Coricancha - Cusco's Golden Temple of the Sun

Coricancha, also known as the Golden Temple of the Sun, was once the most important religious site in the Inca Empire. It was a place of worship for the sun god, Inti, adorned with gold leaf, precious stones, and elaborate tapestries. Sadly, very little of Coricancha remains today. The Spanish conquistadors ransacked the temple, looting its precious treasures and destroying much of its artwork. What remains of Coricancha is now a shadow of its former self - but it still holds great importance for the people of Cusco. In this blog post, we will explore the history of Coricancha and its significance to the people of Cusco. We will also look at what remains of the temple today and how it is being preserved for future generations.

Coricancha Temple

What is Coricancha?

Coricancha is a temple complex located in the historic center of Cusco, Peru. The Inca Empire built the complex in the 15th century, and was dedicated to the sun god Inti. Coricancha is considered one of the most important religious sites in the Inca Empire and was an important pilgrimage site for Inca pilgrims. The name Coricancha comes from the Quechua words "qori" and "kancha," which mean "golden court."

The complex consists of buildings, plazas, and courtyards, all constructed using carefully cut stone blocks. The central plaza of Coricancha is surrounded by a high wall decorated with relief carvings depicting scenes from Inca mythology. At the plaza's center is a giant sundial known as the Intiwatana, which the Incas used to determine the time of day and season.

Adjacent to the central plaza is a series of smaller courtyards containing a different shrine or temple. One of these shrines is dedicated to Inti, while others are devoted to various other deities such as Pachamama (earth goddess) and Viracocha (creator god). Within the complex several residential buildings were inhabited by priests and nobility.

The History of Coricancha

The Coricancha, also known as the Temple of the Sun, was once the most important religious site in the Inca Empire. Located in the city of Cusco, Peru, the Coricancha was initially built by the pre-Inca civilization of the Killke culture. The Killke people constructed a massive temple complex dedicated to their gods and goddesses. When the Inca conquered the Killke, they appropriated the Coricancha for religious purposes. The Inca believed that the sun god Inti lived in the Coricancha. They built a magnificent gold-covered temple in his honor. The walls and floors of the temple were lined with precious metals and stones.

The most sacred area of the temple was reserved for the statue of Inti. Sunrise would illuminate the statue every morning and fill the temple with light. The Spanish conquistadors sacked Cusco in 1533 and looted the Coricancha of its wealth. They tore down the temple's walls and used stones to build their cathedral. Today, only a few ruins of the Coricancha remain. But its legacy continues to live on in Cusco, which is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

The Architecture of Coricancha

The first Inca emperor, Pachacuti, built the temple complex in the 15th century. Later rulers expanded and embellished it, and at its height, it covered an area of nearly 20 hectares (50 acres). The complex consisted of buildings, plazas, terraces, and courtyards, all surrounded by a high wall. The main temple building was rectangular, with a thatched roof. Its walls were decorated with relief carvings of animals and plants. Inside the temple was a giant statue of Inti, made of solid gold. Smaller statues of other gods and goddesses were also present. The Spanish conquistadors destroyed Coricancha in the 16th century. They looted its riches and demolished its buildings. Today, only a few ruins remain of this once-great temple complex.

The Significance of Coricancha

The name Coricancha comes from the Quechua words for "golden courtyard," and it truly lived up to its name. The walls and floors of the temple were lined with gold, and it was said that even the sun god worshipped here. The Incas believed that the world was divided into three parts: Hanan Pacha (upper world), Kay Pacha (middle world), and Uku Pacha (underworld). Coricancha was considered the meeting place of all three worlds and was, therefore, of great importance to the Incas. Every year, during the winter solstice, the sun would shine directly through a window in Coricancha and illuminate a golden statue of the sun god. This event was of great religious significance to the Incas and reminded them of their place in the cosmos. The Spanish conquistadors destroyed Coricancha in the 16th century, but its ruins still stand today as a testimony to the power and influence of the Inca Empire.

The Santo Domingo Church

The Santo Domingo Church in Cusco, Peru, is a colonial-era church built on an Inca temple site. The church is known for its baroque architecture and intricately carved stone facade. The church's interior is decorated with paintings and sculptures from the Cusco School, a renowned Peruvian art movement. The Santo Domingo Church is one of Cusco's most popular tourist attractions. Visitors can tour the church's interior, admire the artwork, and learn about the history of the building and the Inca temple it replaced.

Main Attractions

The main attractions of Coricancha include:

The Temple of the Sun

When the Spanish conquistadors arrived in the Inca capital of Cusco in 1533, they were amazed by the city's magnificent architecture. One of the most impressive buildings was the Temple of the Sun, Coricancha, in Quechua. The temple was built by the Inca ruler Pachacuti in the 15th century and was dedicated to Inti, the sun god. It was said to be covered in gold, with a vast golden sun disk at its center. The conquistadors described it as "a place of extraordinary richness that dazzled the eyes."Sadly, the temple was looted and destroyed by the Spaniards, who melted down the gold and used it to pay for their war against the Incas. Today, Coricancha is a ruin, but it still retains its air of magnificence.

The Temple of the Moon

The Temple of the Moon was built to honor the moon goddess, Quilla. The temple was constructed using white granite, representing the Incas' purity. It was decorated with gold and silver, representing the moon's light. The Spanish destroyed the temple in the 16th century but it has been partially reconstructed.

The Temple of Venus and the Stars

Coricancha, also known as the Temple of the Sun, was once the most important temple in the Inca Empire. It was said to be covered in gold, with walls and floors lined with precious stones. The sun god, Inti, was worshipped here above all others.

The Temple of Venus and the Stars is located just north of Coricancha. This smaller temple was dedicated to the goddesses of love and beauty, Venus and Aphrodite. It is said that when the Spaniards arrived in Cusco, they looted this temple for its gold and jewels.

Rainbow temple

The Temple of Venus and the Stars was built by the Inca civilization in the 15th century and was used as an observatory to track the movement of the stars. The temple is located in the city of Cusco, Peru, and is one of the most popular tourist attractions in the country.

The Fountains

The Fountains in Coricancha are some of the most beautiful and serene fountains in all of Peru. They are located in the heart of the ancient Incan city of Cusco and have been a source of wonder and relaxation for centuries. There are two central fountains in Coricancha, both of which are fed by natural springs.

  • The first fountain is known as the Fountain of Life and is said to have healing properties.
  • The second fountain, the Fountain of Youth, is said to grant eternal life to those who drink from it. Stunning gardens surround the fountains, and they are a popular spot for visitors to Cusco.

What to bring?

When you visit Coricancha, it is important to pack appropriately for the trip. Here are some suggested items to bring:

  • Comfortable walking shoes: You will be doing a lot of walking around Coricancha, so it is vital to wear comfortable shoes.
  • Sunscreen and a hat: The sun can be pretty intense in Cusco, so protecting yourself from the sun is essential.
  • Camera: There are many beautiful things to see at Coricancha, so bring a camera to capture all the memories.
  • A light jacket: Even though Cusco is generally warm, it can get chilly at night, so having a light jacket with you is good.
  • Small Backpack with rain gear, water, snacks

How can you arrive?

There are many ways to arrive at Coricancha. The quickest and most convenient way is by taxi. Taxis are readily available throughout Cusco and will take you directly to Coricancha. Another option is to take 5 minutes from the Plaza de Armas.


Coricancha, or Cusco's Golden Temple of the Sun, is an incredible Incan site worth visiting. The temple was once covered in gold and filled with precious stones, and it's said to be where the sun god Inti would descend to Earth. Coricancha is a ruin today, but it's still an impressive sight. If you're interested in Incan history or architecture, you'll want to add Coricancha to your list of places to see in Cusco.