Cusco in the Sacred Valley was the capital of the Inca empire from the 13th to the 16th century until the Spaniards came to visit. They saw all the riches the city had to offer and went on to destroy and loot everything in the city. This is the story that will be coming back pretty much everywhere in Peru.
They Spaniards stayed in Cusco so there is a lot of history in this city, which can be seen in the buildings that are a mix of Incan foundations with colonist buildings on top. It’s also the base to go out on a trekking trip to Machu Picchu.
As an added bonus there was a large festival taking place when we were there (Inti Raymi). This is a festival for the sun held on the shortest day of the year. It spreads over a week and is filled with parades, the occasional firework, more parades and drinking in the evening.
Highlight of the festival is in one of the Inca ruins just outside of the city, where a historical reconstruction is made of the Inti Raymi ceremonies that were held five centuries ago. In those days dances and parades were performed and animals were sacrificed to thank Pachamama and to ensure a good cropping season. Nowadays the ceremony consists of thousands of people standing in front of each other makings sure to block each other’s view of the ceremony, preferably with the use of umbrellas and selfie-sticks into the mix. Just like Incan times.
After a few days we were ready to leave for the real highlight of Peru, Machu Picchu.