Cuzco, Peru

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Cuzco (also "Cusco", or "Qosqo" in Quechua), located in the Southern Sierras is a fascinating city that was the capital of the Inca Empire. Cuzco is a Unesco World Heritage Site and is one of Peru's most visited cities as it is the largest and most comfortable city from which tourists can begin visits to Machu Picchu, the Sacred Valley of the Incas, and other Inca sites in the region.

Cuzco is a beautiful city with well preserved colonial architecture, evidence of a rich and complex history. The city itself represents the center of indigenous Quechua culture in the Andes, and by merely walking the streets one sees the layers of history. Spanish colonial buildings erected directly atop Inca walls line the square, while the modern tourist nightlife flourishes in their midst.

The city is surrounded by a number of ruins, the most impressive being Sacsayhuaman, the site of the 1536 battle in which dozens of Pizarro’s men charged uphill to battle the forces of the Inca.

Nowadays, Cuzco is known for its indigenous population–often seen on the streets in traditional clothing–and its substantial tourist-fueled night life.

At 3,400 m above sea level, altitude sickness (soroche) can be a problem. See the Stay healthy section for advice. Altitude sickness tends to sneak up on you and although its symptoms may not be apparent at first, it has the potential to develop into something extremely dangerous.

More information on Cuzco is available from the official Tourist Office:

  • Directur, Portal Blankets 117 (close to the Plaza de Armas).

Weather

  • June-August. Cuzco can be very hot during the day and quite cold in the early morning and late at night. If you get cold easily, you might want to carry a hat, gloves, and several layers in your day pack to use at night, that you can peel off during the day for complete summer mode

Cuzco is somewhat dusty and you will be very happy wearing a boot/sneaker mix such as Keens, rather than for example flip flops.

Foods

  • Cuy, (guinea pig), The absolute traditional holiday food of the region. You can buy a whole cooked cuy in many of the restaurants around Plaza de Armas. In 2012 cuy cost 60S at all these places. There are also dedicated ‘cuyerias’ that serve much cheaper cuy.
  • Alpaca, Grilled, tastes like a more tender steak. You must try it. You can get alpaca pizza as well.
  • Cooked potatoes, Cooked and served hot in the cold season.
  • Chifa. This is the Peruvian version of Chinese food. The neighborhood of Wanchaq has many Chifa restaurants.
  • Inca Kola, a bubble gum/tutti-frutti-flavored golden-yellow soda. This drink outsells Coca-Cola in Peru, although its maker has been a subsidiary of the Coca-Cola company since 1999. Also, chicha morada is a Peruvian specialty. It’s a spiced non-alcoholic drink made out of purple corn.