complex and added dry stone walls constructed of huge stones.
According to Inca oral history, Tupac Inca “remembered that his father Pachacuti had called city of Cuzco the lion city. He said that the tail was where the two rivers unite which flow through it, that the body was the great square and the houses round it, and that the head was wanting.” The Inca decided the “best head would be to make a fortress on a high plateau to the north of the city.”
The large plaza area, capable of holding thousands of people, is well designed for ceremonial activities. Because of its location high above Cusco and its immense terrace walls, this area of Saksaywaman is frequently referred to as a fortress.
While clearly ceremonial in nature, the exact function remains unknown. In 1983 Cusco and Saksaywaman together were added to the UNESCO World Heritage List for recognition and protection.
La Ciudad Imperial
After a comfortable night sleep and a wonderful breakfast buffet, we spent the morning touring Cusco, La Ciudad Imperial. The city of Cusco extends throughout the Watanay river valley. It has long been an important center of the indigenous peoples, and served as the capital of the Inca Empire from the 13th century – 1532.
According to Inca legend, the city was rebuilt by Sapa Inca Pachacuti, the man who transformed the Kingdom of Cuzco from a sleepy city-state into the vast empire we have come to know. The city was constructed according to a definite plan, and two rivers were channeled around the city.
The Plaza de Armas has always been the heart of Cusco, from the time of the Inca Empire to modern day. The Cathedral, on the northeast side of the plaza is the main attraction. On one side of the Cathedral is the church of Jesus Maria and on the other is El Triounfo.
The southeastern side of the main square is dominated by the church of La Compania de Jesus, which is easily mistaken for the Cathedral on first glance due to its ornate façade. However, it is obviously smaller and lacking the grand stairs in front.
The center of the square is a nice place to rest on the benches, soak up the gardens, and admire the fountain in the center. The area is also very lively and beautiful at night, with people mulling about and the architecture lit up with spotlights.
Construction began on the Cathedral in 1559 and completed in 1669, in the Renaissance style. It is built on the site where the Inca Wiracochas Palace once stood.
Lima – The City of the Kings (coming tomorrow)
When we travel, I always purchase a DK Eyewitness Travel Guide to familiarize myself with the country and the culture. Updated annually, each book provides a detailed description of popular tourist attractions, restaurants, and lodging options.
Each guide divides the country (or city) into color coded regions enabling quick browsing while on the road. The DK Eyewitness Travel Guides are comprehensive guides that provide everything to see at a location. While comprehensive, the books give just the right amount of information to spark interest in the particular sights you want to see. They are organized intelligently for the traveler, and they always provide a map.
As a special expression of gratitude to you, I am giving away one DK Eyewitness Travel Guide of choice to a lucky reader. The contest closes on the 20th of September at 12 a.m.