Cosmopolitan Inca capital, Cuzco (also Cusco, or Qosq’o in Quechua) today thrives with a measure of contradiction. Ornate cathedrals squat over Inca temples, massage hawkers ply the narrow cobblestone streets, a woman in traditional skirt and bowler offers bottled water to a pet llama while the finest boutiques hawk alpaca knits for small fortunes. The foremost city of the Inca Empire is now the undisputed archaeological capital of the Americas, as well as the continent’s oldest continuously inhabited city. Few travelers to Peru will skip visiting this premier South American destination, also the gateway to Machu Picchu.
Visitors to Cuzco get a glimpse of the richest heritage of any South American city. Married to 21st century hustle, at times it’s a bit disconcerting (note the KFC and McDonalds behind the Inca stones). As rent soars on the Plaza de Armas and in trendy San Blas, locals are increasingly pushed to the margins. Foreign guests undoubtedly have the run of the roost, showing respect toward today’s incarnation of this powerhouse culture is imperative.
Best places to stay in Cuzco
Machu Picchu update
South America's most popular attraction -- the 15th-century Incan site known as Machu Picchu -- was hit by a mudslide in January that killed several tourists (updated from 'a few' thanks to comments; official statistics are hard to come by), stranded hundreds of others, destroyed the homes of many more locals, and caused some...
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Cuzco destination guides
The Inca Trail
One of our most popular trips in the region for those looking to combine the cultural highlights of the Sacred Valley with the challenge of one of the world’s best known hikes. The four-day Inca Trail trek will reward you with a stunning combination of the region’s ruins, mountainscapes, and cloud forests.
Classic Inca Trail
Trek the legendary Inca Trail to Machu Picchu and explore Cusco