Located in the southeastern part of the Andes, Cusco is Peru’s main tourist destination and one of the most important in the Americas. Known by the Incas as the "home of gods” Cusco became the capital of one of the largest pre-Columbian empires: the Tawantinsuyo. Its name in Quechua, Qosqo means "Navel of the world”, which derives from when the city served as a hub for a vast network of roads interconnecting virtually the whole of South America, from the southern part of present-day Colombia to the northern part of what is now Argentina.
Furthermore, Cusco is also both a mestizo and colonial city, with splendid churches and manors built on foundations of elaborately carved stone. The local cuisine is also something for the traveler to look forward to, including superb combinations of typical Andean foods, such as corn, potatoes and chili pepper, with pork and mutton introduced by the Spanish. With its vast landscapes, rich history and fascinating geography, Cusco is, without a doubt, something all travelers long to experience.
LEGEND AND HISTORY
Although it was settled centuries before the Incas arrived, it was only during the period of Inca control (1438-1532 AD) that the Huatanay River basin, upon which Cusco is built, reached its peak as an administrative, religious and military center. The origins 0f the city are shrouded in myth and legends which tell the tale of how the Inca empire came into being.
One of the most popular myths, from the chronicles kept by the Inca Garcilaso de la Vega, is that of a mythical couple, Manco Cápac and Mama Ocllo, who emerged from the waters of Lake Titicaca to found the city of Cusco and teach its people how to cultivate the land. The city was divided into two sectors: an upper area, or Hanan, and a lower-lying area, or Hurin, references to both the geographical position of each area and the hierarchical position of their inhabitants. Moreover, it is also said that the outline of the first city had the shape of a puma with a falcon’s head.
When the Spaniards arrived in 1533, many pre-Hispanic structures were destroyed or used as foundations for new structures, which included churches, convents and mansions built in Baroque or Renaissance styles. Since then, Cusco has become one of the most representative expressions of mestizo culture anywhere in the Americas.
LOCATION AND SURFAC
The city of Cusco is located at the central and south-eastern zone of Peru, exactly at the western part of the valley of the Watanay River. The department has an area of 76,225 Km2, and the area of the Province of Cusco amounts to 523 km2. Compared to the Peruvian territory (1'285,215 Km2), Cusco represents the 5,9% of the territory.
Cusco comprises three large territory units that can be read following the North-West-South-East orientation of the department. These great territory sections encompass High-Andean zones, jungle areas within the department, and its borders are only fixed by an interpretation of general physiologic and climatic variables, which are useful to understand the great diversity of the Cusco space.
To the North, it is bounded by the jungle areas of Junín and Ucayali; to the South, it is bounded by the Southern area of Arequipa and Puno; to the East, it borders on the large Amazonian plain of Madre de Dios; and to the West, it is bounded by the mountains of Apurímac and Ayacucho's jungle. Recently, with the regionalization process carried out in 1988, it constitutes, together with the departments of Madre de Dios and a part of Apurímac, the Inca Region.
Cusco is located at approximately over 3,350 m.a.s.l., and it is considered as one of the highest cities in the world.
LATITUDE AND LENGHT
The city is located at South latitude 13° 30' 45" and at West latitude 71° 58' 33" as of the Greenwich Meridian.
Hour: The Peruvian hour is set at 5 h after the GMT (Greenwich Mean Time) and it is similar to the EST (Eastern Standard Time) of the United States.
Reference Hours: When it is 12 at noon in Peru, it is 13:00 hours in Santiago and Caracas; in Rio de Janeiro and Buenos Aires it is 14:00 hours; in New York it is 12:00 hours; and, in Tokyo, it is 02:00 hours of the following day.
The weather is relatively fresh. The annual average in the city goes from 10.3° and 11.3° Celsius (50.54° to 52.34° Fahrenheit). The temperature is relatively stable during the Summer and Winter. Usually, it is cold at night and during the first morning hours the temperature increases considerably until noon. On June, the temperature frequently decreases below zero to 5° and 7°C (23° and 19.4°F).
Cusco is under the macro-climatic influence of great air masses originating from the South-Eastern Jungle, the High Plateau, and even from the distant region of La Patagonia. The winds from the Southern Jungle involve large air masses filled with humidity, which are impelled by the Eastern Trade Winds.
The winds that come from the Peruvian-Bolivian High Plateau are cold and dry, just like those originating from La Patagonia, which are supposed to involve larger events. These winds enter through the South-Eastern zone.
On the other hand, the local winds generated at the valleys and at Cusco plains aim at distributing the heat and humidity during the day.
The seasons change during the year is not very evident; but, generally, it is possible to distinguish two well-defined seasons:
- the rain season, which goes from November to March; and the dry season, which goes from April to October. It has an average annual temperature that fluctuates between 11°C and 13°C. During the sunny days the temperature goes up to 20°C.
RAIN: Cusco has a special weather due to he height at which it is located as well as its closeness to the Equator. There are just 2 well-defined seasons: a dry season and a rainy one. The dry season goes from May to October and the rainy season goes from November to April. In general, the rain fluctuates between 600 to 800 mm. During the year it varies between 31.5 to 34.5 inches.
Warm Climates (humid and dry)
Humid: They correspond to the Low Jungle zones, both to the North at the Low Urubamba, and to the East part of the department at the entry to the Valleys of Pillcopata and Araza.
Precipitations: More than 1,000 per year
· Maximum: 30° approximately
· Mean: Between 23° and 25°
· Minimum: 20° approximately
Dry Climates: The warm and dry climates correspond to the Low Yungas that appear, as canyons, at the basin of the Apurímac River, at the center and Southwest part of the department.
Precipitations: Less than 500 mm. per year
. Maximum: Up to 32°
· Mean: Between 17° and 18°
· Minimum: Up to 4.4°
Mild Climates (humid and dry) These are the climates from the interandean valleys that domain the central zone of the Cusco territory, where the humidity difference is characterized by the location at the versant. In other words, the closeness to the East implies more humidity, whereas the proximity to the West implies more dryness. The mild climate zones are essential for the populations' establishment.
. Maximum: Up to 29°
· Mean: Between 11° and 16°
· Minimum: Between 7° and -4°
Cold Climates They correspond mostly to the high areas of valleys, "Punas" and regions surrounding the glaciers; that is, in those areas above 3,800 m.a.s.l.
. Maximum: Up to 10°
· Mean: They vary according to the height.
. Minimum: Below 0°
At the lowest section of the Cusco Valley there is an average annual humidity of 64%.