What is it like to live in a city 3400 meters above sea level, a city that was the magical center of the Inca Empire? Today, Cusco is an Andean metropolis with around 450 000 inhabitants. One of its main attractions is the architecture, mirroring the rich history of the city. It bears witness to the flowering of the Inca culture and the violent intrusion of the Spanish conquerors over 500 years ago.
For the Incas, Cusco was the center of the universe. And the city has not lost any of its fascination. In this enchanting city and its beautiful surroundings you will get to know the Andean way of life better than anywhere else. Curious?!
Life in the Andes, so close to the equator, starts early. The sun's rays, much stronger in this altitude, wake up the city already before six in the morning. Dogs bark, car alarms play their melodies, taxis honk, street vendors offer freshly squeezed orange juice, hot quinoa drinks and bread rolls with creamy avocado, children in school uniforms wait for one of the many buses called „combis“, and small corner shops open their cast-iron doors to let in the first customers.
Traffic is chaotic, but the many taxis, combis and private cars know how to maneuver around each other. Most landmarks and sights are located in the historical center, which has been declared World Cultural Heritage in 1985.
Here you will also find restaurants, shops, bars and of course ACUPARI. And everything within easy walking distance! After a leisurely stroll around the picturesque squares and small streets, the many cafés around the Plaza de Armas invite you to take a break. From their colonial balconies you can enjoy the beautiful panorama, the busy city life or watch the hoisting of the flag on Sundays.
Not far from the main square is San Pedro Market, where you can buy freshly squeezed juices and products grown on the many terraces of the valleys around Cusco. Here you'll find Andean potatoes and maize in many shapes and colors. Do try the exotic fruits and local dishes, but make sure to get quickly past the meat vendors, offering pig heads, intestines and chicken feet. Much more pleasant are the flower stalls and the vendors offering medicinal plants and ritual utensils. Though it is advisable to keep an eye on your possessions when visiting the market, thanks to the ever present tourist police the city center is a very safe and peaceful place.
In the afternoons you can visit the many churches and museums, or take a stroll up to the cobblestone streets of the artist quarter San Blas, where you will find countless galleries, handicraft shops and restaurants. The market Molino is also worth a visit. Formerly a black market, the Molino is now an institution, where you can buy the latest trends from Europe and the USA: Next to kitchen equipment and clothing, you will find flat screen TVs, digital cameras and smartphones.
Cusco’s surrounding hills and valleys, strewn with eucalyptus trees, are ideal for walking and hiking in beautiful nature. On your way, you can explore Inca ruins, watch lamas graze and see the farmers from the small villages around Cusco go about their daily business in their adobe houses or on their plots of land. The contrast between city and countryside, as well as between rich and poor is enormous. But it is exactly this coexistence of different South American life realities that makes staying in Cusco so fascinating.
As the starting point for the journey to Machu Picchu, Cusco is well equipped to cater for the desires and needs of its international visitors. It has over 300 hotels and many clubs and bars, where you can hear life bands and dance wildly to Latino rhythms.
Cusco is the perfect place to discover South American mentality and lust for live: its many festivals and ceremonies will keep you from being bored. Staying in Cusco, you will discover more about Peru and its way of life every day.