A symbol of both the cosmology of the Incas and their brutal conquest at the hands of the Spanish, Qorikancha is one of the most important sites in Cusco. The sacred temple, which the Incas created to worship their sun deity and then swathed in gold, was looted and destroyed by conquistadors, who built a colonial church atop the temple ruins.
The Incas’ most sacred temple, Qorikancha (Court of Gold in Quechua) was once covered in gold, inside and out. The walls were plated in the precious metal and meant to reflect the sun in the most dazzlingly way so as to properly collect and worship its power and influence. Though the gold is long gone, blocks of the impressively hewn curved wall built by the Incas remain.
There are many options to explore Qorikancha as part of a larger half-day, full-day, group, or private tour that incorporates Cusco’s historic center. Alternatively, multi-day tours include visits to Lake Humantay, Machu Picchu, and other key attractions within the breathtaking Sacred Valley of the Incas. Cyclists may opt to explore Cusco as part of an extended mountain bike trek. Tours typically include a guide and round-trip hotel transport but not food or drink; check specific tours for details.
Things to Know Before You Go
- Qorikancha is ideal for history, art, archaeology, and architecture buffs.
- There is a small admission fee to enter.
- Wear comfortable shoes for exploring as well as sun protection.
How to Get There
Qorikancha is on Plaza Santo Domingo, a couple of blocks southwest of Cusco’s historic city center. The best way to reach the temple is to walk down the pedestrianized streets of Loreto and Pampa del Castillo.
When to Get There
The temple ruins are open from 8:30am to 5:30pm Monday to Saturday and from 2pm to 5pm Sunday. Beat the crowds by showing up early. The temple is best seen during the day while the sun is out. Cusco is enchanting any time of the year; for the best weather, visit between June and mid-September.
According to Inca mythology, the first Inca ruler, Manco Capac, built the Qorikancha temple complex in the 12th century. During the Spanish conquest, the gold and silver wall plates and statues were looted, and some were removed to pay the ransom for the Incas’ captured leader, Atahualpa. Instead of freeing him, however, Francisco Pizarro murdered him, and the structure eventually passed to the Dominicans, who constructed a church using stones from the temple they destroyed.