Cusco

The gateway to Machu Picchu

Cusco

Known worldwide as the gateway to Machu Picchu and the Sacred Valley, Cusco was the capital of the Inca Empire for 300 years. It’s a fabulous place to spend two or three days – it’s so much more than simply a starting-off point for the iconic archaeological sites – so take time to explore and enjoy its historic architecture, excellent restaurants and shops and fine museums and galleries.

Reasons to visit Cusco

  • The architecture – you’ll find the remains of Inca walls, constructed from massive blocks of stone, and ornate Spanish colonial structures.
  • The 16th century Cathedral took almost 100 years to build and houses such treasures as gold railings, a silver altar and a colonial art collection. It was built on the foundations of Kiswarkancha, an Inca temple, and made of stone sourced from the Inca holy site of Sacsayhuaman.
  • The baroque La Compañía de Jesús Jesuit church in the Plaza de Armas has a sumptuous interior, including important artworks and Peru’s biggest altar.
  • The bodies of the conquistadors Diego de Almagro and Gonzalo Pizarro lie in tombs in La Merced church – where you can also see a 1.2m solid gold high monstrance, decorated with rubies, emeralds, diamonds and one of the biggest pearls in the world.
  • People-watch in the Plaza de Armas, shop for textiles and ceramics and other handicrafts in the Centro Artesanal Cusco or head to the bars, restaurants and art galleries of the San Blas district.
  • Visit the Inca Museum, the Santa Catalina Convent and the remains of 15th century Korikancha. This was once the most important temple in the Inca empire; known as the ‘Golden Enclosure’ it was clad in gold.
  • From Cusco you can easily reach the Sacred Valley, Tambomachay water shrine, Qenko amphitheatre and temple, Pucapucara red fort, Sacsay huaman temples and the Tipón terracing and irrigation system.
  • Travel to Chinchero village. Known for its weaving, it has a workshop where you can watch weaving demonstrations, and the village market is busy and colourful, especially on a Sunday.