Cusco – Geography and Climate

Cusco has a diverse geography full of mountains, rivers and lagoons. This geography also marks the constant change of climates and microclimates in the region. Get to know areas of great geographical wealth such as the Sacred Valley of the Incas, the Ausangate mountain, the Vilcanota River and more. Today, the geography and characteristic climate of Cusco in Peru.

Cusco climate
Cusco – Peru


Location of Cusco

Cusco is the first tourist destination in Peru and South America. It has 13 provinces being the city of Cusco, the capital and urban center of the department. Its territory includes Andean mountains as well as jungles and rivers.

Location of the department of Cusco in Peru

Location of the city of Cusco

How many provinces does the department of Cusco have?

The department of Cusco has 13 provinces:

Demographics

What are the coordinates of Cusco?


How to get to Cusco?

As the first tourist destination in Peru, Cusco has an airport that receives flights from the city of Lima (capital of Peru). Although most tourists arrive by air (1 hour of travel), it is also possible to do so by road through a bus trip (20 hours of travel, approximately).

How to get to Cusco from abroad?

These are the countries that have direct flights to Lima:

How to get to Cusco from Lima?

How to get to Cusco by plane?

How to get to Cusco by bus?


Cusco map

Cusco derives from the word ‘Qosqo’ which in Quechua (the language of the Incas) means ‘Navel of the world’. Its name is due to the fact that it was the capital of the Inca empire, which included the current territories of Peru, Bolivia, Ecuador and part of Chile and Argentina.

Map of Cusco in the world

Cusco in the world
Location of Cusco in the world

* Source: Google Maps.

Map of Cusco in South America

Location of Cusco in South America
Location of Cusco in South America

* Source: Google Maps.

Map of Cusco in Peru

Location of Cusco in Peru
Location of Cusco in Peru

* Source: Google Maps.

Cusco map

Map of Cusco
Map of Cusco

* Source: Google Maps.


The Sacred Valley of the Incas

The Sacred Valley of the Incas is one of the areas geographies in Cusco. It was considered a place of great importance for the Incas due to its mountains, rivers, lagoons and cultivated fields. Currently it is mainly made up of the towns of Chinchero, Pisac, Maras (Moray), Urubamba, Ollantaytambo, Calca and more.

Sacred Valley of the Incas
Sacred Valley of the Incas

Chinchero

Chinchero is one of the most traditional towns in Cusco since it preserves many of the ancient Inca traditions. This town combines culture, history, archeology and a unique nature.

Chinchero was an important strategic point for the Incas (the palace of the Inca Túpac Yupanqui was built there. Currently, it preserves the platforms and base structures of the ancient splendor. During the colony the church was built there ‘Our Lady of Monserrat de Chinchero’.

Height – Chinchero is 3,754 meters above sea level (12,316 ft).

Location – Chinchero is only 30 kilometers (by road) from the city of Cusco.

Geography – Chinchero is located in the highest part of the Sacred Valley of the Incas. It is surrounded by mountains and two lagoons: Huaypo and Piuray.

Tourist attractions

Pisac

Pisac is famous for hosting one of the oldest artisan markets in Cusco and Peru. Its inhabitants preserve many of the Inca traditions. In this town the Inca city of Pisac was built, an urban and religious site famous for its constructions such as: towers, platforms, temples, tunnels, walls and more.

Pisac developed for many years a Sunday fair where the characteristic products of the region were traded (with money or through barter): potatoes, corn, textiles, etc. Today, over the years, a craft market was created where you can buy at a good price: ceramics, textiles, jewelry, handicrafts and more.

Height – Chinchero is 3,762 meters above sea level (12,342 ft).

Location – Pisac is only 34 kilometers (by road) from the city of Cusco.

Geography – Pisac is one of the most representative towns of the Sacred Valley of the Incas due to its beautiful mountainous geography. The Vilcanota River runs through the town. At the highest part of a mountain is the Inca archaeological site of Pisac.

Tourist attractions

Maras

Maras is a town founded during the Spanish viceroyalty and famous for hosting a beautiful landscape as well as the popular ‘Salineras de Maras’. This town preserves many of the Inca traditions of its ancestors. Its population is mainly dedicated to agriculture and livestock.

The town of Maras has narrow streets made of somewhat steep stone. The houses are mostly made of adobe and retain the titles or shields that their owners used in the colony. Today, there are restaurants and small hotels to house tourists who come there to visit the ‘Salineras de Maras’ and the ‘Andenes Incas de Moray’.

Height – Maras is 3,300 meters above sea level (10,826 ft).

Location – Maras is located 41 kilometers (by road) from the city of Cusco.

Geography – Maras is a unique place in the Sacred Valley of the Incas. From its location you can see the immense snow-capped mountains Verónica and Chichón.

Tourist attractions

Urubamba

Urubamba is one of the most important towns in the Sacred Valley of the Incas. It is the capital of the province of the same name and one of the most touristic towns in Cusco.

Urubamba is famous for its pleasant climate. The town has various tourist services such as: restaurants, hotels, cafes and more. Although there are no important Inca archaeological remains (the old palace of Huayna Cápac is in poor condition); the town preserves its Catholic temples such as the church of San Pedro Apóstol.

Urubamba is also famous for being the scene of several adventure sports such as: canoeing, rock climbing, paragliding and more.

Height – Urubamba is 2,871 meters above sea level (9,419 ft).

Location – Urubamba is located 53 kilometers (by road) from the city of Cusco.

Geography – Throughout the town of Urubamba crosses the Vilcanota River. At the top, the Chicón and Pumahuanca mountains stand out.

Tourist attractions

Ollantaytambo

Ollantaytambo is the only town that has preserved its Inca urban design for hundreds of years. It also has an Inca citadel with huge and famous buildings such as: the Royal House of the Sun, the Temple of the Sun, the Ñusta Bath, the platforms and much more.

Ollantaytambo is considered the end point of the Sacred Valley of the Incas. It is also considered the gateway to the high jungle of Cusco. It is precisely in Ollantaytambo that the train is boarded in the direction of Machu Picchu.

Walking through the narrow and cobbled streets of Ollantaytambo is to peek through the history of the Incas: you can see Inca walls attached to colonial walls and modern constructions.

The town of Ollantaytambo preserves some of its oldest traditions. Its colonial temple, the Church of Santiago Apóstol was built in 1650. The main festival in the town is the Bajada de Reyes, celebrated on January 5.

Height – Ollantaytambo is 2,792 meters above sea level (9,160 ft).

Location – Ollantaytambo is located 72 kilometers (by road) northeast of the city of Cusco.

Geography – Ollantaytambo has a rugged geography. The Urubamba River crosses one of its limits. The village is located on the slopes of a mountain. From there you can see the Verónica and Halancoma peaks.

Tourist attractions

Calca

Calca is one of the least known towns in the Sacred Valley of the Incas. Due to its strategic location with the towns of the Cusco jungle, it has an important role in trade with the Cusco towns.

Near the town of Calca is the archaeological site Huchuy Qosqo, a Quechua word that means ‘small Cusco’. Unfortunately, this Inca site is not in good condition.

In Calca you can also enjoy other tourist attractions such as the thermal medicinal baths of Machacancha and Minasmoqo. You can also appreciate its squares and its colonial church ‘San Pedro Apóstol’.

Very few tourists dare to visit Calca. This town preserves some of the oldest Inca traditions. From there you can visit other places in Cusco such as Urubamba or Lares.

Height – Calca is 2,925 meters above sea level (9,596 ft).

Location – Calca is located 51 kilometers (by road) northeast of the city of Cusco.

Geography – Calca is located in the Vilcanota valley. It has a fertile territory crossed by the Vilcanota River. It is surrounded by the snowy Colque Cruz.

Tourist attractions

The snowy Ausangate

Ausangate is the highest mountain in Cusco (the fifth highest in Peru). In the time of the Incas he was recognized as one of the most important ‘Apus’ (gods of the mountains) of the empire. Currently there are hiking trails up the high slopes of this summit. On the north side, the traditional religious celebration is celebrated in honor of the ‘Lord of Qoyllur Rit’i, one of the most massive pilgrimages in Andean places on the planet. Today’s Cusco residents also pay respect to the Ausangate mountain, just as the Incas did hundreds of years ago.

Nevado Ausangate in Cusco
Nevado Ausangate

Location – The Ausangate mountain is located in the Cordillera de Vilcanota in Cusco. The snowy is located southeast of the city of Cusco. The closest town is Ocongate.

Height – The snowy Ausangate reaches a maximum height of 6,384 meters above sea level (20,944 ft).

Map – The Ausangate has nearby lagoons of which the Sibinacocha lagoon stands out. The closest town is Pitumarca. One of the most important tourist attractions nearby is the Mountain of the 7 Colors.

* Photo: Google Maps.

Temperature – The snowy Ausangate has a cold climate due to its elevation. The temperature varies from -17ºC. (1.4ºF). at 0 ° C. (32ºF).

Geography – The Ausangate mountain has high elevation mountains where the ichu (wild herb) is characteristic. You can also appreciate the beautiful lagoons such as: the Yanacocha lagoon, Pucacocha and the Sibinacocha.


The Vilcanota River

The Vilcanota River is one of the main rivers in Cusco along with the Apurímac River. It rises from the high peaks of the snowy Cunurana, 5,443 meters from the sea (17,857 ft). It travels approximately 650 kilometers until it flows into the Ucayali River (the largest in Peru) in the jungle. When it crosses the Urubamba River, its name changes to ‘Urubamba River’. Much of its route was used for the cultivation of the Incas as in the Sacred Valley of the Incas and Machu Picchu.

Rio Vilcanota in the Sacred Valley
Vilcanota River

Location – The Vilcanota River is located in southern Peru in the mountains of Cusco. Travel a large part of the territory through the ancient Inca citadels. It is divided into two: a) the Vilcanota River (upper Urubamba), which runs through Andean mountainous geographies and Inca archaeological sites and b) the Urubamba River (lower Urubamba) that descends vertiginously through jungle landscapes until it flows into the Ucayali River in the jungle down from Peru.

Archaeological sites that the Vilcanota River runs through – The Vilcanota River runs through various Inca archaeological sites, such as:

Tributaries – The main tributaries of the Vilcanota River are.

Map – The Vilcanota River is famous because it travels all the way by train from the town of Ollantaytambo to Aguas Calientes (Machu Picchu town). It offers tourists one of the most beautiful landscapes of the trip to Peru.

* Photo: Google Maps.

Flora and fauna – The Vilcanota River is home to countless species of plants and animals. The most popular are the Andean bear (also known as the spectacled bear), the condor, the torrent duck and orchids and their more than 400 species in the Historic Sanctuary of Machu Picchu.

Animal and bird species in the Vilcanota river:

Plant and flower species in the Vilcanota river:

Geography


The weather in Cusco

Cusco has a varied climate. Its territory is divided into Andean mountains (cold – temperate climate) and semi-tropical forests (warm – humid climate). Each of its provinces (13 in total) has a particular climatic characteristic due to the characteristics of its geographies.

The climate in the department of Cusco

The weather in the city of Cusco

The climate in the Sacred Valley of the Incas

These are the towns and their maximum and minimum temperatures:

Town
Temp. maximum
Temp. minimum
Temp. average
Chinchero19ºC. (66ºF.)– 2ºC. (28ºF.)8ºC. (46ºF.)
Pisac22ºC. (71ºF.)3ºC. (37ºF.)13ºC. (55ºF.)
Maras20ºC. (68ºF.)0ºC. (32ºF.)12ºC. (53ºF.)
Urubamba23ºC. (73ºF.)4ºC. (39ºF.)13ºC. (55ºF.)
Ollantaytambo24ºC. (75ºF.)4ºC. (39ºF.)14ºC. (57ºF.)
Calca25ºC. (77ºF.)5ºC. (41ºF.)15ºC. (59ºF.)

The weather in Machu Picchu

The climate in the provinces of Cusco

These are the provinces of Cusco and their maximum and minimum temperatures:

Town
Temp. maximum
Temp. minimum
Temp. average
Acomayo21ºC. (69ºF.)– 1ºC. (30ºF.)11ºC. (51ºF.)
Anta20ºC. (68ºF.)0ºC. (32ºF.)10ºC. (50ºF.)
Calca25ºC. (77ºF.)5ºC. (41ºF.)15ºC. (59ºF.)
Canas18ºC. (64ºF.)– 2ºC. (28ºF.)9ºC. (48ºF.)
Canchis21ºC. (69ºF.)– 4ºC. (24ºF.)10ºC. (50ºF.)
Cuzco22ºC. (71ºF.)0ºC. (32ºF.)12ºC. (53ºF.)
Chumbivilcas20ºC. (68ºF.)– 2ºC. (28ºF.)11ºC. (51ºF.)
Espinar19ºC. (66ºF.)– 4ºC. (24ºF.)8ºC. (46ºF.)
The Convention32ºC. (89ºF.)15ºC. (59ºF.)24ºC. (75ºF.)
Paruro21ºC. (69ºF.)1ºC. (33ºF.)12ºC. (53ºF.)
Paucartambo22ºC. (71ºF.)3ºC. (37ºF.)13ºC. (55ºF.)
Quispicanchi22ºC. (71ºF.)0ºC. (32ºF.)13ºC. (55ºF.)
Urubamba23ºC. (73ºF.)4ºC. (39ºF.)13ºC. (55ºF.)

 

By Machupicchu Terra – Last updated, July 19, 2021


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