Often referred to as the ´Archeological Capital of the Americas´, Cusco is a charming and important city and one of the biggest tourist hubs of South America. Layers of history stack upon each other on every street corner – 1000 year old Incan walls beneath 500 year old Colonial buildings that have been turned into 21st century establishments. Here a picturesque population of colorfully-clothed indigenous folk shares the sidewalk with sharply dressed camera-toting tourists from all sides of the globe.
Apart from being a charm in and of itself, Cusco is the launch pad for many other touristic sites.
Machu Picchu – One of the most visited tourist attractions on the planet, the gigantic archeological ruins was once the capital of the great Incan Empire and sits 2500m high in the middle of a stunning tropical mountain forest. Machu Picchu is the only large Incan site never to be found by the Spanish conquistadors and it remained a mystery until 1911 when it was discovered by an American university professor.
Sacred Valley of the Incas – a key area of settlement to the Incas, archeological remains, Quechua villages and traditional markets still dot this landscape of snow-capped mountains, eucalyptus tree forests and agricultural terraces.
Koricancha Temple of the Sun – the most extravagant of all Incan temples, the ancient site was partially destroyed by the Spaniards to build a Baroque church on top. Nevertheless, Koricancha´s remaining chambers, rooms and walls are the best place to see the fine stonemasonry of the Incas.
Sacsayhuaman – overlooking the city of Cusco, this magnificent Incan fortress played a crucial role in the final defeat of the Incan Empire by the Spanish.
Best time to go
Cusco´s dry season lasts from March to October and its tourism peaks between June and August. For those who like crowds, Peru´s Independence Day is July 28 and Cusco is one of the most popular places for nationals to celebrate.
By bus, Cusco is approx. 24 hours from Lima, 7 hours from Puno, 12 hours from Arequipa and 15 hours from Nasca.
Cheap flights operate daily from all of these destinations and take under an hour.