Nestled in a steep valley in the high southern Peruvian Andes, Cusco is the old capital of the Inca empire, the jumping-off point for Machu Picchu, and studded with great places to stay, all bookable with Culture Trip.
Here, streets are lined with old Spanish buildings and ancient Inca walls – their massive stones pieced together without mortar in organically geometric shapes. There are buzzing indigenous markets, modish restaurants, bars, clubs and beautiful views at every turn. And nowhere in Peru has a better choice of hotels.
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Looking for an expert's perspective?Uncover my top 3 recommended places from each continent on the map.
1. GuatemalaAn express adventure for those with limited time off. Prepare yourself incredible experiences. You will hike a volcano, visit mayan temples and witness a ceremony and take in beautiful colonial Antigua.
2. BelizeA quick trip not too far away for those seeking a relaxing mini break. You will have plenty of free time to relax but also some awesome activities to experience the rainforest and the caribbean sea.
3. MexicoAn exciting mini trip exploring the lesser known colonial towns of central Mexico. This is hte perfect trip for someone with limited time off and still wants to turn on explorer mode and do something different.
1. EcuadorA remarkable 8 days adventure through the Andes and the Amazon rainforest. The best choice for adventure seekers wishing to visit the 2 most iconic areas of South America, in only 1 week and no flights.
2. PeruAn alternative itinerary to classic Peru, from Cusco to Arequipa. This itinerary is great combination of highlights Cusco and Machu Picchu with the lesser known Arequipa and Colca Canyon.
1. ItalyThe ultimate Italian experience from the vibrant streets of Naples to the breathtaking sceneries of the Amalfi Coast followed by Matera and down to Puglia with its golden beaches, intense flavours and fascinating destinations.
2. ScotlandEmbark on this great adventure starting from London all the way to Scotland with a true Scottish experience made of breathtaking sceneries, whisky tasting and ..lots of fun! Ideal for train lovers and explorers.
3. PortugalA wonderful train journey around Portugal, from the romantic city of Porto to the Douro Valley, to the beautiful Aveiro all the way to Lisbon and Sintra. The perfect trip to train, culinary and culture lovers.
1. South KoreaDiscover incredible temples, mountains and modern cities on this 10 day adventure. This trip is perfect for those seeking immersion in the cuisine, culture and natural wonders of South Korea.
2. ThailandFrom Bankgok to Angkor Wat to Ho Chi Minh City and everything in between - adventure through the heart of South-East Asia. Taste the delights, see history brought to life and unwind on a Mekong River cruise.
3. Sri LankaA fantastic adventure that showcases Sri Lanka's fantastic landscapes, wildlife and flavours. With 3 epic rail journeys, 3 UNESCO heritage sites and time to relax, this trip has loads to offer at a great price
1. MoroccoAn epic journey across Morocco: from Casablanca to Marrakech, through the blue city of Chefchaouen to the wonders of the desert and deep to the High Atlas Mountains - this trip has it all! Ideal for true explorers!
2. EgyptFrom Cairo to Aswan, this trip brings the land of the pharaohs to life. You'll visit the Pyramids, Valley of the Kings and Luxor Temple and cruise down the Nile in style. This is the perfect way to explore Egypt.
Set in a Carmelite monastery in the heart of old Cusco, Palacio Nazarenas oozes Spanish-colonial elegance with priceless antiques and a restored baroque chapel. Beds are draped with wispy nets and embroidered Egyptian linens, while colonial art and indigenous crafts adorn the walls. There’s a beautiful pool set among heavy stone cloisters, and the hotel’s Peruvian restaurant, Senzo, is one of the best in the city.
Monasterio is one of the most luxurious classic hotels in South America. It’s housed in the center of old Inca Cusco in a rococo monastery replete with religious art and period furniture. Rooms are gathered in a series of cloisters and decorated with original art; some can be pumped with extra oxygen to help you acclimatize to high-altitude Cusco.
Locations don’t get closer to the Inca heart of Cusco than this palatial 16th-century mansion overlooking Coricancha – the ancient pre-Columbian temple of the sun and moon looted by Spanish conquistadors. Rooms sit in long cloisters and come in modern rich yellows and magentas, with retro-rococo flourishes. The spa, which has a big heated pool, is one of the best in Cusco – lit in low ambers and starry pin-spots, and faced with polished stone.
Casa Andina may lack the colonial splendor of the grand Cusco hotels but for value and location it’s hard to beat. It sits alongside crafts shops and restaurants under the cloistered arches of the Plaza Regocijo, a block from the main city square. Rooms are small and functional in creams and grays, furnished with practical modern workstations and with plenty of light from tall windows leading to Juliet balconies.
A stroll from the main square, Plaza de Armas, and with rooms set in the Colonial-era cloisters of the old market, El Mercado mixes Spanish-era grandeur with modern design from Peruvian architect Jordi Puig. Rooms come in warm creams with abstract textile carpets, Philippe Starck-inspired drapes, and bright modern art on the walls. They sit over a large central atrium with a fire pit and lounge chairs. The best restaurants in Cusco are on the doorstep.
Set in a townhouse on a steep cobbled street 10 minutes from the center, El Retablo brims with local character. Rooms and public spaces are painted in the brightly colored floral and organic rococo patterns of traditional Peruvian reredos (portable altarpieces). Walls and beds are adorned with indigenous art. There are bars and restaurants nearby and the welcoming staff are helpful with organizing trips and tours.
Sitting in the steep streets of the arty San Blas neighborhood, 15 minutes’ breathy walk from the colonial center of Cusco, Antigua Casona is an old townhouse with a range of modest-sized rooms in terracotta tile or rich wood and whitewash, furnished with heavy Spanish-era furniture. There’s an attractive atrium garden, an excellent restaurant and the hotel spa has a Jacuzzi, sauna and daily yoga classes.
Looking to explore further afield? Check out our expertly curated guide to the top boutique hotels in Aguas Calientes.
Alex Robinson contributed additional reporting.
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