High up in the Peruvian Andes lies Cusco, once the center of the Incan Empire. It is, of course, the launching point for Machu Picchu – Peru’s largest tourist attraction – but the city is well worth a visit, to acclimate and experience the mix of Incan and Spanish influences that define it.
Cusco is the party capital of Peru, with one of the liveliest nightlife scenes in South America. Cheap hostels near the plaza encourage masses of backpackers to descend upon the many bars and clubs surrounding the square. Cusco’s most popular club, Mama Africa, blasts electronic, hip-hop and dance music until 5am or 6am. Ukukus, another favorite spot, includes live bands and local acts, in addition to DJs. After partying until dawn, enjoy pizza at Ukukus’ late-night pizza bar, or order food from Cusco’s many street vendors that stay open to cater to the post-club crowd. For a more comprehensive guide to the nightlife venues of Plaza de Armas, check out our guide.
The artisan neighborhood of San Blas is notable for its architecture and quaint shops. Just a short walk from the plaza, the terrain becomes steep on the way up to San Blas Plaza. The Inca road Hatunrumiyoc is a remnant of the city’s past and a remarkable cobblestone construction that leads through the neighborhood. Small boutique shops and galleries line the streets, making for more authentic gifts or souvenirs than the trinkets found in the Plaza de Armas. The San Blas Plaza contains the picturesque Iglesia San Blas, as well as homey shops and restaurants. Stop at the bakery/hostel Pantastico for a tasty snack.