City of the Andean Cordillera in Peru and ancient capital of the Inca Empire
City of Cusco
Administration and trade
Location and site
At an altitude of 3,400 m. above sea level, the city of Cusco is situated in a fertile valley of the East Andes.
Despite its relief, the Inca capital was organised according to an orthogonal plan. The rectilinear layout and the central square, which provided the point of departure for the four routes that linked Cusco to the provinces of the Empire, reflected the Renaissance urban planning principles that were applied to the design of the cities of the New World. In the 16th century, the new urban planners superimposed the Plaza de Armas on the Inca square; their work also preserved the other urban squares and the Inca street grid.
Under the Incas, Cusco was a town with squares bordered by facades of massive stone. The colonists preserved the base of masonry buildings and surmounted them with new structures; the numerous narrow flagstone streets running between two walls of Inca masonry are like corridors of stone. Baroque and Metis churches with cupolas border the urban squares. Further from the centre, the neighbourhoods are composed of low residential buildings with whitewashed facades.
Criterion (iii): The City of Cuzco is a unique testimony of the ancient Inca civilization, heart of Tawantinsuyu imperial government, which exercised political, religious and administrative control over much of the South American Andes between the 15th and 16th centuries. The city represents the sum of 3,000 years of indigenous and autonomous cultural development in the Peruvian southern Andes.
Criterion (iv): The City of Cuzco provides a unique testimony to the urban and architectural achievements of important political, economic and cultural settlements during the pre-Columbian era in South America. It is a representative and exceptional example of the confluence of two distinct cultures; Inca and Hispanic, which through the centuries produced an outstanding cultural syncretism and configured a unique urban structure and architectural form.
- After a series of wars and conquests, the vast Inca Empire eventually reached its peak. Cusco, the capital and holy city of the Empire, was reconstructed. Its social organisation, which was very hierarchical, is reflected in the layout of this ideal city.
- The Conquistadors took over Cusco in 1536. After years of civil war, the city was incorporated, at the same time as Potosi, into the vice-monarchy of Peru, of which Lima was the capital. A period of urban development, during which the Inca layout of Cuzco was preserved, followed.
- In the 17th century, the economy of Cusco, which relied on the Potosi mines, prospered. In 1650, however, it was devastated by an earthquake, and reconstruction followed in 1670. The majority of Cuzco’s present-day monuments date to this period.
- In 1790, the entire city was occupied. After this, Cusco experienced rapid economic decline while Lima, which was also linked to the Potosi mines, enjoyed growing prosperity.
Sr. Ricardo Valderrama Fernández
Municipalidad Provincial del Cusco
Plaza Cusipata S/N
Lic. Silvia Uscamaita Otárola
Asociación de Agencias de Viajes y Turismo de Cusco (AATC)
Palacio Municipal del Cusco Plaza Cusipata s/n