Cuzco, centre of the Inca Empire and gateway to the Sacred Valley and the ruins of Machu Picchu. It’s a great place to take acclimatize before embarking on trekking and makes a good base from which to explore the surrounding area. Most will spend at least 24 hours in Cuzco. Here’s a step-by-step guide to making the most of it.
There are multiple flights from Lima to Cuzco each day, departing every hour or so. Most prefer to arrive in Cuzco in the morning to allow time to explore on the first day. If you have booked your trip through Select Latin America will ensure that a driver guide greets you at the airport located some 3 miles outside the city and transfers you to the hotel. If you are travelling by yourself, taxis are inexpensive, as are the colectivo buses which depart from just outside the terminal. It takes roughly 25 minutes to reach most hotels. Arrive at your hotel and spend some time settling in.
Take a stroll down to the Plaza de Armas in the centre of the city and visit Cuzco Cathedral. It was built on the site of an Inca palace in the 16th century. Inside the cathedral you’ll find a painting of The Last Supper, but it has a twist as Jesus and his apostles are dining on cuy (guinea pig), a specialty of the region.
There are no shortage of museums in Cuzco. If chocolate is your thing, your best bet is making a beeline straight for the ChocoMuseo, just a couple of blocks from the plaza. Here you can learn about the history of chocolate in Peru and try your hand and producing your own during a workshop demonstration. Otherwise visit the Pre-Columbian Art Museum, a restored colonial mansion once owned by the conqueror Alonso Diaz that holds an impressive collection of ancient Peruvian indigenous art dating between 1250 B.C. and 1532 A.D.
After all that sightseeing you’re probably going to be feeling hungry. Head away from the expensive tourist restaurants that line the Plaza de Armas and visit the Sumaq Restaurant where a three course lunch will cost you about 15 soles (£3-4). The menu is plentiful and includes grilled alpaca, sopa de cusqueno and cuy (guinea pig), all served up in cosy surroundings.
If you are feeling energetic take a stroll up to Saksaywaman, the ruins of an Inca citadel located in the northern outskirts of the city. This UNESCO World Heritage site is around 1km from the city centre. Once you have arrived admire the impressive Inca stonework and enjoy views down over the city. If you are lucky enough to visit on the 24th June, the site is home to Inti Raymi, one of the most important celebrations in Peru.
Next stop is the Limbus Resto Bar on Calle Pasñapakana. This rooftop bar serves extraordinarily good cocktails which can be enjoyed accompanied by an excellent view across the city.
If you are going to splash out, now is the time to do it. Peru’s cuisine is firmly under the world’s culinary spotlight, and some of the finest restaurants in the country are housed in Cuzco. Chicha is owned by the celebrity chef Gastón Acurio, who owns the famed restaurant Astrid & Gaston. Whilst everything on the menu is excellent, the Andean classics such as lomo saltado and ceviche are particularly good.
Want to visit Cuzco? Take a look through our tour suggestions.