Where to go

Cusco

Known by the Incas as the navel of the world...

Undoubtedly one of our favourite spots in Peru, the ancient city of Cusco is a wonder of Incan architecture and design and is certainly worth a night if not two to soak up its laid back atmosphere and marvel at the Incan building techniques that are prevalent throughout the city. (the wall designs using no form of cement to keep them together is mind blowing!)

Originally named “Qoosqo” (meaning “navel of the world” in Quechua), the city was thought to be founded by the revered Manco Capac and was seen as the capital of the Inca Empire that dominated the eastern reaches of South America in the second half of the 15th century under the reign of Inca Pachacutec Yupanqui. The city of today is an amalgamation of the incredible building skills of the Incans and the amendments of the Spanish conquistadors who took over the city at the end of the 1500s.

This meeting of the great histories of South America is also, very much reflected in the population and sites of the city with many of the population conversing in Spanish but retaining their Quechua roots and heritage.

The Plaza de Armas

The original centre point of the entire Inca empire still remains the main focus for the town of today, with this open square and the main cathedral being permanently busy with locals selling their wares, or hikers passing through on their way to or from the infamous Inca Trail and the citadel at Machu Picchu.

As with many of the squares of South America, it is normally in the evenings that things really start to become interesting and active, with the people of the town heading out to meet in the evening. This is, however, a great place to install yourself in one of the main restaurants and cafes that overlook what must be one of South America’s most attractive squares.

The Cathedral

On the eastern side of the square is the magnificent Catedral building. Crafted on the Inca ruins of the palace of Inca Wiracocha and incorporating Inca stonework from the nearby Sacsathuaman fortress, the Cathedral is a good example of Spanish baroque architecture. Dating from 1559 it contains a few of the more important examples of the Escuela Cuscquena paintings as well as the most famous statue of the city known as the Nuestro Senor de los Temblores which is paraded annually around the city at Easter.

Best time to visit Cusco:

  • NJan
  • NFeb
  • MMar
  • YApr
  • YMay
  • YJun
  • YJul
  • MAug
  • MSep
  • MOct
  • NNov
  • NDec
  •   = Yes   = No   = Maybe

    At a glance…Cusco

  • Elevation: Approx 3,399m
  • Population: approx 435 000
  • Time Zone: GMT -5
  • Time to visit: March to October
  • Go here for: History and culture
  • Further reading...

  • › When to go
  • › Machu Picchu
  • › The Sacred Valley
  • Planning a trip?

    We can help:

    • Fully tailormade itineraries
    • Guaranteed best price or price match
    • Personal knowledge of everywhere we sell
    • Personal service, 24/7
    • We're ATOL bonded
    • It's FREE!

    Call us direct on:
    UK: +44 1525 306 555
    US: +1-917-336-2937

    Our recommended top hotels and lodges for Cusco:

    1. Belmond Hotel Monasterio - Courtyard

      Belmond Hotel Monasterio

      Probably Cusco’s most sophisticated hotel, the Belmond Hotel Monasterio offers luxury accommodation and service in a superb setting. In our view, this hotel is all about the experience, which is created through its impressive architecture, original artwork and live music performances.

      Our rating:
      5
      User rating:
      5
      Price:
      5
    2. Inkaterra La Casona - Front View

      Inkaterra La Casona

      A small and intimate hotel in a quiet square in the centre of colonial Cusco, La Casona is set within a historic 16th century palace. Designed to be a home from home, the hotel is a haven of relaxation and tranquility offering discreet and personalised service. While it doesn’t have the size and... More...

      Our rating:
      5
      User rating:
      5
      Price:
      5
    3. Casa Cartagena Boutique Hotel & Spa - courtyard

      Casa Cartagena Boutique Hotel & Spa

      Set within a restored 17th century colonial house with original Inca walls, Casa Cartagena is a luxury hotel and spa with modern facilities and contemporary design features. Very different in style to the nearby Monasterio and La Casona, Casa Cartagena offers an alternative to the old-world... More...

      Our rating:
      5
      User rating:
      5
      Price:
      5
    4. Hotel El Mercado - Courtyard

      Hotel El Mercado

      Owned by Mountain Lodges of Peru, Hotel El Mercado is a warm and welcoming hotel with great service and comfortable accommodation in the centre of Cusco. Offering very good value for money, the hotel provides a great base for exploring Cusco and its surrounds and is the perfect stopover before... More...

      Our rating:
      4
      User rating:
      4
      Price:
      4
    5. Palacio Manco Capac - External View

      Palacio Manco Capac

      With one of the most unique positions and the best views in Cusco, the Palacio Manco Capac is a delightful boutique hotel set on the hillside above the city. Made up of only 5 rooms and surrounded by quiet gardens and eucalyptus forest, it’s a tranquil escape from the bustling city below.

      Our rating:
      4
      User rating:
      4
      Price:
      4