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How often do you get to spend a day immersed in a great, lovely culture with an amazing backstory? During a business trip to Peru, where I gave a talk to South American journalists about social media and user experience, I took a solo side trip to Cusco — only a 70-minute flight from Lima.
As much as I enjoyed Lima, I loved Cusco, with its entertaining central plaza, Plaza de Armas, brimming with locals out for a stroll and framed by historic buildings and shops selling wares and souvenirs.
And, equally fascinating, the storied ruins of Koricancha, just 20 minutes from the Plaza. The sacred site of Koricancha or Temple of the Sun (also spelled Qurikancha, Qoricancha or Qorickancha) illustrates ancient Andean culture's collision with Western Europe.
As you walk the grounds by yourself or with a guide (the doors open at 2 pm), you see restored temple rooms and artifacts from Inca times juxtaposed against artwork from the missionaries and European culture. (Guess whose art was superior, but guess whose side won.)
The site Sacred Destinations captures it well:
"The extraordinarily crafted Temple of the Sun (Templo del Sol) at Koricancha was the most sumptuous temple in the Inca Empire. Some 4,000 priests and their attendants once lived within its confines. Koricancha also served as the main astronomical observatory for the Incas.
"Dedicated to worship of the sun, the most important deity in the Inca's naturalistic pantheon, the temple complex was a glittering palace straight out of El Dorado legend: Koricancha means courtyard of gold in Quechua."
In case you're wondering, a few cruise lines do offer sea and land packages to Cusco, perched 11,000 feet above sea level, such as Silversea's Galápagos & Machu Picchu 12-day All-Inclusive Land and Sea Expedition, which includes a day in Cuzco, and Avalon Waterways.
Above are some photos I captured in the course of about three hours in Cusco. Have you been there?