The Story of the Incas Through the Four Faces of Peru

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Peru is one of those countries that most British people probably know very little about. It’s associated with Paddington Bear and of course coffee; but it has a lot more to offer than just that… Historically, it was a country ruled by the Incas; one of the most powerful civilisations of all time – before the Spanish Conquest. The Incas managed to inhabit and flourish in the range of testing terrains that Peru has to offer. Even today, over 500 years later, the Inca’s legacy is still weaved through the landscape and culture. 

This story starts long long ago, high up in the city of Cuzco; which was the capital of one of the largest empires ever seen in the world – the Incas. Nowadays, Cuzco is a tourist mecca, with it being the gateway to green expanses of the Andes (where notably Machu Picchu is tucked away). Despite the fact the Spanish burned and destroyed most of the main buildings; there are still clues to Cuzco’s once glorious past and the legacy that the Inca’s left. The layout of the city still reflects the power that the Inca’s imposed over the landscape, with the four main roads leading out of the central plaza. If you find yourself stumbling into one of the magnificent plazas of the city, it can transport you back hundreds of years to a time when the Incas walked the earth.

From Cuzco, there’s only one place the go – Machu Picchu (arguably what Peru is known for). A winding journey through the Andes mountains, then a walk or train ride will bring you to this breathtaking UNESCO world heritage site – it’s a once in a lifetime place to visit. For the more adventurous traveller, a testing uphill climb as dawn breaks (or a short bus ride) will lead you to the perfect vantage point of Machu Picchu. The sheer size of the site can be appreciated from here, tucked away in between soaring peaks. But, it’s not until you wander through the site that the intricacy of all the masonry work by the Inca’s can be fully appreciated. How on earth did they manage to build this? Machu Picchu is a real tribute to the Incas and how advanced their culture was.

A world away from Cuzco and Machu Picchu is Lake Titicaca. The islands out on the lake still house people living the traditional way of life, albeit not the Inca life. It’s said that these people choose to originally locate out to these remote islands to escape the Inca rule. The islands are characterised by people who follow a traditional way of life by wearing the traditional dress and living off the land. Despite the people of these Islands removing themselves from the Inca rule they are the closest insight one can get into how the Incas lived. Their culture stems from a culture that was around at the same time as the Incas and has been relatively unaffected due to the isolated location to the rest of Peru.

The final face of Peru is its capital, Lima. Due to the progressive and international (mainly Spanish) aspects of the city, it could be said that the Inca’s legacy is fading into the background here. Yet, throughout the city there are little pockets of ruins, usually fenced off – a nod from the government for preservation of these vital keys to history.  They’re not widely appreciated or noted by many tourists and locals alike; but they’re a little remembrance of the civilisation that once lived.

The Incas are still highly regarded and respected for the advanced culture they carved into the harrowing Peruvian landscape, with historical sites, landmarks and museums abundant across Peru. So, learning about the story of this highly advanced and powerful civilisation whilst here is hardly challenging. So you should feel safe in knowing that despite the Spanish Conquest, the Inca story is still heavily threaded through modern Peru.
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Deputy Editor 2016 -2017. I'm a Geography student here at Southampton. Also, an avid adventurer; who is always up for discovering somewhere whether it's new or old.

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