One of the coolest sights right in the middle of downtown Cuzco is Qorikancha. Qorikancha means ‘golden courtyard’ and apparently the whole site was covered in gold when the Spanish arrived. The site used to be an Inca temple dedicated to the Sun God, but, again, the Spanish took it and built a church on top of it instead. Pizarro ‘gave’ the site to his brother, Juan Pizarro, who died a few years after the conquest and left the site to the Dominicans, so the church is the Church of Santo Domingo and there is currently a seminary on the grounds as well. In the picture above, the seminary is the white building to the right.
Surrounding However, in among the new colonial buildings are preserved portions of the Inca temples and works. These include smaller temples to the rainbow and thunder, and a larger temple to the moon and stars. The largest temple, to the sun, was leveled and the church erected in its place.
Here is a view of the interior courtyard:
Here are the smaller temples (rainbow on the left, thunder on the right):
The pictures above and below show the trapezoidal design the Incas used for both the doorways and the windows. Here is a doorway in the temple of the moon and stars.
There was also an example of how the Inca walls were built to hold together so well without mud or mortar.
As you can see in the photo above, the blocks were carved so they had bumps and holes to fit together like Lego blocks (our tour guide even used this analogy). These blocks are probably 2 or 3 feet square. Depending on the blocks, they had various protrusions and indentations to allow the bricks to fit together. This is how all the Inca walls we have seen were built, and is a really smart idea. The walls are also very durable. For example, the large curved wall outside Qorikancha, seen in the first photo, has withstood extremely strong earthquakes in 1650 and 1950, while the colonial buildings have had to be extensively rebuilt.
According to the initial reports, there were solid gold statues in the courtyard pictured in the first photo, but these were taken by the Spanish, melted down and reused for their own purposes. The stone temples above were also supposedly covered in gold sheets as well, so it must have been quite a sight.
Here we are on our tour:
In comparison with our Sacred Valley tour, we just hired a tour guide at the entrance for the two of us and she was really good. She seemed informed, helpful, and answered questions, so we were happy to have a good tour experience. :)
Next up: the start of our Salkantay trek