The City of Cuzco is the combination of the Inca capital and a Spanish colonial city.

The Incas developed the city in the late 15th century, during the reigns of Pachacutec and Tupac Yupanqui. They aimed to create an ideal town, with administrative and religious functions in the center and agriculture and industrial production in the outlying areas.

The first Spaniards arrived in the city in 1533. They constructed their own buildings (catholic churches, mansions) on the demolished walls of the Inca buildings, but left the city layout intact. These buildings are of Spanish influence with a mix of Inca architecture.


Visit May 2011

I first arrived in Cuzco from Arequipa after the bustrip-from-hell: 17,5 hours, driving over mountain passes at night in the snow. Cuzco then appeared to me as a dusty and chaotic large city. I ended up spending 4 nights there in total, before and after my trips to Machu Picchu and Manu National Park. The city nowadays essentially is a transportation hub for the region. It certainly has its merits but I did not like it that much.

In an hour or two you can visit the main sights of the historical center - the bling bling Cathedral, the disappointing Coricancha temple and the original streets. What is left of the Inca times are merely some walls and sometimes the street pattern. Maybe the impression would have lasted more if I had seen Cuzco before Machu Picchu and Ollantaytambo.

Probably not included in the WHS are the Inca ruins of Sacsayhuamán. This is a walled complex on the northern outskirts of the city. It was used as a military fortress and had ritual functions as well. Its main defensive wall has an elaborate zigzag shape. It's a nice hike to get there from the city center, and the construction has been done as perfect as the Incas knew how to do it.

Community Reviews

Thibault Magnien - October 2014

I have spent 6 month in Peru, in 2013. The city of Cuzco is undoubtedly of the most astonishing treasures of the country. It was the capital of the Inca empire. It embodies the association between the Inca culture and the colonial influence. Inca are present through the impressive walls that survived eathquakes, the layout of the city, the Temple of the Sun (combined with Santo Domingo church buildings) and the Sacsahuayman fortress above the city. Colonial architecture can be seen through the magnificent cathedral, churches, convents and secular building. Some of the religious buildings are fine examples of colonial art and real masterpieces, notably the Cathedral, Church of la Merced, Santa Catalina and the Iglesia de la Compania. Wherever you go in the ton you can be amazed by the traditional buildings, huge monuments and typical landscapes.

Altitude and cold can be surprising so prepare yourself.

Kyle Magnuson - February 2010

The high-elevation of Cuzco will become apparent as soon as you walk up some stars. The city is beautiful, impressive Inca ruins dot the landscape in and around Cuzco. The sense of history and the past resonates strongly as you walk the streets of Cuzco, where Inca streets and structures still exist, though by in large Spanish buidlings were long ago built on top of them using Inca materials as the foundation. When I travelled here, we were lucky enough to arrive during festival time, men, women, and children dancing in the streets and playing music. Overall a wonderful experience.

I do not include Sacsayhuamán here. While its strange that its not included in the City of Cuzco WHS or the Qhapac Nan WHS, I hope it might be nominated individually as its own WHS in due time.

Read more from Kyle Magnuson here.

Robert Frostick

Very interesting city with great food and extraordinary art and churches. Plan a day for the city along and extra for the surrounding ruins. You may have altitude sickness problems. The city was more interesting than expected and I wish I had scheduled extra time.

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Site Info

Full name: City of Cuzco

Site History


The site has 1 locations.

  • Cuzco


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  • Destroyed or damaged by Earthquake 21 May 1950. An "earthquake shook the city, causing the destruction of more than one third of the city's structures." (Wiki) and "The major earthquake that hit Cusco in 1950 badly destroyed the Dominican Priory and Church of Santo Domingo, which were built on top of the impressive Korikancha (Temple of the Sun). The city's Inca architecture, however, survived the earthquake. Many of the old Inca walls were thought to have been lost after the earthquake, but the granite walls of the Koricancha were exposed, as well as many walls throughout the city. While some wanted to restore the buildings to their colonial splendor, some of Cusco citizens urged city officials to retain the exposed walls. Eventually they won out and now tourists from around the world enjoy looking at these ruins within the living city" (Simple Wiki). In 1951 UNESCO was called in to report on actions to be taken - see report



Human Activity

Individual People

Religion and Belief

  • Axis Mundi 
  • Cathedrals Santo Domingo
  • Dominican Order Santa Domingo Church and Convent, built over the Inca Koricancha (temple to the Sun)
  • Holiest place The Temple of the Sun was holiest place for the Inca.
  • Mercedarians in 1534, Father Sebastian de Castaneda founded the convent of Cuzco, the capital city of the Incan Empire, which would soon become a major evangelization center from which frequent missionary expeditions would leave for more remote areas.



  • Built or owned by Spanish The first Spaniards arrived in the city on 15 November 1533. Francisco Pizarro officially arrived in Cusco on 23 March 1534, renaming it the "Very noble and great city of Cuzco". The many buildings constructed after the Spanish invasion have a mixture of Spanish influence with Inca indigenous architecture, including the Santa Clara and San Blas neighborhoods. The Spanish destroyed many Inca buildings, temples and palaces. They used the remaining walls as bases for the construction of a new city. (wiki)
  • Exact locations inscribed twice (or more) Its central square is also part of Qhapaq Nan
  • Located in a Former Capital Inca Empire 13th Century - 1533
  • Patrimonito's World Heritage Adventures 
  • Tintin The Seven Crystal Balls / Prisoners of the Sun.

WHS on Other Lists

World Heritage Process