The Mysteries of Machu Picchu
Since its discovery in the early 20th century, Machu Picchu has taken off as a world destination, being named year after year as a best travel destination and one of...
As one of the top destinations worldwide for international travelers, there are plenty of museums in Cusco that reveal the rich history of the Inca culture and those that preceded. Whether before or after your trip to Machu Picchu, visit the top historical, archaeological and religious museums to gain a deeper understanding of the cultures that made this area of Peru what it is today.
While visiting the ancient capital of the Inca Empire, it’s worth investing a few hours to gain a deeper insight of what some consider the navel of the world. The best part? The majority of the following museums in Cusco are within walking distance from Cusco’s Plaza de Armas.
Plan your trip following this selection of the top Peruvian museums located in the ancient Inca capital.
Situated in the Plaza Nazarenas of Cusco’s laidback art district, San Blas, the Museum of Pre-Columbian Art (Museo de Arte Precolombino, also referred to as MAP Cusco) showcases archaeological artifacts and mystical art works from all regions of ancient Peru. Transporting visitors back in time some 3000 years, many of the 400 pieces on exhibit belong to Larco Museum, one of the top museums in Lima, Peru.
To help you better understand how these ancient cultures gave rise to the Incas, peruse the ten exhibition rooms with an audio guide (available in English, Spanish and French). Afterwards, enjoy a peaceful rest at the site’s fine restaurant, MAP Café.
Take advantage of your stay in the ancient capital of the Incas by learning all you can about the ingenious culture that built Machu Picchu and its lasting legacy. Inka Museum (Museo Inka) is situated in an old palace full of pre-Hispanic ceramics, jewelry, metal- and gold-work, textiles and even Inca mummies and skulls. Portraits of Incas painted in the 17th century artistic tradition known as Cusco School (Escuela Cusqueña) make this museum particularly significant.
Keep in mind there is not an official Inca museum in Lima, so be sure to visit this one before heading back to the capital city.
Though relatively small, the Regional Historical Museum of Cusco (Museo Histórica Regional de Cusco) provides travelers with insight of the importance of this area in terms of politics, architecture and, of course, history. Artifacts from the pre-Hispanic to colonial times can be seen at this museum in Cusco, which is pictured above.
The museum itself is something to admire as it was once home to the colonial-era poet (and one of the first Peruvian mestizos), Garcilaso de la Vega.
Tucked in a colonial building dating back to the 18th century is the world’s most comprehensive collection of Inca artifacts gathered from the ancient citadel, Machu Picchu. Nearly 400 archaeological pieces are on display in the Casa Concha Museum (Museo Casa Concha), including the findings of Hiram Bingham, the American explorer who made public the existence of the Incan citadel.
Whether a prelude or follow-up to your Machu Picchu adventure, the Casa Concha is a must visit site to better understand the lifestyle, craftsmanship and hardships of the Incas.
This museum is founded upon what was once the 14th-century palace of Inca Roca and part of its exterior wall is home to the mind-boggling 12-angled stone. Enter through the Moorish-style doors to peruse a collection of religious colonial paintings as well as a magnificent collection of unique Cusco paintings.
Don’t forget to look up and admire the carved wooden ceilings and the large Renaissance patio at the center of the Museum of Religious Art before hopping to the next museum in Cusco.
Before it was all but completely demolished during the Spanish conquest, the Coricancha (pictured above) was the most important temple in Inca history. Today the underground archaeological museum, Coricancha Museum (also referred to as Museo de Sitio Qorikancha), is located beneath what was once the Sacred Garden of said temple.
As one of the most visited museums in Cusco, visitors can observe mummies, textiles and sacred idols that highlight the greatness of the Inca culture. After exploring each of the five exhibition rooms, exit the Cusco museum and step into the sunny garden facing the Spanish-built Church of Santo Domingo.
Interested in visiting these museums in Cusco? Book a train ride to Machu Picchu departing directly from Cusco city, and check out these cultural spots before or after your adventure to the Inca citadel.