Follow in the footsteps of the Incas and relax for a little while in Cusco, a charming Peruvian town that was once the capital of the Incas. It’s filled with travellers sipping pisco sours and retelling the stories of their journey to the lost city of the Incas, Machu Picchu – so join the fun! While Machu Picchu gets most of the acclaim, in reality, Cusco punches above its weight in terms of tourist attractions and activities.
Here’s our top 5 things you can’t miss while visiting this intriguing place.
1. Machu Picchu
Okay, so you do need to take a train ride to actually get to the so-called Lost City of the Incas, but it’s the main way people arrive in Cusco. Of course, Machu Picchu needs no introduction – it’s the stuff traveller’s dreams are made of. Built in the 15th Century, it was once a sprawling civilization, cloaked in myths about deities and human sacrifice. After it fell in the early 16th Century, it took more than 300 years before it was rediscovered by American explorer Hiram Bingham. We don’t have to tell you not to miss this one.
Another famous Inca site with a memorable name (locals will tell you it’s “Sexy Woman”, with a giggle), it in fact pre-dates Machu Picchu by about 500 years. It was one of the most important fortifications when Cusco was the capital of the Incan empire, and its construction and size is extremely impressive. The site is best toured with a guide to learn as much as possible about what life would have been like under Inca rule.
3. Sip a Pisco Sour
Lots of countries have a national drink – take Guinness in Ireland or Champagne in France – however Peruvians really take it to the next level by having a national holiday in honor of theirs. Hands down the best place to enjoy a Pisco Sour is in Cusco, where every bar serves them to enthusiastic travellers. You can even take classes to learn how to make them – although you may never whip them up as well as the locals in Cusco!
4. Cusco Cathedral
While their influence on Peru could be described politey as “controversial”, the Spanish certainly left behind a number of beautiful buildings which remain in use by Peruvians today. One of the most beautiful examples of Spanish colonial architecture is the stunning cathedral located on the main square in Cusco. The Cathedral was completed in 1654, and still stands proudly, filled with impressive art and other items.
5. Cusco Market (San Pedro)
While many markets can tend to either sell tacky souvenirs or be locals only, the Cusco markets are super charming and offer great products for residents and visitors. Here, you can buy souvenirs including comfy llama wool hoodies and ponchos, or snack on delicious food like the locals do. There’s a number of markets around Cusco and all of them are great, but San Pedro is probably the best of the lot.