Discover the colorful history of southern Peru in this mountain city. Cusco is the former capital of the Inca Empire, and remnants of the civilization can be seen scattered throughout the town. The city has a vibrant culture that mixes traditional Quechua customs and contemporary Peruvian traditions. On the edge of the Andes Mountains, Cusco is an ideal location to base yourself in as you explore the terrain, including the Machu Picchu citadel and the Sacred Valley of the Incas.
Cusco’s city center is a charming blend of colonial architecture and Quechua culture. The city’s population is largely indigenous, and walking its cobbled laneways will reveal the colorful outfits and crafts of the locals. Seeing the city on foot is the best way to explore its small neighborhoods, where you’re sure to stumble across groups of men playing Sapo – a traditional coin tossing game – in the windows of Cusco’s many bars and cafes.
Stay on foot to reach the major attractions of the city, including the San Pedro Market, a fascinating and authentic Peruvian experience. Visit the Plaza de Armas for some of the best restaurants and shopping in the city. The city is home to some of the most important cultural institutions in Peru, including the Museo del Sitio del Qoricancha, a museum dedicated to pre-Columbian cultures, and a number of contemporary art galleries. The Saqsayhuaman complex is one of the most important Incan sites in the region, and offer excellent views across the city.
Cusco is located 11 150 feet (3400 meters) above sea level, and so temperatures are frequently very cold in the evenings. Some visitors are likely to experience altitude sickness, and it can take a few days to acclimatize to the thin air. Buses and trains depart frequently to Cusco from within Peru, while some airlines service the small airport on the edge of town. Visitors arriving from international destinations should travel via Lima to the west or Arequipa to the south. While Cusco may not be the most convenient city to reach in Peru, the journey is well worth the effort as traveling through rural Peru is a beautiful experience.