For the Incas, Cusco was the center of the world. Now a UNESCO World Heritage Site, Cusco remains a city that blends colonial Spanish charm with older, more austere remains of pre-Columbian glory—one can still see the foundations of Inca structures on many of its city streets today. As the gateway to Machu Picchu and the Sacred Valley, in addition to the starting point of the Inca Trail, Cusco was the center of the Incan Universe, and is literally teeming with well-preserved history, Incan ruins, and present-day Peruvian culture.
Cusco’s most important landmarks include sites from both Inca and colonial times, such as the Inca street of Loreto with its 12-cornered stones, the Korikancha (the ancient Temple of the Sun), the cathedral, the Museum of Colonial Art, the archaeological park of Saqsaywaman (the fortress-temple), the nearby funerary shrines of Kenqo, and the water-worship site of Tambomachay.
At a high altitude of 3,400 meters above sea level, this city demands to be explored slowly. A trip to Machu Picchu will always begin and end in Cusco and the Sacred Valley, ensuring proper acclimatization time before experiencing the ancient citadel. For those embarking on the high altitude Inca Trail, we recommend spending two nights in Cusco, though those especially interested in Incan history may wish to add more time. While there is much culture and history to discover on your visit here, be sure to include some leisure time to wander the old city plaza, stop for a coffee to people-watch, and explore the cobbled streets of this charming town.
Our favorite accommodations in Cusco
Recommended itineraries featuring Cusco
Explore the Sacred Valley of the Incas, the wonders of Machu Picchu and Cusco, and the bustling city of Lima on this Peru holiday This seven-day Peru holiday provides a mix of experiences, for travelers seeking culture. Start in the Sacred Valley, offering a perfect introduction to the ancient and sophisticated Inca culture. Then you’ll […]
Discover the Sacred Valley, Inca Trail, Machu Picchu, and Cusco