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HomeTravel articles & guidesGuide to Cusco’s attractions

Guide to Cusco’s attractions

02 May, 2018
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Cusco

There are plenty of attractions to choose from and things to do when you visit the ancient capital of the Incas, Cusco.

The city whose name means “the world’s navel” is a mix of historical Inca monuments and architecture from the Spanish colonial era.

Explore the cosy cobbled streets, feel a sense of history in the city’s squares or browse in the traditional shops where you can buy items such as a soft alpaca sweater to take home with you.

Read on below and get 7 suggestions and inspiration for attractions and things to do in the ancient capital of Incas, Cusco.

Feel a sense of history in the historic quarter

Plaza de armas

The historic centre, Centro Histórico de Cusco, is definitely one of the experiences not to be missed in the city, which is actually one of the oldest cities in South America.

On your tour through the heart of the ancient capital of the Incas, you will see formidable, old buildings that ooze history. Take time to look at the buildings, and you will notice that they often consist of traditional Inca foundations, built on top of by the former coloniser, Spain.

You can also explore the small cobbled streets of the historic centre, where you can indulge in traditional Peruvian food and shop to your heart’s content.

After an eventful tour of the neighbourhood, you can head to the large square, Plaza de Armas, where the beautiful cathedral, green areas and benches offer the possibility of a little, perhaps much-needed, rest.

A taste of Cusco at the San Pedro Market

A Peruvian doll

If you would like to experience a market where you can buy everything from a delicious juice to a light lunch or perhaps a small memento to take home with you – a Peruvian doll for example, the San Pedro Market is just the place for you.

The market is around an 8-minute walk from Plaza de Armas, the heart of Cusco. The further away you get from the square, the more different the atmosphere becomes. More shops appear, the closer you get to the market, helping to create the unique atmosphere.

The San Pedro Market is a culinary and colourful delight. Your senses of sight, smell and hearing will instantly be aroused, and touch and taste can also be activated if you so wish.

You can taste all manner of delights, such as a “salchipapas”, a deep-fried sausage and potatoes, a “lomo saltado”, which is deep-fried beef, or some delicious local fruit such as passion fruit or the lesser-known “chirimoya”, which is an apple.

Explore the market, but beware: You might just spend the whole day here!

Experience the sacred site – Coricancha, Temple of the Sun

Coricancha

Cusco is home to the Temple of the Sun, Coricancha, which is of particular importance. The temple is considered to have been the most sacred site of the Incas – and it was also the centre of the Inca Empire.

Coricancha was built solely of stone and was the most important cultural building of the Incas. It was reportedly Manko Qhapaq, the first Inca, who built the original temple, but from 1438 onwards, the Inca Pachacútec expanded the sacred site.

The cultural site enjoys a unique location, if you consider how the city is built. The city is said to be shaped like a puma, and Coricancha is located at the tip of the puma’s tail.

The Sun Temple is a magnificent experience, and if you want to experience a building of great significance to the Incas, it is an absolute must-see.

Go for a walk in the unique San Blas quarter

San Blas

If you wish to experience a unique quarter in Cusco, San Blas is undoubtedly the place.

The area is close to Plaza de Armas, but you’ll need some good legs on you if you want to visit this part of the city. The closer you get to San Blas, the steeper it becomes.

If you want to feel a sense of history, walk up the little street named Hathunrumiyoc, which leads you up to San Blas. And keep your eyes peeled. In the stone-lined street is one of the best-preserved walls in the whole of Cusco. It might be hard to look up, but look up you must!

The quarter is very different from the rest of Cusco, and if you’re interested in art, this is just the place for you. The San Blas quarter is also known as “barrio de los artesanos”, which means the artisan quarter.

Many of the streets are for pedestrians only, so enjoy strolling through the beautiful neighbourhood of this amazing city. When it’s time to rest your feet, there are plenty of lovely cafés to choose from.

Learn to make Peruvian food

Lomo saltado

If you would like to learn even more about Peruvian culture and take a little of Peru and Cusco back home with you to the UK, a cookery course will allow you to do just that.

On a cookery course, you will be given an introduction to Peruvian cuisine, learn about the different ingredients, the different flavours and, lastly, try to make different Peruvian dishes.

The dishes you will have a go at might be “lomo saltado”, which is deep-fried beef, or “ají de gallina”, which is chicken with chilli.

Cookery courses provide a unique opportunity to gain an insight into one of the important aspects of a culture.

Que aproveche!

Bon appétit!

Tambomachay

Tambomachay

8 km north of Cusco are the sacred Inca baths, Tambomachay. Back in the day, noble women and the ruling Incas bathed here.

The Tambomachay complex consists of four walls built into a hill. On top of the four walls, there are four places where sacrificial gifts could be placed in the water. The site is a wonderful example of building ingenuity, and the system still supplies water to this day.

In addition to the four walls, the complex also consists of several channels, waterfalls and aqueducts. In fact, a similar system can be found in Machu Picchu, located north-west of Tambomachay.

The Incas used the baths to cleanse themselves. They washed their bodies to wash away all evil. It was a cleansing of both body and mind.

If you visit the Tambomachay baths, you will gain another layer in your understanding of the Inca culture.

BONUS: Climbing Rainbow Mountain outside Cusco

Rainbow Mountain

If you fancy spending a few hours of your day on a bus and experiencing the countryside outside Cusco, we have an extra idea for a fantastic experience you’ll never forget.

Mount Vinicunca – better known as Rainbow Mountain – is a must for those who enjoy great nature experiences and phenomena.

Rainbow Mountain is nothing less than a fascinating and magnificent experience. The hills are all the colours of the rainbow, and in the distance you can see the snow-capped peaks of the Andes.

And the drive out to the mountain takes you through several small Peruvian villages.

Get an early night, put on a good pair of shoes and let yourself be seduced by the sometimes hard tour to Rainbow Mountain. You won’t regret it!

Fancy a trip to Cusco?

Have you been captivated by the fascinating Peruvian city?

Currently, Cusco is visited on all our Peru holidays.

If you need advice and guidance on which tour you should choose, please contact our travel consultants.

They are on hand to help you choose the perfect holiday for you and your family.

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