Cusco

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Altitude: 3536m (11,600 ft) Population: 358,935 Phone Code: 84

 

In addition to serving as a gateway to nearby attractions like Machu Picchu and the Inca Trail, Cusco offers travelers a host of culturally enticing museums, cathedrals and markets that make this city an excellent addition to any itinerary. For outdoor enthusiasts, the Cusco area presents several spectacular trekking opportunities. And for those who want to stretch their legs a bit but aren’t up for a week-long adventure over mountainous terrain, the nearby Inca ruins of Sacsayhuamán, Q’enqo, Puca Pucara, Tambo Machay, Tipón, and Pikillacta and Rumicolca make excellent day trips.

In Quechua its name translates to “belly button of the world,” and at its height Cusco truly was the center of the great Inca Empire, which stretched across parts of South America from Northern Chile to Colombia. In terms of

architectural prowess and political importance, Cusco paralleled the well-known Aztec capital of Tenochtitlán as one of the great imperial capitals of America.

Today, Cusco is known for its inviting and intriguing blend of Spanish and Inca culture, most evident where Spanish churches and convents had been built squarely on top of perfectly laid Inca walls. While the Spanish did their best to pillage and plunder the city, they failed to destroy the massive network of Inca stonework, which continues to withstand both time and the elements while the Spanish buildings crack and crumble. The Quechua people, the present-day ancestors of the Incas, are also a foundation for the city and bring the charm, humility and beauty that keep tourism booming in Cusco.

Because the city is a popular destination along the Gringo Trail, it has a variety of hotels and restaurants to accommodate any traveler’s tastes, from five-star, world-class hotels to hostels the most miserly of backpackers will find affordable. It is an extremely visitor-friendly city, with tour agencies on every block and very helpful locals. Most of the major Cusco activities are within walking distance of one another and can be covered in about half a day, though you may want to devote a little more time to browse the various shops and markets you may encounter along the way.

 

Neighborhoods in Cusco: San Blas

 

Other places nearby Cusco: Aguas Calientes (Machu Picchu Town), Pisac, Cusco: South of the Plaza de Armas, Urubamba, Yucay, Chinchero, Andahuaylillas and San Pedro, Ollantaytambo and Machu Picchu and the Inca Trail.

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