The former capital of the Incan Empire, Cuzco has a long and tumultuous history. From the Killke culture that inhabited the area 900 years ago to the bustling modern-day metropolis, Cuzco has plenty to see and do. From culture to adventure there is something for everyone. The only disappointment is that there often is not enough time to fit everything in! Here are our suggestions of what to see and eat and how to get the most out of Cuzco, however long your tour to Peru is.
What to do
The Plaza de Armas and the Catedral de Santo Domingo sit at the heart of Cuzco’s cultural centre. The site marks the fusing of the Incan and Spanish cultures in the city, serving as the setting for the ancient Incan plaza of Huacapata and the Inca Viracocha palace.
The modern square is a bustling tourist hub, with bars, restaurants and shops flanking the northern and western sides of the squares, offering a distinctly European vibe.
For culture vultures
The ruins of the former Incan settlement of Sacsayhuamán lie high above the north of the city. The landmark is surrounded in mystery after Spanish conquistadors destroyed much of the structure during the settlement of modern Cuzco.
Around 40 minutes walk from the city centre Sacsayhuamán offers spectacular views of Cuzco, and a chance to have a close up look of the Cristo Blanco statue that overlooks the city below. It’s well worth the trek!
What to eat
Peruvian cuisine has a distinct regional flair to it and Cuzco is no different. The region draws on traditional Incan dishes as well as Andean recipes, which include Alpaca steaks and Cuy chactado (Fried Guinea Pig).
In Cuzco try Chalona, a cured meat, originally made from alpaca, however it is now more commonly replaced with lamb.
For those not so keen on exotic tastes, there are many steakhouses in Cuzco that serve a wide range of traditional meats.
What to drink
The city is home to the Cusquena brewery, which produces a number of award winning pilsner style lagers, which have gained international notoriety.
Pisco, a type of brandy made from grapes, is the national drink. Grapes from the Ica Region, where Pisco can be found, are also used in the country’s budding wine industry.
For the non-drinkers try a Kola Inglesa, a cherry flavoured fizzy drink that was named after its English creator, Erin Stone.
Moment you’ll never forget
Machu Picchu, one of the modern seven wonders of the world, is located in the Cuzco region, and is regarded as something that you must see before you die. “The City of the Incas” has become Peru’s most visited tourist attraction, with one million people visiting the site in 2011.
Access to Huayna Picchu, the mountain which towers over Machu Picchu, is restricted to 400 visitors a day. Advance tickets can be purchased and will guarantee admission.
Travelling to the mountain, visitors can take one of the three train services that operate between Ollantaytambo and Machu Picchu. For the more adventurous, a four to five day trek between Cusco and Machu Picchu along the Inca trail offers a spectacular hike through the Andes towards the ancient Incan site.
Whichever way you make your way up there, the views are sure to take your breath away.