Article sponsored by Aranwa Cusco Boutique Hotel is an incredible city. It’s gorgeous, steeped in history, and a place you can wander round for hours without getting bored. But, if you’re still not convinced, check out our five reasons you should visit Cusco…
*1. Machu Picchu*
Most people come to Peru to visit Machu PIcchu. Although it is technically possible to get there without passing through Cusco, it’s not recommended. Cusco has the best access, with regular flights from Lima to Cusco, a train service direct to either Ollantaytambo (if you’re doing the Inca Trail) or direct to Machu Picchu town, and tour companies aplenty. It’s also a good place to rest and adapt to the high altitude before going on to Machu Picchu.
The ancient citadel of Machu Picchu, built high in the cloud forest and framed by mountains, was never discovered by the Spanish conquistadores and so stayed frozen in time, while other cities were sacked by the conquistadores and had their buildings torn down. Watching the sun set over the city, with the somber mountains towering in the background is a view that will stay with you forever– but Machu Picchu is also one of the best museums on the Incas and the cultures they ruled that you’ll find. Most other cities were changed beyond recognition when the Spanish arrived in the early 1500s, but Machu Picchu remains structurally almost exactly as it was back then. It’s clear to see why this citadel is one of the wonders of the world.
*2. When you come to Cusco you step straight into history*
While Machu Picchu is one of the best places in South America to see how people lived under Inca rule, Cusco is the only place in Peru where you’ll see such a blatant mix of the Inca culture and that of the Spanish conquistadores. The city was once the center of the world, according to the Incas, and it was their capital city. When the Spanish came, they turned temples into churches and scraped all the famous Inca gold off everything they left.
The result is a strangely beautiful and haunting mix of cultures. The Spanish baroque churches clash wonderfully with the perfectly shaped and fitted multi-angled stones of the city walls. Everywhere you walk in Cusco’s historic center you can spot Spanish and Inca overlaps. It’s like stepping back in time.
Cusco is also full of museums, including The Machu Picchu Museum (Casa Concha), which contains artifacts found at Machu Picchu. It’s not a complete collection, as the US adventurer, Hiram Bingham who rediscovered Machu Picchu took (many say ‘stole’) many of the artifacts back to the US with him. However, it is the best collection you’ll find in Peru.
*3. The shopping is great*
Cusco is famous for its high quality artisanal products, textiles, silver, artwork, and ceramics. If you’re looking for somewhere to buy well made traditional gifts and souvenirs, look no further than Cusco’s many crafts markets and upscale shops. Another plus is that Cusco’s shops are cheaper than in the Sacred Valley town of Urubamba.
Alpaca clothing is especially popular, particularly pieces made from the finely woven baby-alpaca – wool from the alpaca’s first clipping. For crafts and gifts, try the Galería Latina on Calle Mantas, the Galería Mendívil on the Plazoleta San Blas, or one of the shops lining Triunfo.
Some of Peru’s best restaurants and bars can be found in Cusco. Any kind of food you want, you can find it in Cusco. It’s also an excellent city for a night out.
Respected travel guide, ‘Frommer’s’ says that Cusco’s loud and busy nightlife comes as a bit of a surprise to travelers, as the city is more famous for its culture and history.
“Most first-time visitors to Cusco are surprised to find that this Andean city with such a pervasive, gentle Amerindian influence and colonial atmosphere also has such a rollicking nightlife. (…) a perfect diversion from the rigors of trekking and immersion in Inca and colonial history.”
*5. Cusco is beautiful*
Cusco is worth a visit just for the views across the city and its beautiful architecture. Cusco’s historic center is something special. The sun playing over the golden stones, the cobbled stones underfoot, the baroque façades of the churches and the balconies hanging off the buildings… The city is arguably one of the most beautiful in Peru and just walking around it will leave you awed.
*Where to stay:*
Aranwa Cusco Boutique Hotel
Built in a colonial mansion of the XVI century, it displays several paintings of the Cusco school, colonial sculptures, and carvings that transport us to the greatness of that time. Elegant rooms equipped with intelligent oxygen system and heated floor.