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Peru: Cusco, Machu Picchu and surroundings, in the navel of the world

Cusco is the ancient capital of the Incas, the command center of a powerful empire that at its peak extended into what is now southern Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia and northern Chile and Argentina. In the “navel of the world”, or Cusco, were the most important Inca temples and palaces: the ruling sun, hence the origin of the famous network of Inca roads that today is estimated at about 40 thousand. kilometres.

Architectural structures of the city of Cusco

However, the Incas were not the first inhabitants of these lands, under most of their buildings they found traces of structures belonging to other towns conquered by the Incas. A similar fate happened later to the Incas themselves, who were defeated by the Spanish conquerors in the 16th century. Monumental palaces and temples were quickly rebuilt in villages and churches to erase the memory of Inca rulers and beliefs as soon as possible, introduce Christianity and subordinate the population to representatives of the Spanish king’s authority.

The colonizers have achieved their goal to a large extent, today Cusco resembles a European city with charming squares, beautiful colonial buildings and numerous richly decorated churches. It is a pity that for that price: only stone foundations, few sculptures, some ceramics, fabrics and jewels of the Inca heritage remain. Almost all documents (called codices, which contain varied information in the form of images) have been destroyed and the valuable knowledge of their ancestors in the field of waste of history, medicine or astronomy.

The history of Tawantinsuyu, the Inca empire, still arouses many emotions, and the best preserved ruins, Machu Picchu, despite the high ticket prices and their limited number, attract one million tourists a year. An uninterrupted river of people flows every day through the town of Aguas Calientes, located at the foot of Machu Picchu, which consists almost exclusively of pubs and hotels. It is cheap to get here at low cost, the most convenient option is the most expensive train in Latin America, whose average price is approximately 70-80 dollars for a one-way ticket (1.5 hours by car!). Commercial, commercial and once again commercial, is it still worth it?

Machu Picchu

Machu Picchu is very well located and the ruins are so extensive that, despite the large number of tourists, they do not feel crowded. You can spend the whole day on the mountain trails around Machu Picchu and the stone streets of the city.
Even so, the Lost City in the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta left us with a much better impression hidden in the jungle. The difficulties of a trip of several kilometers, the Indians found on the road and the atmosphere of mystery are definitely more of our fairy tale than the Machu Picchu that surrounds it with tourists and hotels. If we ever returned to these parts, we would prefer to go hiking to Choquequirao, 4 days after the civilization of another Inca city that is not reached for now, there is no “golden train”. It is also worth visiting the so-called Sacred Valley of the Incas, with towns full of Inca constructions, such as Pisac, Ollantaytambo or Chinchero, as well as the Inca Museum in Cusco, where you can see unusual items found in these places; It’s a shame you can’t take pictures on it.

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