Located in southern Peru, Cusco is the tourist capital of the South American country, thanks mostly to its rich heritage and stunning ancient landmarks. International visitors planning a trip to Cusco should fly to Lima and catch a connecting flight, or train, to the city.
Cusco’s rich Inca heritage is on view across the city. Many of the buildings, including those constructed during colonial times, were built on the foundations of Inca structures. Stone walls constructed during Pre-Colombian times can still be seen today. In fact, many of these faired a lot better than their more modern counterparts when an earthquake struck in 1650.
As with its Inca heritage, the effect Spanish conquistadors had on the city can still be seen clearly today. Both La Cathedral and the Iglesia de la Compania feature European architecture and décor. Each of these religious sites portrays a very Catholic feel, although the more keen-eyed visitor will notice more than a few local nuances on display in the paintings that adorn the walls.
The city is home to a host of museums dedicated to the history of the region. The Museo de Arte Religioso, which is housed in a former palace, displays religious paintings and other works from the 17th and 18th centuries. The Museo de Arte Precolombino houses 450 relics dating back to Inca times, and while this may not be the biggest collection of its kind, it’s certainly one of the best. Similarly, the Museo Inka is a treasure trove of Inca textiles, ceramics, jewelry, precious metals, and mummies.
Other popular places of interest in the city include the Santa Catalina convent, the San Blas District, and Plaza de Armas. The latter is the perfect place to spend a relaxing afternoon.
The real beauty of Cusco as a tourist destination lies in the excursions that can be enjoyed beyond the city streets. Trips to the likes of Tambomachay, Salapunco, Quenko and Tipon all offer the chance to see magnificent Inca ruins, as well as the region’s stunning and varied landscapes.
Of course, the most famous of all of these stunning historic sites, and one attraction that should be on any Cusco trip plan is Machu Picchu. Rediscovered by Hiram Bingham III in 1911, Machu Picchu (or ‘Old Mountain’) is a mountaintop Inca settlement that went untouched by the Spanish conquest. Its original purpose remains unknown but today it provides one of the World’s truly stunning attractions to visit.