It’s no wonder that Cusco is the tourist capital of Peru, drawing over a million visitors each year to its cobblestone streets. Cusco is the sort of city that you visit once and end up staying forever. Whether it’s the landscape, the people or the Inca ruins, there are almost endless reasons to love Cusco – but here are seven.
The battle for the heart of Cusco was never entirely won by the Spanish. Today, Cusqueños practice traditions from both their Inca origins and Spanish conquerors. The confluence of these traditions is perhaps best reflected in the Cusqueño painting of a well-known Christian depiction of the Last Supper, where Jesus and his disciples are eating cuy (Peruvian guinea pig) instead of traditional bread and wine. From their dress to their language and food, Cusqueños keep their own unique traditions that are unlike anywhere else in the country.
The Incas left their mark not only on the culture, but on the landscape as well. Buy a ruins pass (available at the entrance of all ruins) and set out on an Inca scavenger hunt. Remarkable temples and mysterious structures dot Cusco and the Sacred Valley, allowing for weeks worth of exploring to do. Travelers from all over the world descend on Cusco to gaze in wonder at what the Incas left behind.
Towering, snow-capped mountains rise over green valleys and small mountain towns. Cusco’s location in the Andes and proximity to the jungle make it one of the most ecologically unique spots in the world. There’s not many places where you can eat fresh, tropical papaya while on top of a mountain.
World-class river running and mountain trekking are the highlights of any outdoor lovers stay in Cusco. In addition to craggy mountaintops, you’ll likely be hiking to Inca ruins and walking trails that the Incas themselves once took. The altitude, history and the landscape are just a couple of the reasons why you’ll never forget your Cusco adventures.
The city has become an international destination for those seeking the rare alpaca- and vicuña-based clothing. The fibers are soft and warm and were considered one of the most valuable products in the Inca empire, worn only by nobility. The bright colors and unique fibers make shopping in Cusco irresistible.
Cusco is a mixture of Inca and Spanish architecture, a combination that results in Inca-precise rock foundations with Spanish-colonial stylings. In the historical plaza, you’ll find buildings engineered by the Incas and then remodeled by the Spanish. Spend a day or two just enjoying the sights and walking the plaza.
Cusco is the starting point for the most renowned of all Inca ruins, Machu Picchu. Every year over a million visitors begin their pilgrimage to Machu Picchu from the Inca capital of Cusco. The ancient holy city high up in the mountains is the engine behind the area’s popularity and the highlight of any trip to the region.