Sitting high in a mountain valley at 11,150 feet or 3,400 meters above sea level, Cusco provides an enchanting introduction to the world of the Andes. Once the capital of the mighty Inca empire, the city today is the gateway to Machu Picchu.
Cusco is famous for its curious blend of Inca and Spanish culture, most evident where colonial Spanish churches and convents have been built squarely on top of masterfully constructed Inca walls, such as Qoricancha (or Coricancha), the Inca temple poking out from under the colonial church of Santo Domingo. Despite the Spanish colonists’ best efforts to pillage the city of its Inca riches, they failed to completely destroy the massive network of Inca stonework, which continues to withstand both time and the elements while the Spanish buildings crack and crumble around them.
Exquisite churches, fantastic museums, and narrow cobbled streets in the historic center merit at least a few days’ worth of exploration. If lucky, visitors will catch one of the many cultural festivals throughout the year which highlight the region’s mixed Spanish-indigenous heritage and illustrate the continual renewal of the community’s long-held Andean traditions.
Aside from the archaeological, cultural and religious sites of interest, Cusco is home to a multitude of quality restaurants, bars and cafes, offering an array of local and international drinks and cuisine.