The centre of the world for the Inca, Cusco is a now a lively combination of Inca, Spanish colonial, and modern clay brick and tile buildings filling the valley, and increasingly surrounding areas. At 3,400m above sea level it will literally take your breath away if you try to tackle the steeper parts of town too quickly before acclimatising.
Qorikancha brings Inca and Spanish colonial architecture together in one surreal building. Once the most sacred temple of the Inca, the Spanish retained the foundations and some of the amazing stonework, while adding a convent and church on top. The result is a complete clash of cultures and culture, similar to what the Spanish did with the Mezqita Mosque in Corboda.
The expansive main square, Plaza de Arms, is home to some of the finest Spanish colonial architecture in Cusco, including the Iglesia de La Compañía de Jesús.
La Catedral was more impressive and decorative inside than out, with endless golden shrines, and a striking white ceiling, and unusual layout.
Museo de Arte Precolombino was my pick of the museums, with a nicely presented collection from the Inca and numerous preceding civilisations in Peru. It wasn’t a patch on Lima’s Museo Larco though.
While the Iglesia San Francisco also couldn’t match Lima’s similar Monasterio de San Francisco, it was still definitely worth visiting for the church itself, a colourful ceiling, and some huge paintings, among the largest in South America.
Some of the most impressive section of Inca wall can be found up the hillside above Cusco at Sacsayhuaman. Only 20% of the original walls remain, the rest used by the Spanish to rebuild the city below.