Cusco Travel Guide | The Ancient Inca Capital of Peru

What’s up everybody? And welcome back to Vagabrothers. Right now we’re at 3400 meters in the heart of the Andes in Cusco, Peru. Cusco is the oldest continuously inhabited city on the continent. It was the heart and capital of the Inca Empire, and it’s been referred to as the Rome of the Americas. Today we’ll be exploring its fascinating history, from its foundation by the Inca to their brutal conquest by the Spanish and the living history that survives today. It’s going to be fun. It’s going to be interesting, and it starts right now. Listo? Vamanos We arrived here last night from Lima, and the first thing I noticed is that Cusco is a feast for the eyes. There’s so much to see. All the locals are dressed in these beautiful fabrics, and the architecture is absolutely incredible. The first thing I noticed was the altitude because the Andes are the highest mountain range in the world, after the Himalaya. The second thing I noticed are the buildings because although they look Spanish, they are built with Inca stones, and the Plaza de Armas where we are right now still the center of the city was also the center of the Inca capital. So in short Cusco has many layers. We’re going to do our best to explore all of them starting with the oldest, the foundation of the city by Manco Capac over six hundred years ago, but before we do, here’s what you need to know about the Inca. The Incas are the most well known of Peru’s indigenous cultures, but they’re really just the most recent of many. There were the Parcas famous for their textiles. The Nazca famous for the lines in the desert, and the countless others who battled for control of the Andes before the Inca solidified their rule six hundred years ago. According to legend, in the 12th century the first Inca King, Manco Capac, was sent on a mission by the Sun God, Inti, the supreme deity to find the navel of the earth or Qosq’o in Quechua, Cusco in Spanish. He founded a city that would be the capital of eleven more Inca emperors. From the capital of Cusco, the Inca Empire stretched from modern-day Colombia all the way down to Chile and Argentina. It was rich in gold and silver, and its skilled artisans created some of the most beautiful and valuable artwork in the Americas. The Golden Age of the Inca lasted just a hundred years until 1532 with the arrival of Spanish conquistador, Francisco Pizarro who with 170 men, 27 horses, and a single cannon captured the Inca Emperor, Atahualpa, and demanded a ransom so high that the Inca had to strip their beautiful temples of its precious gold. After all that Pizarro killed Atahualpa anyway. The Spanish conquest of the Inca is one of the saddest chapters in history, not only the slaughter and subjugation of countless thousands of people, but the systematic eradication of one of the most advanced cultures the world has ever seen. But not all was lost. Modern Peru is a fusion of Inca and Spanish traditions, and the culture is kept alive through the ancient Inca language, Quechua, still spoken by the majority of people here in Cusco. Here are some useful phrases: Hello, how are you? Por favor Gracias Okay, so we’ve hopped in the car. We’ve driven up and out of Cusco, and right now we’re at the fortress of Saqsaywaman. If you can’t remember how to pronounce it, just think “sexy woman.” But it’s a Quechua word. Basically, this was a citadel designed to protect the city of Cusco, and what you see behind us is now about 20% of what remained. There’re these huge stone walls everywhere, and one of the most impressive things about this building and about all of the Inca construction is that they have these massive stones, some of them up to 200 tons each, and they all fit together perfectly, so closely without mortar that you can actually not even put a piece of paper between them. We’re going to go check out the entire fortress. There’s lots of little trails going around. There’s a viewpoint over there, but the most impressive part, like Marko said, of this fortress is the construction of it. We have rain and thunder on the way. It’s just part of being in the Andes. These huge giant stones that sit and slide perfectly in with one another and like you said no mortar. So it’s pretty incredible. Actually, the most incredible thing about all this… let’s be real, Alex. There are just alpacas wandering this this area. I want to go pet the alpaca. You can get kicked in the face. You know, coming to a place like this really sparks my interest. I studied the Inca in college, and it’s been a long time, but I’ve always wanted to come to Peru and see this place for myself. And just taking a look at these stones, you get a sense of how advanced the civilization was even though they didn’t have a lot of the things that we take as necessities for advanced civilization. Yeah, they had no iron; they had no steel; they had didn’t have the wheel. And they accomplished all these things from building a huge vast communication system of roads all without even the written language. But they did communicate through these things called “quipus” and a series of runners. There was a certain tribe that was part of their empire that was chosen to be the runners. They were able to run insane distances, and they would communicate throughout their vast empire using the “quipus,” which was a series of knots on these ropes that could communicate information like harvests, taxes brought in in different provinces. And it’s pretty crazy.. the level of administration that they had. And all the roads that they built back then still exist today. Just like in Rome… all roads led to Rome; all roads led to Cusco. So a fair statement the Rome of the Americas, I think. All right well we’ve made it back into Cusco. We’re in the centro historico, and we’re here for lunch. Where’re we eating, Bro? We’re eating at Chicha. This is a restaurant from Peru’s most famous chef, Gaston Acurio, and it basically uses local ingredients from the surrounding area. So two o’clock.. lunch time in Peru. For lunch we’ve ordered some traditional Peruvian dishes. We have some papas rellanas, which are basically stuffed potatoes. They have carne picada that are like ground beef inside of them, and then they’re breaded and fried. We have a ceviche, little twist on it. It’s got a trout instead of the typical ocean fishes. And then we have this little sampler right here, which has all sorts of traditional meats. I don’t even know what they are. What are they? The idea behind the restaurant is that everything… There’re various Chichas around Peru, and each one takes ingredients only from the surrounding area. Everything on these plates here is either from Cusco or the surrounding valley. For example, the ceviche uses trout which is a river fish rather than sea bass from the ocean, and it’s served warm with some yuca. And by the way, we’re joined by the fourth member of our group, Darren, who’s here to help us with VR. Say hi. Hi. And so he’ll be helping us with the VR shoot in Machu Picchu, but for now it’s lunch time. That’s the winner. I think this dish does not come from the surrounding area because it comes from heaven, and it’s so good. Lunch is over, so back to the story of the Spanish conquest of the Inca. When the Spanish arrived, the Inca Empire was primed for conquest. They had just finished a brutal civil war, and Atahualpa, the Inca Emperor, was camped out at Cajamarca. When Pizarro came, he captured him through a combination of trickery and deceit and held him hostage. The ransom: his prison cell filled once over with gold and twice over with silver. To pay that ransom, he sent his men along with some of Pizarro’s here to the Temple of the Sun. This building is all the remains of a Temple of the Sun, Coricancha, Quechua for Golden Patio because it was literally covered in gold- the walls, the floors, the ceilings, even life-size golden alpacas and llamas. But Pizarro’s ransom was so high that to pay the price the Inca had to strip and defile their holiest temple of its gold. Then when they did, Pizarro broke his word and killed Atahualpa. And to add insult to injury, he took their holiest temple and converted it into a Catholic convent. And that was the beginning of the end of the Inca Empire. This is all that’s remaining of the Coricancha Temple of the Sun. You can see the architecture here is incredible, and supposedly architects have come. They still don’t know exactly how they made it so perfect, but there’s a window here that lines up through the entire building, absolutely perfectly. Been an incredible day exploring Cusco, and honestly one day is not even close to enough. This city has so many stories, so many layers of history. Every little alley-way and cobblestone lined street is a new adventure, and we need to come back. Well, we’re not leaving yet. I know another day here, but I still want to come back already. Bringing it back though to the first observation of the day of this being the Rome of the Americas, I’d actually say I think it’s more like Istanbul because you know Istanbul had the Christian layer, and then the Muslims came and they took all their beautiful churches and turned into mosques. They left the churches preserved with the art that was inside of them, and I look at this beautiful city, and it is extremely beautiful. I do kind of wish that they had left some of the Inca buildings as they were- except converted them into into churches. Although the churches are beautiful, you definitely know that there was something lost. For sure. One of the biggest travesties of all time was the destruction of the Inca culture, but there is some hope there because the people who live here still practice their culture; they still speak their language; they still dress in traditional clothing, and they celebrate traditional festivals. I think that there is a positive note at the end of all of this, and now it’s kind of all blended into this very beautiful unique culture that you can only really find here. But you will never stop to wonder…what could have been? What if there have been two separate cultures living together intact? On that note, let us know your thoughts down in the comment section. If you enjoyed this video, give it a big thumbs- up, share with your friends, subscribe and turn on notifications if you haven’t already. Stay curious, keep exploring, and we’ll see you guys tomorrow in Cusco and then later on Machu Picchu. Stay tuned. Paz.

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