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Cuzco or Cusco (in Southern Quechua: Qusqu or Qosqo, pronounced [qo̝s.qɔ]) is a city in southeastern Peru. On the eastern slope of the Andes mountain range, in the basin of the Huatanay river, a tributary of the Vilcanota. It is the capital of the department of Cuzco and, furthermore, as stated in the Peruvian constitution, it is the “historical capital” of the country.

The city of Cuzco, according to the National Institute of Statistics and Informatics, is the eighth most populated city in Peru, and in 2014 it had a population of 420,137 inhabitants.

Formerly the capital of the Inca Empire, one of the most important cities of the Viceroyalty of Peru, at the time, and in the hands of the Spanish, was adorned with churches, palaces and Baroque and neoclassical squares, which is what today make it The main tourist place of Peru. Declared a World Heritage Site in 1983 by Unesco, it is usually called, due to the large number of monuments that has, the “Rome of America.”

From top to bottom and from left to right: plaza de armas; Coricancha temple; aerial view of Cuzco; Sacsayhuamán; Cathedral of Cuzco


The original form of the place name, such was found in Cuzco Quechua of the time of the conquest of the Inca Empire, must have been, as in the current Quechua Cuzco, / qusqu / [‘qos.qɔ]. It is estimated that the place name had an Aymara origin, from the phrase qusqu wanka (‘rock of the owl’) from the legend of the Ayar brothers, where Ayar Auca occupies the site of Cuzco flying with his own wings to perch on a rock of the area and become a mark of employment being lit .:

“Go over there flying (because they say some wings were born), and sitting there takes possession in the same seat where that cairn seems, because we will go to settle and live”. Ayar Auca, heard the words of his brother, rose on his wings and went to the place that Manco Capac sent him, and sitting there became stone and was made a milestone of possession, which in the ancient language of this valley is called cozco , from where the name of Cuzco was to that site until today

This name was losing its etymology in the popular knowledge, darkening, as the same Betanzos also cites:

“… to which people [of up to thirty small, straw-colored and ruinous houses] called the inhabitants of him, since his antiquity, Cozco, and what this name means, Cozco, they do not know how to declare it, except that it was formerly named”.

A totally different etymology was proposed by the Inca Garcilaso de la Vega, who states that:

They put by point or center [of the Tahuantinsuyu] the city of Cozco, which in the particular language of the Incas wants to delet the navel of the earth: they called it with a good navel likeness, because all of Peru is long and narrow like a human body, and that city ​​is almost in the middle

History of Cuzco

Foundation and Inca period

According to the legend collected by Inca Garcilaso de la Vega, Manco Cápac and Mama Ocllo migrated from Lake Titicaca on the advice of their father, the sun god. They launched a gold javelin; where they nailed they founded a new town. The chosen place was called Cuzco:

The first stop in this valley, said the Inca, was in the hill called Huanacauti, at noon of this city. There she tried to sink the gold bar on the ground, which very easily sank at the first blow they gave her, they did not see her anymore. Then our Inca said to his sister and wife: In this valley our father sends the sun that we stop and make our seat and dwelling, to fulfill his will, Therefore, reyna and sister, it agrees that each one of us will summon and to attract these people to doctrine and do the good that our father the sun sends us.

Chapter XVI: Foundation of the Cocos imperial city, in Royal Commentaries of the Incas, Inca Garcilaso de la Vega

Through archaeological and anthropological data, the true process of the occupation of Cuzco has been studied. The consensus suggests that, due to the collapse of the kingdom of Tiahuanaco, the migration of its people occurred. [Citation needed] This group of about 500 men would have settled gradually in the valley of the Huatanay River, a process that would culminate in the founding of the Cuzco The approximate date is not known, but thanks to vestiges it is agreed that the site where the city is located was already inhabited 3000 years ago. However, considering only its location as the capital of the Inca Empire (mid-thirteenth century), Cuzco appears as the oldest inhabited city in all of America.

Ancient chronicles like those of the chronicler Pedro Sarmiento de Gamboa (1530-1592) affirm the existence of ethnic groups in the valley of Cuzco before the emergence of the Inca Empire. Said author mentions the guallas, the sahuasiray and the antasayas as the oldest settlers; while the alcavistas, copalimaytas and culunchimas are considered more recent residents.19 It is also known that the ayarmacas inhabited the region, being the only ones that were not bowed down by the Incas, becoming their main rivals in the domain of the region.

Cuzco was the capital and seat of Government of the Kingdom of the Incas and it continued being at the beginning of the imperial era, becoming the most important city of the Andes and of South America. This centralism boomed and became the main cultural focus and axis of religious worship.

Spanish foundation and viceregal period

The Spanish conquerors knew from their arrival to what is today Peruvian territory, that their goal was to take the city of Cuzco, capital of the empire.

After capturing the Inca Atahualpa in Cajamarca, they began their march towards Cuzco. Along the way, they founded some cities as a link between the capital of the Empire and the pioneering city of San Miguel de Tangarará. On March 23, 1534, Francisco Pizarro founded in the Spanish way the city of Cuzco, establishing as Plaza de Armas the location that still maintains the modern city and that was also the main square during the Incas and that was surrounded by the palaces of those who were the Inca sovereigns. The construction of the cathedral began on the site that faces north. Pizarro granted the city the name of Cuzco, Noble and Great City.

Part of the nobility of the Inca Empire maintained a struggle during the first years of the colony. In 1536 Manco Inca initiated its confrontations and created the dynasty of the Incas of Vilcabamba. This dynasty met its end in 1572 when the last Inca Túpac Amaru I was defeated, captured and beheaded.

The city became an important commercial and cultural center of the central Andes since it was on the routes between Lima and Buenos Aires. However, the viceroyal administration preferred the location of Lima (founded two years after Cuzco in 1535) and mainly the proximity of it to the natural port of what would be El Callao to establish the head of its domains in South America. The city is already mentioned in the first known map about Peru.

Cuzco was taken as the head of the viceregal administration in the south of the country; In its beginnings, it was the most important location to the detriment of the recently founded cities of Arequipa or Moquegua. Its population was mainly indigenous belonging to the Inca aristocracy who were respected some of their privileges and privileges. A good number of Spaniards were also settled. At that time he began the process of cultural miscegenation that today marks the city.

Republican era

Peru declared its independence in 1821 and the city of Cuzco maintained its importance within the political and administrative organization of the country. In effect, the department of Cuzco was created, which included even the Amazonian territories to the limit with Brazil. The city was the capital of said department and the most important city of the south east Andean.

From the twentieth century, the city initiated an urban development in a greater rate than the one experienced until that moment. The city was extended to the neighboring districts of Santiago and Wanchaq.

In 1911, the expedition of Hiram Bingham departed from the city that took him to explore the Inca ruins of Machu Picchu.

A panoramic view from Sacsayhuaman of the city of Cuzco, Peru.

Geography and climate

Cuzco expands through the valley that forms the Huatanay River and the surrounding hills. Its climate is generally dry and temperate. It has two defined seasons: a dry one between April and October, with sunny days, cold nights with frosts and an average temperature of 13 ° C; and another rainy, from November to March, average temperature 12 ° C. On sunny days, the temperature reaches 20 ° C, although the light wind of the mountain is usually cold.

Gnome-weather-few-clouds.svg  Average climatic parameters of Cuzco, Peru WPTC Meteo task force.svg
Mes Ene. Feb. Mar. Abr. May. Jun. Jul. Ago. Sep. Oct. Nov. Dic. Anual
Temp. máx. abs. (°C) 27.8 27.2 26.1 26.1 28.9 25 25 25 27.2 28.9 27.8 30 30
Temp. máx. media (°C) 18.8 18.8 19.1 19.7 19.7 19.4 19.2 19.9 20.1 20.9 20.6 20.8 19.75
Temp. media (°C) 13.8 13.8 13.7 13.2 11.9 11.1 10.6 11.9 13.1 14.3 14.6 14.1 13
Temp. mín. media (°C) 6.6 6.6 6.3 5.1 2.7 0.5 0.2 1.7 4 5.5 6.0 6.5 4.31
Temp. mín. abs. (°C) 1.1 2.2 1.7 −1.4 −2.4 −5 −6.5 −4 −1.1 −1.1 0 0 −6.5
Rains (mm) 145.3 133.7 107 43.2 8.7 1.5 4 8.6 21.8 39.4 71.9 122.7 707.8
Hours of sun 143 121 170 210 239 228 257 236 195 198 195 158 2350
H R (%) 64 66 65 61 55 48 47 46 51 51 52 59 55.4


Economic activity in Cuzco includes agriculture, especially maize and native tubers. The local industry is related to extractive activities and to food products and beverages, such as beer, carbonated water, coffee, chocolates, among others. However, the relevant economic activity of its inhabitants is the reception of tourism, counting more and more with better infrastructure and services. It is the second city in this country that has and maintains full employment.

Banks and financial

  1. Banco de Credito del Peru
  2. BBVA Continental
  3. Scotiabank
  4. Citibank
  5. Interbank
  6. National bank
  7. Central Reserve Bank of Peru
  8. Inter-American Finance Bank
  9. Financial bank
  10. Crediscotia
  11. Azteca Bank
  12. My bank
  13. Banco de Comercio
  14. PrestaPerú
  15. Credinka
  16. Caja Piura
  17. Caja Huancayo
  18. Quillacoop
  19. Caja Arequipa
  20. Caja Cusco
  21. Caja Tacna
  22. Metropolitan Fund
  23. Financial Edyficar
  24. Financial Solidarity
  25. Bank of Materials
  26. Cooperativa Libertad
  27. Cooperativa Santo Domingo de Guzmán
  28. Cooperativa San Pedro

Transport and communications


Alejandro Velasco Astete International Airport

It is located in the city of Cuzco, the city of Peru with the greatest tourist attraction. Receive flights from several points of Peru. Its tracks are totally paved. More than 1 700 000 people pass through this airport annually.

It was named in honor of the Peruvian pilot Alejandro Velasco Astete who was the first person to cross the Andes flying in 1925. He made the first flight from Lima to Cuzco. That same year, in an aerial demonstration in the city of Puno he lost control of his plane and to avoid crashing against the spectators, he lost altitude and died on impact.

The airport is the main gateway to the city of Cuzco, which is a fundamental center of the South American tourist circuit, and is a necessary point of passage to reach the ruins of Machu Picchu. This airport has the highest air flow in the south of the country.

Interestingly, for being in a main tourist city, the American company American Airlines for some time started direct flights to Cuzco from the United States without touching the Lima Airport.

The Cusco airport is equipped with the greatest comforts, to effectively serve the innumerable tourists who visit the imperial city. It was the first in the country in which boarding bridges or sleeves were installed. The landing strip is paved to the highest standards, with a length of 3400 meters and a width of 45. It is perfectly capable of receiving Boeing 747 aircraft according to one of CORPAC’s reports.

The city receives numerous daily flights from cities such as: Lima, Arequipa, Tacna, Juliaca, Iquitos, Puerto Maldonado and Ica; and internationally receives constant flights from cities such as La Paz, Santa Cruz de la Sierra, Buenos Aires, Santiago de Chile, Rio Branco and São Paulo.

Chinchero International Airport

It is a work project designed to replace the current Alejandro Velasco Astete International Airport, which is located in the middle of the city. This new airport contemplates the construction of a new international air terminal of greater size and with projections to handle international connections directly, without going through the Jorge Chávez International Airport, it will be located in the Chinchero District 28 km from Cuzco.

The work has already been concessioned by Proinversión27 for its construction, with the Kuntur Wasi Consortium being the winner, made up of the Argentine Corporación América and the Peruvian Andino Investment Holding. The winning group asked the government for co-financing of US $ 264.7 million for the project. This means the State will save US $ 204.1 million, since it will finance 47% and not 78% of the project as planned.

The infrastructure will be designed to receive up to 5 million annual users with the possibility of extending the terminal to 8 million. The total cost of the work is estimated at US $ 665 million.

Railway Line

It is also connected by rail with the cities of Juliaca, Arequipa and Puno. Finally, by road, it is connected to the cities of Puerto Maldonado, Arequipa, Abancay, Juliaca and Puno. The road that connects it with the city of Abancay is the fastest to reach the capital city after a trip of more than 20 hours full of breathtaking landscapes crossing the Peruvian regions of Apurímac, Ayacucho, Ica and Lima.

There is also a train system that leads to the ancient Inca citadel of Machu Picchu. The tour begins in the capital city of Cuzco in the Andes region that begins with a series of low-level changes called “El Zig-Zag” on the outskirts of Cuzco before making a stop in the town of Poroy.

The train then descends from the highest point towards the Sacred Valley at the foot of the Andes. Before arriving at Machu Picchu, the train travels along the Urubamba River.

Culture of Cuzco


Symphony Orchestra of Cuzco
It is a stable artistic cast of INC-Cusco, created by Directorial Resolution No. 021 / INC-Cusco of March 10, 2009. It performs more than 50 concerts a year, uses the Municipal Theater of Cuzco.


The International Short Film Festival Cusco Peru or FENACO is the most important international film festival in southern Peru, held every November since 2004 in the imperial city of Cuzco, historical capital of Peru.

It was originally a national event dedicated to the short film format (up to 30 minutes), with international shows, hence its name FENACO (National Short Film Festival), a name popularized in Peru and the world to recognize the festival. But given the reception and response of filmmakers, producers and distributors from different countries, it evolved into an international festival, reaching in its sixth edition the 354 short films in competition, from 37 countries

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