The Sacred Capital Of The Inka

Whether it is a resurgence of indigenous identity or as in recent times, just political posturing by populist governments, a number of places from Peking to Pondicherry and Bombay to Burma, have undergone name changes in the past decade.

Could I locate a renamed city among the photos in my archives for the story challenge: letter Q? It appears I could, and I did!

The capital of the Inka empire and the cultural heart of present day Peru, Cusco was always known to the native Quechua people as Qosqo meaning ‘Navel of the Earth’. (How many navels can the earth possibly have?) After the Spanish invasion led by Fransisco Pizarro in 1533, Cusco was corrupted to Cuzco. The derogatory implications of this colonial adaptation led to the spelling being officially changed to Cusco in 1976.

By the end of the 20th century a very strong nationalist movement prompted the reclaiming of its ancient Quechuan name, and on June 20, 1990, the city’s municipality ordained that the official name would henceforth be Qosqo! (But as with Florence, Rome or Bangalore, the rest of the world continues to spell it Cusco!)

Although considered the oldest living city in the American continent that has been continuously occupied for about 3,000 years, much of Qosqo’s history has been obliterated by its conquerors.

And yet Qosqo and the surrounding ‘Sacred Valley’ are inherently Inkan, and the descendants of this short lived empire, continue to live in Inka houses, farm on Inka terraces, and use water supplied through Inka channels laid out with such precision and care!

Perched over 11000 feet above sea level – a fact that demands at least a day of acclimatization before one goes galavanting around the countryside – the city itself is still laid out much as it was in Inka times. Conceived in the shape of a Puma crouched over the Saphi river with Pumakurko street serving as the spine, Sacsayhuaman the head, and the city center the body!

The main visual impact of this Unesco World Heritage site though, is from the collage of glorious colonial architecture, built on the foundations of exquisite Inka palaces. Complete with grand cathedrals, arcaded walkways, cobbled streets and a gorgeous plaza, that wouldn’t be out of place in Europe……..

…….except for the controversial gilded statue of Pachacutec, the ninth and greatest Inca, atop the fountain. And nearby, a memorial to Túpac Amaru II, great grandson of the last Inka, and brave martyr.

Posted by

Madhu is an Interior designer turned travel blogger on a long sabbatical to explore the world. When not crafting stories on The Urge To Wander, she's probably Tweeting @theurgetowander or sharing special moments on instagram.com/theurgetowander

50 thoughts on “The Sacred Capital Of The Inka

  1. Fascinating story and the beautiful photography to back it up. I always enjoy your travelogues, but this one really gets to me perhaps partly because of my ignorance of this particular city, its age, my interest in the prePizarro age. It puts me back on track with the interests of my younger years.

    1. Thank you Joseph. I am a bit of a history buff too and struggle with how much to include without boring the average reader. I know very few people actually read the text 🙂

      1. If the text is not relevant or interesting it would not (or should not) be there. Here the Photographs beautifully support the text and the text puts every photograph in a context.

    1. Thank you AD.
      R had some dizziness the first evening, that vanished after a long nap. I was a bit queasy that night, but perfectly fine after. We did not take any medication. Did consume gallons of Coca tea though 🙂

      1. Ah yes, Coca tea. 🙂 I loved it and got quite addicted to it. I found Coca teabags at our local pharmacy in South Africa, and brought a few packets over to the USA with me. 🙂

    1. Do you have a picture of it? It is amazing when we see pictures we recognise! Gilly posted a photo of a Caravanserai sometime back, and I was stunned to see the exact same image in my archives!

  2. Thank you for taking me to a new place. The photographs are wonderful and make me want to visit in person. But until then I can be transported in place and time to marvel at this wonder.

  3. Thank you for introducing the history. The sacred capital of the Inka is remarkable throught your lens. Thanks, Madhu!

    1. Hard to encapsulate the history of a people in a few words Amy. There is so much more on the net if you are interested in reading. Thank you for your generous support 🙂

  4. Very interesting place to visit. Thanks for the post.

  5. the stonework is amazing, I’ve seen it on TV and the potatoes, all those varieties, I wonder if anyone can tell the difference. This is a great post as always Madhu!

  6. thank you for QOSQO “… was always known to the native Quechua people as Qosqo meaning ‘Navel of the Earth’. (How many navels can the earth possibly have?) After the Spanish invasion led by Fransisco Pizarro in 1533, Cusco was corrupted to Cuzco. The derogatory implications of this colonial adaptation led to the spelling being officially changed to Cusco in 1976…”

  7. Nice place. I can imagine I’m there right now by looking at those stunning photographs!

  8. Stunning photos and great history lesson. We were planning a trip to Cusco a few years back but a family emergency kept us from going. Thanks for the virtual tour Madhu. 🙂

    1. Thank you Ledrake! R said I was cheating about the name, had to prove him wrong of course 😀

    1. Smart piece of thinking there, Madhu. I do envy you this trip. (how many times must I have said that on here!)

      1. Thank you Jo! Yes this was a lifetime dream. But your long sojourns in Portugal are no less envy worthy 🙂

Comments are closed.