Cusco is a city in southeastern Peru, near the Urubamba Valley of the Andes mountain range. It is the capital of the Cusco Region as well as the Cuzco Province. In 2007, the city had a population of 358,935 which was triple the figure of 20 years ago. Located on the eastern end of the Knot of Cuzco, its elevation is around 3,400 m (11,200 ft).
Cusco was the site of the historic capital of the Inca Empire and was declared a World Heritage Site in 1983 by UNESCO. It is a major tourist destination and receives almost 2 million visitors a year. It is designated as the Historical Capital of Peru by the Constitution of Peru.
The city of Cuzco extends throughout the Huatanay river valley. Located on the eastern end of the Knot of Cuzco, its elevation is around 3,300 m (10,800 ft). North to Cuzco is the range of Cordillera Vilcabamba with 4–6000 m high mountains. The highest peak is Nevado Salcantay (6271 m) about 60 km (37.28 mi) northwest of Cuzco.
Cusco has a subtropical highland climate (Köppen Cwb). Its climate is generally dry and temperate, with two defined seasons. The dry season lasts from April to October, with abundant sunshine, and occasional nighttime freezes: July is the coolest month with an average of 9.6 °C (49.3 °F). The wet season lasts from November to March, with night frost less common: November averages 13.4 °C (56.1 °F).
Because of its antiquity and importance, the center of the city retains many buildings, plazas and streets of pre-Columbian times and colonial buildings, which led to his being declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1983.
Barrio de San Blas
This neighborhood housing artisans, workshops and craft shops, is one of the most picturesque sites in the city. Its streets are steep and narrow with old houses built by the Spanish over important Inca foundations. It has an attractive square and the oldest parish church in Cuzco, built in 1563, which has a carved wooden pulpit considered the epitome of Colonial era woodwork in Cuzco.
Calle Hatun Rumiyuq
This street is the most visited by tourists. On the street Hatun Rumiyoq ("Of the Old Rock") was the palace of Inca Roca, which was converted to the Archbishop's residence. Along this street that runs from the Plaza de Armas to the Barrio de San Blas, one can see the Stone of Twelve Angles, which is viewed as marvel of ancient stonework and has become emblematic of the city's history.
Convent and Church of la Merced
Its foundation dates from 1536. The first complex was destroyed by the earthquake of 1650 and the rebuilding of the church and convent was completed in 1675. Its cloisters of Baroque Renaissance style, choir stalls, colonial paintings and wood carvings are highlights of a visit to this church, now a popular museum and tourist attraction.
The first cathedral built in Cuzco is the Iglesia del Triunfo, built in 1539 on the foundations of the Palace of Viracocha Inca. Today, this church is an auxiliary chapel of the Cathedral. The main basilica cathedral of the city was built between 1560 and 1664. Stone was used as the main material, which was extracted from nearby quarries, although some blocks of red granite were taken from the fortress of Sacsayhuamán.