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Cusco

Why visit Cusco?

This beautiful, cosmopolitan city was founded by the Incas in 1100 AD and was the capital of their empire from the 13th to 16th centuries, until the Spanish conquest. It is the gateway to some of the best archaeological sites in the world. But it’s more than simply a gateway; there is much to explore and enjoy in this exciting and magical place and you'll need at least a couple of days here - or longer if you use it as a base for excursions.
Reasons to visit Cusco include:

  • Enjoy the rich blend of ancient Inca architecture and grand, Spanish colonial buildings and courtyards.
  • Visit the Cathedral. The second largest in South America, it features golden railings, a silver altar and a wealth of treasures including a very fine collection of colonial art.
  • Exlore the ornate, baroque La Compañía de Jesús Jesuit church, and see the biggest altar in Peru.
  • See the tombs of the conquistadors Diego de Almagro and Gonzalo Pizarro in La Merced church - which also houses a 1.2m high monstrance, made of solid gold and studded with rubies, emeralds, 1500 diamonds and what is believed to be the second largest pearl in the world.
  • Watch the world go by in the Plaza de Armas, eat in one of its many restaurants, or shop for textiles, jewellery and paintings.
  • Explore the art galleries, workshops, bars and restaurants in the cobbled streets of the bohemian San Blas District, and visit the Museo de Arte Popular.
  • Discover more of the history of the area in the Inca Museum, the Santa Catalina Convent and Museum (on the site of the Inca 'House of the Chosen Women’) and the museum of pre-Hispanic objects in 15th century Korikancha, the 'Golden Enclosure', an area which was once  covered in gold. 
  • Take a day trip into the Sacred Valley of the Incas.
  • The city is within easy reach of Inca sites such as the temple and amphitheatre of Qenko, the red fort ruins at Pucapucara, the water shrine of Tambomachay, the terracing and irrigation system at Tipón and the Sacsayhuaman temple complex. 
  • Visit the colourful market in the village of Chinchero. It's held on Tuesday, Thursday and Sunday, with Sunday generally the best day to go. There is also a weavers' workshop in the village.

When to go to Cusco

Most people tend to avoid the worst of the rainy season from about December to March.  
For more information about when to travel in Peru, see our When to visit Peru page.

How to do it

Many visitors use Cusco as a base from which to explore the Sacred Valley and see Machu Picchu, though you can also stay within the Sacred Valley too.  You probably want to leave yourself a couple of days to explore Cusco and its immediate surroundings. 

You can easily reach Cusco from most other areas of Peru by flight (mostly via Lima).  You can also link Cusco with Ecuador on the same day (also via Lima). 

In addition you can go to/from Cusco to Puno (Lake Titicaca) by train or by flight to nearby Juliaca airport.

There are good flight connections to the rainforest (to Puerto Maldonado) and Iquitos.
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Cusco accommodation

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facts and information

Time: GMT-5hrs

Flight time:

Both KLM and Iberia have flights to Lima via Europe, leaving the UK early in the morning to arrive in Lima in the evening. The flight time is about 14 hours. It is also possible to fly to Lima via America.

Language: Spanish and Quechua are the official languages.

Visas:

Not required for British travellers (up to 90 days). EC nationals can ask us for further advice.

Health:

There are no compulsory vaccinations, except yellow fever if visiting the rainforest. Malaria prophylactics are also recommended in the rainforest.

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