The largest city in southeastern Peru and also known as Cuzco with a “z”, Cusco was the capital of the Inca empire and today still serves as the point of departure for hiking the Inca Trail and visiting the legendary city of Machu Picchu. Cusco itself however has more than enough to offer both as a UNESCO World Heritage site and as a thriving modern city with over 500,000 inhabitants. Read on for all tips and advice on visiting Cusco as part of your Peru tour.
Located on a steep hill on the northern side of the city, the stone walled complex of Sacsayhuaman is probably the most impressive remaining legacy of the Incas and their Killke culture predecessors that once ruled this city. After the Spaniards arrived in 1533 they destroyed most of the original Inca buildings in the city center and used their remains as the foundations for the colonial Spanish buildings that to this day grace the city and, in one of history’s great ironies, nowadays attract just as many visitors.
The most visited sights from that Spanish period are without a doubt the Hatun Rumiyuq street where the original palace of Inca king Roca formed the basis for the residence of the Archbishop, Church of La Merced with its Baroque style that nowadays houses a popular museum and the Cathedral of Santo Domingo on the Plaza de Armas square. This square was also the scene of the execution of Tupac Amaru II, leader of an uprising against the Spanish and to this day an inspiration to native Indian movements across Latin America.
Modern day Cusco is the home of one of the most successful and popular clubs in Peruvian soccer, Ciencias, named after the faculty of science at the local university whose members started it almost a hundred years ago and a visit to one of their home games is always a great experience. Cusco is also on the forefront of Peruvian gastronomy with many fusion and neo-Andean restaurants such as LIMO and has its fair share of exciting nightlife around the central Plaza de Armas with bars like Trotamundos and the nightclub Mythology.
Ready to see Cusco? Encounter Latin America offers great South America tours, including Cusco, Machu Picchu and all the highlight destinations in Peru!