Cusco, Peru, also known as the archaeological capital of the Americas, has a rich history including the rise and fall of the Inca Empire and the invasion of the Spanish conquistadors, which resulted in a collision of Andrean and Spanish styles today. While it may not be as popular as Peru’s capital Lima, it’s famous for Machu Picchu, one of the most impressive archeological sites in the world, as well as the Qorikancha (Temple of the Sun). If that’s not reason enough, the Andrean cuisine is to die for. Here’s your one-stop guide to all things Cusco, Peru.
Best Times to Visit
The best times to visit Cusco are from June to mid-September. Throughout the year, the temperatures stay around the mid to upper 60s, but there are fewer rain showers during these winter months. Keep in mind this is tourist season, so to avoid them, visit during May or between late September and early November.
How to Get Around
The best way to get around Cusco is by foot. While buses, often called colectivos or combis, are an alternative way to get around, they have limited routes and time schedules. You can always catch a cab as well or rent a car, but driving in Peru isn’t ideal as the streets are narrow and there’s heavy pedestrian traffic that can clog them.
When traveling to Machu Picchu, journey on one of PeruRail’s daily trains from Estación Poroy to Aguas Calientes, a station located at the base of Machu Picchu.
Where to Stay
Belmond Hotel Monasterio
This 5-star hotel has boutique rooms, two restaurants, a full-service spa, and a bar/lounge around a gorgeous central courtyard. The hotel offers art tours, cooking classes, and pisco lessons.
Palacio del Inka, A Luxury Collection Hotel, Cusco
Palacio del Inka, a five-centuries-old mansion and 5-star hotel, is considered a historic landmark. The hotel has historical elements of Peruvian culture as well as modern luxuries like a restaurant, a coffee shop/café, a full-service spa, a 24-hour fitness center, and a free breakfast buffet.
Casa Cartagena, a 4.5-star hotel has an indoor pool, a restaurant, a full-service spa, a free buffet breakfast, a fitness center, a coffee shop/café, and a bar/lounge. They also provide free airport drop-off.
What to Do
Plaza de Armas
With a history that dates back to the Inca Empire, Plaza de Armas is a massive square built for holding festivals and ceremonies during ancient times. You’ll find landmarks significant to Andean and Spanish history as well as Peruvian dancing and music.
The “lost city of the Incas” remained untouched during the Spanish conquest. There’s so much to see at this UNESCO World Heritage Site including the House of the Terrace Caretaker, Funeral Rock, Temple of Three Windows, Temple of the Condor, and Temple of the Sun.
Found in the Plaza de Armas is the sky-high La Cathedral, which is one of the city’s best architectural displays. Constructed in the 1550s from stones stolen from Sacsayhuamán, the cathedral has opulent ceilings and gold and silver altars as well as colonial art.
What to Eat
Choclo Con Queso
Traditionally sold at local markets or on the streets, this dish which is made with Andean corn and local cheese is super popular.
While it may sound strange in America, eating fried guinea pig is common in Peru, and it’s reserved for special occasions. The dish is served whole with the head, teeth, and legs.
Lomo Saltado De Alpaca
Peruvian alpaca stir fry combines marinated strips and meat with onions, tomatoes, and French fries, and it’s served with rice.