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This is an overwhelming destination in more than one way. Not only is it the heart of the Inca world, the most important pre-Hispanic civilization in South America, but its imposing mountains are the ideal setting for travelers looking for extreme adventures or seeking to discover locations to take the perfect photo.
Cusco's hills, full of terraces, delight extreme sports fans—this is the second greatest reason why thousands of tourists visit Cusco every year—as well as hikers who seek to be surprised by an immense region terms of in size, history and experiences to live.
The urban center of this centenary city could be the materialization of a mixture of cultures: a place where Inca remains such as Hatun Rumiyoc Street, Sacsayhuamán or Coricancha coexist with colonial buildings such as the Cathedral of Cuzco or the Church of the Society of Jesus, both on the edge of Plaza de Armas. As a result, the city of Cusco was proclaimed a Cultural Heritage of Humanity by Unesco in 1983.
From there you can also take a trip through the Sacred Valley, following the steps of the natives. 73 kilometers away, with the Huayna Picchu hill as a backdrop, another one of Unescos's heritage of humanity from the Inca world appears: Machu Picchu. Its ruins were rediscovered by chance in 1911 by Hiram Bingham, and today it is one of the main tourist destinations in Peru.
The landscape of the Sacred Valley can be appreciated in the journey from Cusco to Machu Picchu. Adventure sports in the region combine adrenaline with the remains of a civilization that in 2017 received 1,411,279 visitors.
11 kilometers from Cusco you can try the Slingshot, which consists of an elastic band stretched between the ground and a 125-meter high platform. Just like with a rubber band, the adventurers are fired from the floor at a speed of 160 kilometers per hour.
Bungee jumping, or free fall, is done only with an elastic rope attached to one's feet. The fall, with the vegetation of the Cusco district of Poroy as a backdrop, is 122 meters high (the highest in Latin America). The jump is completed in seven seconds.
Adventure seekers are secured to a steel cable. The route includes crossing a very narrow bridge that is suspended 250 meters above the ground.
The flight starts from the Sacred Hill and can reach 5 thousand meters. During 20 minutes, the Pampas of Chinchero and Anta, the lakes of Piuray and Huaypo, the towns of Santa Ana and Amantoy Collanas, and the Raqchi viewpoint can be seen from the sky.
At kilometer 224 between Ollantaytambo and Urubamba you can pass from one mountain to another by means of a pulley suspended on an inclined cable. The route mixes the vía ferrata and seven cables, which measure between 150 and 700 meters.
The ancient capital of the Inca Empire, located 3,400 meters above sea level, is a mixture of archaeological ruins and colonial buildings, which can be enjoyed by foot.
The Cathedral was built where the palace of Huiracocha Inca, ruler of Cuzco between 1400 and 1438, used to be. Its façade was designed in the Renaissance style, but inside there are Baroque, late Gothic and Plateresque influences.
Located on one side of Plaza de Armas, this church is an example of Baroque architecture in Latin America. Its construction began in 1576, but suffered serious damage after the earthquake of 1650, after which it was reopened in 1668.
A few meters from Plaza de Armas is this Inca temple, whose name means "golden enclosure". Conserved inside the Convent of Santo Domingo, this was a sacred center where Inti, Quechua name for the Sun, was worshiped.
This icon of everyday life for the people of Cusco is located five blocks away from Plaza de Armas. There is a section for meals and desserts, one for flowers, one for handicrafts and one for fruits, among which you can find fruits brought from the Amazon or other Andean valleys, such as lúcuma.
Also known as the "balcony of Cusco" or the "artists' district", this area houses restaurants, cafes, workshops and craft shops. The cobblestone and steep streets lead to the Square and the Church of San Blas, the oldest in the city.
The Sacred Valley goes from Pisac to Ollantaytambo and is crossed by the Vilcanota River. It is an area covered by ancient terraces, still dedicated to agriculture and rich in Inca history.
Inca settlements were built following animal shapes. Cusco, for example, was originally shaped like a puma: Plaza de Armas, also called Huacaypata, was the chest, and Sacsayhuamán was the head. Likewise, Pisac has the shape of a puna partridge or a kiula. This area is known for its terraces.
70 kilometers from Cusco, this is an essential crossing point on the way to Machu Picchu, either by train or by foot along the Camino del Inca. The archaeological remains of this area resemble a fort, which is complemented with terraces. Ollantaytambo is also known as the "Living Inca City".
This town is 3,754 meters above sea level. On Sundays, the main square houses a textile and craft market, next to a church dating from the 17th century and to some Inca ruins. Villagers maintain some indigenous business practices such as bartering.
It is the largest architectural work built by the Incas, located just two kilometers from Cusco: a ceremonial fortress with megalithic walls. On June 24, during the winter solstice, the Inti Raymi festival is held here.
Although this Andean citadel dates from the 15th century, it was rediscovered by American explorer Hiram Bingham only until 1911. Machu Picchu means “Old Mountain” in Quechua and it is still debated whether it had a ceremonial or a military purpose, or if it was the resting place of Pachacútec, Inca governor between 1438 and 1471. In 1983 Unesco declared it a World Heritage Site and there is a policy that limits the number of visitors per day.
Specialty: Traditional Peruvian food.
This restaurant is located at JW Marriott El Convento hotel. Its dishes are made with ingredients such as quinoa, trout, Andean grains, tubers and herbs from local producers; however, it’s also influenced by international cuisine. In addition to the octopus causa, trout ceviche and alpaca loin, the menu features smoked trout, accompanied by potatoes and Andean corn from the Sacred Valley, and mashed beans and cauliflower.
Specialty: International cuisine.
A few blocks from Plaza de Armas is Cicciolina, a restaurant that was selected among the ten best restaurants in Peru in 2018, according to TripAdvisor Travelers' Choice awards. It is divided into two environments: on one side there's the tapas bar and on the other a lounge with few tables.
Specialty: Nikkei cuisine.
Limo opened its doors in 2009 with an offer of contemporary Peruvian cuisine and pisco-based cocktails. From mid-2017 they migrated to a Nikkei concept, becoming pioneers in the city. The place is located at Casa del Inquisidor, on the edge of Plaza de Armas. In 2018, it was selected among the ten best restaurants in Peru, according to TripAdvisor Travelers' Choice awards.
The secret behind its particular flavor is the pork cooked in its own fat. The dish is accompanied with mote (boiled corn).
Stew prepared with ollucos (a type of tuber) and charqui, which is llama dry meat. It's prepared in a clay pot and is accompanied with white rice.
The pieces of meat must have bone and they must be macerated, among other ingredients, with ground panca chili. Then, the meat is baked over low heat and served with yuccas and mote.
Mil Centro. This is the name of the restaurant created by Virgilio Martínez, Pía León and Malena Martínez in Moray, at 3,500 meters above sea level, 38 kilometers from Cusco and a few meters from an archaeological complex made up of agricultural terraces, which looks like an amphitheater.
More than a restaurant, this place is a research, interpretation and development center that explores the inputs of Andean biodiversity.
The place is surrounded by nine arable hectares: in only half a hectare they have planted 55 varieties of native potatoes, as well as beans, mashua, quinoa and kañihua.
This is a typical drink made with a variety of purple corn. Its consumption dates back to pre-Hispanic times and it has a great antioxidant capacity, among other properties.
For two pitchers:
Alejandro Velasco Astete International Airport, 5.8 kilometers from the city center.
Nuevo Sol (PEN).
18 °C (64.4 °F)
Buses (colectivos, micros and combis) Schedule: varies depending on the route. Check it upon arrival in Cusco. Price: 0.7 PEN (0.22 USD) per ticket. Tram: Service Hours: every day at 10:00, 11:30, 14:00, 15:30 and 17:00 from the main square. Price: 20 PEN (6.34 USD) per ticket. Taxis: Average Rate: 5 PEN (1.6 USD). There are no taximeters, so the rate is agreed upon at the beginning of the trip.
3-star hotel: 164.48 PEN (49.36 USD) per person per night. 5-star hotel: 746.57 PEN (224.03 USD) per person per night.