Spelled both “Cusco” and “Cuzco”, this oversized pueblo is filled with Pre-Incan, Incan, and Spanish history, and you can see the works of all three remarkably scattered around the city. Named by the Incas, Cusco means “navel” in the native language of Quechua and indicates the city as the center and capital of the Incan Empire. Hop on an open-air bus tour throughout the city to get brief narratives of all three collections of wonder.
2.) Hiking and Treks:
The phenomenon of Machu Picchu speaks for itself and tends to be the major magnet for people visiting Peru, and rightfully so. However, there are a plethora of other close treks and tours available surrounding the city of Cusco. The Sacred Valley (La Valle Sagrado), Sacsayhuamán, and the Incan Temple of the Sun (Qurikancha) are just a few that shouldn’t be overlooked.
3.) Native People and Artisans:
The people alone are a spectacle of vibrancy and motion. On any given day, you will find women in their colorful Peruvian garments, holding llamas by their side, speaking Quechua and Spanish interchangeably, while in simultaneous poetry of motion, weaving their amazing handicrafts. Rumiyoq Street, which runs from the Plaza de Armas to the Barrio de San Blas, is perhaps the best place to experience this.
Cusco holds both Incan and Spanish Architecture alike, mutually fascinating and bold. Adding to the city’s dynamic and rich heritage, the Spanish Architecture is most often built upon Incan walls, palaces and corridors and the same goes for Incan architecture upon that of the Pre-Incan Killke constructions. All in all, it makes for an unusual culmination of styles and quite the visual experience.
5.) Views and Energy:
Situated high in the Andes at 11,200 feet (3,400 m), Cusco features some of the best views in Peru. Surrounded by mountains at all angles, this city boasts tremendous views from either the downtown areas or any vantage point you take. El Mirador de San Blas, Cristo Blanco, and the Plaza de Armas are three free views worth checking out at no cost.
6.) Cultural Gatherings/ Fiestas:
The City of Cusco is Mecca for cultural and religious events and fiestas. Not only are there parades, dancing or music in the streets most days, but most districts hold a celebration and anniversary every year. Inti Rayni, the celebration of the sun, is one of the largest festivals that take place in Sacsayhuamán in June. Whichever month you decide to come to Cusco, check out what area is in celebration mode and don’t be surprised to hear the jubilee of distant Peruvian music and fireworks from your hostel/hotel.
Cuzco has some tasty dishes that aren’t heard of in other parts of the globe. Where else can you try Guinea Pig (Cuy) and an Alpaca burger in the same day? Another popular dish is chicharrón a la cusqueña, cuts of pork browned in its own grease, prepared in a pot, and served with corn and potatoes. If you want the best Chicharrón, visit the El distrito de Saylla.
It’s obvious Peruvians know how to party, and even better yet, how to salsa. Nearly every Discotec you enter will give you the chance to observe, and if you dare, step into a salsa session. Try a traditional Pisco sour cocktail or pass around a Cusqueña beer with friends, Peruvian style. Mama Africa on Portal de Panes Street and El Templo on Tecsecocha are among two of the favorites here in Cusco.
People from all over the world come to visit Machu Picchu and Cusco is the city where 99% of them stay beforehand. Take a stroll through the Plaza de Armas and catch the intermingling of cultures, diverse liveliness, and different languages from around the world. El Mercado de San Pedro also offers a fusion of cultures, shopping amongst the various sections of fruits, vegetables, meats, handmade items, and more.
Considered a subtropical climate region, the city has two distinct seasons: The dry season (April- October) with plentiful sunshine and the wet season (November – March) with frequent rain and occasional frosts. With the altitude and geographic advantage on its side, Cusco offers a breath of clean and fresh air to anyone who visits. However, often times travelers come down with case of soroche, or altitude sickness. Be sure to bring your altitude medicine or simply purchase the ancient remedy of Mate de Coca (coca leaf tea) or coca leaves, sold readily on almost every corner.