Often serving as a popular base to explore nearby famous ruins like Machu Picchu and the Sacred Valley of the Incas, Cusco was the historic capital of the Inca Empire. Located in southeastern Peru, Cusco is the capital of the Cusco province and is one of Peru’s most important tourist destinations.
A city steeped in history, Cusco features many well-preserved buildings dating back to Inca and Spanish colonial times. Some of the most noted structures are the remaining temples of an Inca palace and the Spanish Cathedral of Santo Domingo.
The heart of the city is the main square, the Plaza de Armas, which is surrounded by shops, restaurants, cafes and churches housing stunning art works. The colorful San Pedro Market is nearby with vendors selling Quechua handicrafts like alpaca textiles, jewelry, painted pottery, ceramics and Peruvian dolls as well as fresh produce, snacks and drinks.
Just outside the city limits is an important Inca site known as Sacsayhuaman, an enormous walled complex constructed of limestone boulders cut and perfectly placed together without mortar. The site is an ancient engineering marvel because of its accurate alignment with annual solstices and its ability to withstand earthquakes.
Food choices in Cusco range from international cuisine to local dishes like pumpkin soup, roasted guinea pig, grilled alpaca steaks and potatoes stuffed with meat, vegetables, eggs and spices. Nightlife is energetic with plentiful sports bars, lounges, clubs and discos.
Cusco features a high altitude, and some tourists experience altitude sickness. This can be prevented by over-the-counter medicine and allowing time to adjust to the altitude before physical exertion and drinking alcohol.
Transportation in Cusco includes buses, taxis and passenger vans called combis.