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Discovering the Golden Temple of Cusco

Discovering the Golden Temple of Cusco

Exploring Cusco’s downtown area and visiting the Temple of the Sun, or “Qoricancha”, is an awesome experience. Cusco is a truly unique tourist destination where ancient, contemporary, and modern history blend together, resulting in a site that has retained its value despite the passage of time.

When the Spanish arrived in Cusco, they destroyed most of Coricancha and built the Santo Domingo Church on its foundations. Today, remnants of the fine outer and inner stone walls, legendary tales of the immense gold quantities used in constructing the temples, and a plain entranceway to the complex are all that remain of the Coricancha.


The Coricancha, also known as the Koricancha, Qoricancha, or Qorikancha (The Golden Temple), was initially named Intikancha or Intiwasi. It was dedicated to the deities of the Inca. The Inca culture was a civilization of polytheistic beliefs, that is to say they worshiped multiple gods, among them Creator god Viracocha, the god of the sun, and the moon goddess. The Coricancha is believed to have been built by Pachacuti Inca Yupanqui, the 9th Inca ruler (1438 – 1471 CE). Built using the fine masonry skills of the Inca, the complex was built using large Calcite and Andesite rocks blocks that were finely cut and fitted together without mortar that not even a needle could enter between 2 stones. Most walls leaned inwards slightly as they escalated in height, a typical feature of Inca architecture that this was not only for baking purposes but also strategic, not only withstood the time but also natural disasters such as earthquakes, rains and others.

The high walls and doors were covered in sheets of gold, and a courtyard was built in honor of the great sun god Inti, filled with golden statues and hence derives the same name, “Qori” which means gold and “Cancha” which is an open place but enclosed with walls. It was described as “fabulous beyond belief” by the Spanish, also had enclosures for the worship of other deities such as the moon, the stars and more, which naturally also had other unique pieces of gold, silver and precious stones. Finally, later used most of the gold as ransom for the life of their leader Inca Atahualpa.

Most of the temple was destroyed after the 16th century invasion and much of the gold of the walls was melted down and then sent to the King of Spain. The existing base of the Coricancha Cusco Temple was used to build the Santo Domingo Temple of the Dominican order wanting to demonstrate the superiority of Spanish culture.

An important fact: The Inca civilization expanded territorially through Peru, Ecuador, Chile and Bolivia, and parts of Colombia and Argentina. However, the downtown of their culture and civilization centered around the Coricancha temple in Cusco, a temple stood, gleaming like the radiant sun and that the Incas deeply revered it, offering gold to it at dawn each day by all wealthy citizens who visit it. Between 1493-1527, the Inca leader Huayna Capac and Qoricancha temple led to a robust presence of influential people in Cusco, strengthening the empire. This allowed the state to be favored during revolutionary movements.


You will discover when you visit to the Coricancha Cusco that inside the Temple of the Sun of Cusco there are also other enclosed spaces dedicated to the worship of various other deities, these were spaces where they worshiped other gods, these sacred shrines were:

The Courtyard of the Sun or Solar Garden and The Fountains

Compared to Catholic ceremonies held within church walls, Andean rituals honoring the sun god Inti were conducted in open spaces to allow all the subjects could appreciate and be part of the worship of the sun god. This space inside the Coricancha Cusco was a storeroomfor offerings brought by devotees, flowers, food, gold pieces, and more paid tribute to Inti. According to historical accounts, the Spanish conquistadors discovered life-sized gold animal figures among the treasures here. Over time, this offering space became a private Dominican friar’s garden. Today, it serves as the Coricancha esplanade hosting events like the Inti Raymi festival, the main ceremony giving thanks to the earth and sun. The open-air design upheld the Inca tradition of communal sun worship.

The original Coricancha temple complex contained five sacred fountains, and the origin of the water was kept secret. Each fountain held distinct religious significance for the Incas and was decorated with beautiful metals, in keeping with the style of Coricancha. These fountains played an important role in rituals and ceremonies honoring the sun god and other deities.

The Temple of the Sun

It was the most significant temple of the Inca complex of Cusco. Dedicated to the sun god Inti, its walls were covered in gold, symbolizing the sweat of the sun. This was so large that it occupied around 50% of the size that the Santo Domingo temple currently has. However, it was destroyed mainly to build the temple of Santo Domingo, as the Spanish sought to eradicate the Inca culture. The abundance of gold in the temple arose from the Inca belief that gold was a sacred material, used only for decorative and religious purposes, and not for commercial purposes.

Temple of the Moon

Within the Coricancha temple complex in Cusco this enclosure, dedicated to the worship of the moon. The moon was considered the sun’s wife, the moon temple was essential and important to Coricancha. Its interior was lined with silver and decorated with lunar symbols, creating a striking representation of moonlight. Like the Temple of the Sun itself, the moon temple was also destroyed during the construction of the Spanish church.

The Temple of Venus and the Stars

In the Inca cosmology, the stars were revered as the daughters of the sun and moon deities. Andean priests studied the stars for agricultural purposes. At Coricancha, there was a temple dedicated to the stars located near the moon temple, separated by a small pathway honoring Venus. This star temple housed rituals venerating the Inca ruler, who was considered divine. Its courtyard hosted celebratory festivities where the Inca was venerated under the stars, seen as their celestial offspring.

Temple of the Rainbow

One of the enclosures of the Coricancha Cusco, the Incas also worshiped the rainbow. Valued for its beauty after rainfall, the rainbow was seen as a representation and projection of the sun god Inti by the Incas. This rainbow temple held great spiritual significance, but like many other sacred structures at the site. The most of this temple was also destroyed to make room for the Dominican convent buildings.


Visiting the Coricancha Temple in Cusco is easily accessible through a few options.

  • You can explore it independently as it’s located within the historic center, just a short walk (takes about 5 minutes or less) or drive from the main square (3 minutes).
  • Alternatively, many visitors opt for a half day City Tour, this includes an approximately 1 hour guided tour through several Coricancha enclosures before continuing to the archaeological sites around Cusco.


The CORICANCHA CUSCO temple is open Monday-Saturday 8:30am-5:30pm and Sundays 2:00-5:00pm. Updated rates are S/20 for foreign adults, S/8 for foreign children, and S/10 for Peruvian visitors.

Contact us to make sure your adventure is memorable in Coricancha and many ancient wonders of Cusco.