Cuzco or, according to official spelling nowadays, Cusco (from Quechua Qusqu) is a Peruvian department located to the southeast of the country. Its capital city, Cuzco, is designated as the "Historical Capital of Peru" by the Constitution of Peru, and is one of the oldest cities in America that have managed to survive the passage of time and thrive over the course of the centuries.
Cuzco department comprises 13 provinces and 108 districts in a region that stretches from the southeast slopes of the western branch of the Peruvian Andes (populated by Quechua communities) to the Amazon basin (home to the Machiguenga, Asháninka, Yine, Yora, Huachipaeri, Nanti and Kirinieri indigenous peoples).
The department is crossed by the Urubamba River (which in its upper course is called Vilcanota or Willkamayu, Quechua for "sacred river") and the Apurímac River, and by three mountain ranges: the Urubamba Cordillera, the Vilcabamba Cordillera and the Vilcanota Cordillera. Among the highest peaks are the breathtaking snow-capped Ausangate mountain (6,384 m, the fifth highest mountain in the country), the Salcantay (6,271 m), the Callangate or Collpa Ananta (6,110 m), the Chumpe (6,106 m), the Alcamarinayoc (6,102 m) and the Sahuasiray (5,818 m). Most of these summits are considered apus (protector spirits, or their homes) by local indigenous communities.
Cuzco Region, in Wikipedia.
Urubamba River, in Wikipedia.
Apurímac River, in Wikipedia.
Urupampa mountain range, in Wikipedia.
Willkapampa mountain range, in Wikipedia.
Willkanuta mountain range, in Wikipedia.
Among the department's cultural attractions are traditional festivals such as the Inti Raymi (Inca ceremonies reinstituted in 1944 and performed annually at Sacsayhuamán ever since), and the main celebrations of the Christian calendar such as the Qoyllur Rit'i, the festival of the Lord of Huanca, the festival of the Lord of the Earthquakes (Spanish, "Señor de los Temblores"), the Corpus Christi, the Santurantikuy and the festival of the Virgin of Carmen in Paucartambo. All of them gather together large numbers of participants both nationals and foreigners.
Tourist attractions include the historic city centre of Cuzco with its mix of colonial and Inca architecture, built over the ancient capital city of the Tawantinsuyu or "Inca Empire". There are few original Inca buildings and walls remaining, since the Spanish used most of the stones in the construction of their churches. Some important places worth visiting are the Plaza de Armas (a busy, pleasant square surrounded by many attractive colonial buildings), the Cathedral (with a good collection of religious paintings), the Convent of Santo Domingo (which stands over the ancient Coricancha/Qurikancha or Temple of the Sun), the neighbourhood of the artisans known as San Blas, Hatun Rumiyuq street (where is located the fine "12-angled stone"), the Church of La Compañía (built by the Jesuits on the site of Huayna Capac's palace) and the nearby archaeological site of Sacsayhuamán/Saqsaywaman.
One of Cuszo department's most remarkable places is the Sacred Valley of the Incas, which refers to the valley of the Vilcanota/Urubamba River, especially between the towns of Písac/Pisaq and Ollantaytambo. Some of the most visited archaeological sites in the Cuzco area are located here: Qenko/Kenko, Tambomachay, Moray and Ollantaytambo. From the nearby village of Chinchero (with its mud brick houses, the massive stone wall in its main square, and many other ruins and agricultural terraces attributed to the Incas) there are beautiful views overlooking the Sacred Valley. The department boasts many other striking remnants of the Inca period such as the archaeological sites of Raqchi/Racchi, and Piquillacta, and the Puca Pucara/Puka Pukara fortress.
The ancient Inca citadel of Machu Picchu and the Cápac-ñan, Qhapaq Ñan or "Inca trail" are probably the star attractions of Cuzco, recognized for both their historic and natural heritage.
Finally, some other natural features of this region include the Manú National Park; mighty snow-capped Ausangate; the glaciers and glacial lakes scattered along the Urubamba Cordillera (more than 90 glaciers) and the Vilcanota Cordillera (more than 450 glaciars, and Lake Sibinacocha); and the canyons and ravines carved by nature in the Vilcabamba Cordillera, whose water courses feed the rivers Urubamba and Apurímac.