Cusco is one of Peru’s finest cities and is a tourist hotbed. People come from all over the world to admire the remarkable architecture of the Incas and experience the unique culture of the Andean people. When walking around the streets you’ll be struck by the interesting Inca ruins and beautiful colonial buildings. Here is our guide to exploring the remarkable sites of one of Peru’s most celebrated cities, Cusco, the city of the Incas.
You need to spend some time just soaking in the stunning views of the plaza. There are plenty of benches to plop down on and admire the beautiful churches and colonial style buildings with an Inca twist. The plaza is also a great place to start up conversation with a stranger and meet new people. The plaza was once the center of Inca life, and in addition to its beauty, has much historical value. Kick back in the plaza like a Cusqueno.
The trendy, bohemian neighborhood of Cusco is a must visit. You’ll be able to enjoy some of Cusco’s best coffee shops, high-end shopping and hotels. Simply strolling around the cobble-stoned streets is a fun adventure and worth a day. If you’re looking for boutique shopping, then San Blas is your place.
Unfortunately much of the site was destroyed by the Spanish, but what remains is none the less spectacular. The massive structure was used by the Incas for both religious and military purposes and was a center piece in Inca life. The ruins are a short, but steep hike up from San Blas and provide stunning views of the entire city. Plan to spend at least a couple of hours here – there is so much to see and it is a very large ruin.
The statue stands in stark contrast to the religious ruins of Sacsayhuamán, which is only a short walk away. The giant Christ statue offers probably the best views of the city of Cusco and makes for a fun day hike or a visit after you see Sacsayhuaman.
Constructed in 1550, the massive and breath-taking cathedral is constructed of stones stolen from Sacsayhuamán. The Cathedral anchors one side of the Plaza de Armas and offers tours to those who are so inclined. The cathedral also has colonial art influenced by Inca and Andean life, making for a unique spin on Spanish-colonial art.
You’ll be able to see the stars form the southern hemisphere – a new experience for a lot of people. You’ll learn the constellations from the Inca’s perspective, including the various names for constellations used by the Incas. Located next to Sacsayhuamán, at night the area provides the best spot for exploring the stars.
A trip to this cave offers one of the best day hikes in all of Cusco. About three hours round trip, you’ll hike to a cave in the hillside of Cusco. You’ll experience the topography of the surrounding areas and arrive at a deep cave with a river running through it. If the hike doesn’t sound appealing there are options to take horses near Sacsayhuamán.
This Inca temple is only a couple of blocks from the Plaza de Armas and was one of the most important temples in the Inca empire. The temple was dedicated to the sun god Inti and was adorned with gold. After the Spanish conquest, much of the site was destroyed and pillaged. However, what remains is still beautiful and worth a visit. It is also rumored that the Incas had a tunnel that connected Sacsayhuamán to Coricancha.
While not in Cusco, everyone first stays in Cusco before they head to the famous city in the sky. Only located a couple hours from Cusco, if you don’t want to do any of the hikes to the ruins, you can just as easily take the luxury train, bus or taxi. No matter what, if you’re in Cusco, you must go to Machu Picchu.