Cuzco Travel Guide

Cuzco Overview

Perus capital of tourism, Cuzco sits on the site of the former capital of the ancient Inca Empire. With a heritage believed to date back to the 12th century, year in year out the city attracts hoards of travelers intrigued by the recipe of a majestic Spanish influenced colonial city built upon the remnants of Inca temples and fortresses. Cuzco is a truly fascinating destination and despite its immense popularity and unavoidable commercialization it still, alike Kathmandu, succeeds in retaining its alluring charm and intoxicating atmosphere.

 

Surrounded by a network of steep and narrow streets backed by the ruins of Inca walls there is something to see on every corner of the city. A good place to start and find your bearings is Plaza de Armas, which is where the main action of the city revolves as it did so many years ago. By simply wandering the square and the streets that encompass it visitors will discover layer upon layer of Inca and colonial history merging with modern day city life and entertainment. Cuzco is one of those few cities resembling outdoor museums that continue to inspire day after day.

 

Cuzco is also on the move and with the influx of tourism it has become a place to have fun as well as take in the historical sights. The city is brimming with budget backpacker hostels and a wide range of nightlife options, making it a place to party. Those up for adventure activities are also in luck here as there are endless opportunities to go mountain-biking, white-water rafting, paragliding, hot air ballooning and even bungee jumping.

 

The city is well connected in terms of transport although the distances can be quite grueling. If you can find an available seat then there are flights from Lima otherwise you are on the bus with the rest of the pack. Popular destinations by bus are Arequipa, Lima, Nazca and Puno, all of whose journey times can vary according to road conditions and rain delays. Local buses come and go regularly from the Sacred Valley. Cuzco is also the main gateway in Peru for the mystical Machu Picchu and Inca Trail and connected by a tourist train that runs three times a day.

 

Cuzco can be both serene and fast paced at the same time but for sure is not a city to rush. Anyone arriving here should set aside at least a minimum of three days in order to explore the beauty of the city alone. Visits to Machu Picchu and the Sacred Valley are additional and will have to be worked out once landed.

Things to do in Cuzco

Plaza de Armas - The heart of the Inca capital, hours can be spent strolling around the plaza or taking a pew and watching the world go by. With a fine array of churches, lined with bars and restaurants and full of local street hawkers it is a constant hive of activity. Check out La Catedral, which took over 100 years to build, and the adjacent Iglesia del Triunfo, Cuzcos oldest church dating back to 1536.

 
Cuzco Museums - With so much history and ancient culture to showcase it will come at no surprise to find a wealth of interesting museums. Museo Inka, set in one of the citys most elegant colonial mansions is a must, containing thousands of artefacts from mummies to ceramics to gold statues. Museo de Arte Contemporaneo has a fine collection of works from local artists and Museo de Arte Precolombino houses some fine archaeological pieces from 1250BC to 1532AD. The Museo de Arte Religioso is another important museum exhibiting the relationship between the Spanish conquerors and indigenous people.
 
Qorikancha - In ancient Inca times the golden courtyard was covered head to toe with gold and served both as site for religious ceremonies and a lookout point for the priests to keep an eye on celestial movements. Sat at the foot of Iglesia de Santa Domingo, today, following the ruthless looting of the Spanish, the site serves as a fine example of stonemasonry.
 
Trekking Cuzco - Besides the obvious trip to the Inca Trail, there are many other magnificent hiking trails in the regions surrounding Cuzco. Around town there are numerous travel agencies arranging tours to lesser travelled Inca ruins such as Vilcabamba, Choquequirao and Ausangate. Peru Treks and All Trek Cusco are two of many operators but be sure to ask around in order to weigh up the pros and cons of each tour.
 
Machu Picchu & The Inca Trail Machu Picchu is the most famous of all the ancient Incan cities and more often than not top of the list of traveler’s things to do whilst in Peru. Discovered only in 1911 and soon becoming swamped with tourists, little is still known about the timing and purpose of the site, therefore it keeps hold of its air of mysticism and splendor. Due to excessive tourism and severe rain the site was temporarily closed for a short period in 2010. Now reopened, rumors abound of further closure so get there before it is too late.
 
The SacredValley - Around 10-miles north of Cuzco is a valley jam packed with striking Inca fortresses, sites and villages. Dominating the valleys are the citadels of Pisca and Ollantaytambo, however, delve further and youll uncover some fantastic villages with vibrant local markets and great opportunities for outdoor adventure activities.
 
Cuzco Festivals
El Senor de Los Temblores - Celebration of the Lord of the Earthquakes held on Easter Monday since 1650 with colourful parades and dancing.
Init Raymi (Festival of the Sun) - Cuzcos largest festival is a week long celebration of the southern hemispheres winter solstice. The main attraction takes place on June 24th with all-day festivities at Saqsawaman.
 
Cuzco Nightlife - Cuzco is good place to party, meet and hang out with fellow travellers and there is a good selection of bars, mostly themed, squeezed around Plaza de Armas. The Cross Keys Pub is a popular spot and a good place to start off the night. Paddys Irish Pub and Rosie OGradys have a similar vibe but without looking out of the window you could be anywhere in the world. Get your dancing groove on at Ukukus Bar and Mama Africa.

Hotels in Cuzco

Budget Hotels Cuzco

Casa de la Gringa - Colorful hostel in the San Blas district close to Plaza de Armas. Tel (51) 84 241168.
Loki Backpacker Hostel - Popular party spot part of a group of South American backpacker hostels. Tel (51) 73 258484.
Pirwa Backpackers Colonial - Good value, nice bar and good views of the surrounding mountains. Tel (51) 84 244315.
The Point Cusco - Comfortable rooms, good location and lots of partying. Tel (51) 84 252266.
 
Midrange Hotels Cuzco
Amaru Hostal - Friendly guesthouse with plenty of rustic charm and 2 pleasant gardens. Tel (51) 84 225933.
Casa de Campo - Quaint rooms and cabins and a garden overlooking the city. Tel (51) 84 244404.
 
Luxury Hotels Cuzco
Hotel Monasterio - Superb rooms housed in an old monastery and the top spot in Cuzco. Tel (51) 84 604000.
Hotel Ruinas - Excellent spacious rooms, many with private balcony. Good bar and restaurant. Tel (51) 84 260644.

Cuzco Weather

Cuzco Travel Resources

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This page was last modified on 19 Feb 2011 by NomadJack