Cusco is one of the country’s favorite cities and is home to many of Peru’s top attractions. Enjoy fantastic examples of Incan archaeology, Spanish architecture, and some amazing wildlife tours.
Cusco is very central to some of the main Amazon areas you can enjoy after a short direct flight, so because many people want a mix of nature, culture, and history, we also include some of the best nearby areas for an Amazon Rainforest experience. This makes an excellent option to balance your adventure into Incan history.
We will link to some excellent tours and to some travel bloggers who have enjoyed these areas to give you their own opinions on each place.
Tour Cusco Itself
Cusco is the most popular tourist city in Peru because of the incredible 15th century Incan structure of Machu Picchu, but also as the base for the famous Inca Trail. There is much more to this fantastic city, however.
Once used by the Inca as the hub of their empire, Cusco is surrounded by many fantastic Incan structures, which you can visit from this friendly and fascinating city. The streets, buildings, squares, and city attractions are also a definite must see.
The tourism capital of Peru, Cusco itself is an attraction and is listed by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site. The streets give a glimpse back in time with the cobblestone alleys bordered by the Spanish colonial / Incan buildings.
When the Spanish took control of Cusco, instead of completely clearing the site to build on cleared ground, they built their manors, houses, and other buildings on the Incan ruins themselves, which formed a unique and fascinating diversity of architecture. It also creates one of the most historically fascinating city walks.
The historical architecture here is breathtaking with intricately designed cathedrals guarding the fantastic plazas where you can see locals relaxing. Because we’re in the Andes, you will also see women selling various Andean products in a traditional dress. Cusco is where many visitors enjoy buying their soft alpaca throws and blankets.
As the cultural center of Peru, this is also the best place to catch sight of fantastic Peruvian festivals, such as the celebration of the Inti Raymi in June.
One of the most loved districts in Cusco for a relaxing stroll during the day is the San Blas district. This is a very scenic part of Cusco and is located just a short walk from the Plaza de Armas. This is also the location for many of the best restaurants and bars. The streets here are mostly only for pedestrians, which makes it a lot more relaxing to explore this fascinating city.
Visit Machu Picchu
The breathtaking structure of Machu Picchu was built in the 15th century, which was around 100 years before the Spanish conquest that decimated the Inca Empire. The structure itself was not known to the Spanish and only reached international attention in 1911 after the expedition of the Yale historian Hiram Bingham III.
Machu Picchu has since become the most visited attraction in Peru and draws hundreds of thousands of tourists each year to marvel at this astonishing Incan masterpiece. Machu Picchu is thought to have been built by the emperor Pachacuti who lived between 1438 and 1472 as a royal estate and sacred site.
For simply visiting the structure to have an explore, you can head out on day trips aboard the Vistadome train from Poroy station, which is about 15 minutes from the city. You will then arrive in Aguas Calientes at the foot of the impressive monument.
Many people, however, choose to enjoy experiencing Machu Picchu in the footsteps of the Inca who would have walked to the site using the Inca Trail.
There are a few different Inca Trail options to consider, such as the Classic Inca Trail, Short Inca Trail, and a luxury-class version on the Deluxe Inca Trail. Because the trail can get crowded, there are also alternative treks where you can enjoy some more scenery of the Andean mountains such as the Weavers’ Way and Salkantay Trek.
These trails are attractions in their own right and take you past other Inca Structures, traditional Andean communities, and incredible scenery. Because there are many different ways to to Machu Picchu, you can pick the one suited to your personality and how many days you have available.
A top recommendation is to experience Machu Picchu in luxury and especially from the incredible Sanctuary Lodge, which is the only hotel located so close to the Incan monument. This means you can have a mostly private experience of Machu Picchu without the crowds.
If you’re looking at Machu Picchu as the main reason to visit Peru, we also recommend a short tour of the Amazon Rainforest while here and a great add-on experience is the Sandoval Lake Lodge or Posada Amazonas Lodge near Puerto Maldonado, which we will cover farther down.
Enjoy the Bio Trip
Cusco is not just a fantastic place to experience Peru’s treasure trove of archaeological sights, but is also a base to experience fantastic nature, such as the cloud forest of the Manu National Park region. Manu is the largest and reportedly most pristine of all Peru’s protected areas and covers around 1.5 million hectares of lowland Amazon Rainforest and forest high on the Peruvian Andes.
Both the cloud forest and the lowland Amazon Rainforest are regarded as two of the most biodiverse areas on Earth containing a fantastic amount of birds, monkeys, and iconic wildlife of Amazonia. Because of its biological importance, Manu is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
A tour regarded as one of the most fascinating nature experiences in South America, the Bio Trip takes you from the Andean cloud forest near Cusco down to the fantastic rainforest of the Amazon lowlands. You will first leave Cusco and travel to the Cock of the Rock Lodge perched on the lush slopes of the Andes amid the lush cloud forest vegetation. This is a perfect lodge to see and hear Peru’s national bird, the bright red cock of the rocks, performing their mating dances.
From the Cock of the Rock Lodge, you will head out on guided tours to find woolly monkeys, capuchins, and many different birds, such as a variety of hummingbirds.
You will then travel down the Andes to the steamy lowland Manu rainforest to enjoy a stay at the Manu Wildlife Center, which is regarded by Conde Nast Traveler as offering the “most intensive wildlife experience in Amazonia.”
From Manu Wildlife Center, head out on guided rainforest tours to see many different monkeys, colorful birds, tapir at the clay lick, and one of the largest macaw clay licks in the Amazon.
These areas provide almost guaranteed wildlife sightings of different macaw parrots, with over a hundred macaws sometimes seen at once. Guests at the Manu Wildlife Center also have a 10% chance of spotting wild jaguar on the banks of the Manu River.
After experiencing the Amazon Rainforest at two of the top lodges in Amazonia, you will return to Cusco or Lima on a short flight from the town of Puerto Maldonado. You can read more about this sleepy rainforest town a little further down the page.
See the Ollantaytambo Ruins
One of the major archaeological attractions to see in Peru, Ollantaytambo is in the famous Sacred Valley near Cusco and is a working Peruvian town as well as a site for these incredible ruins.
This is a favorite tourist site and is one of the main places to start for the Inca Trail, which we will talk about farther down the page. If you are not going to hike the Inca Trail, you can also visit Ollantaytambo on half-day trips from Cusco.
Although a pre-Incan structure, once conquered the area was the royal estate of Emperor Pachacuti and was also the home of many other members of royalty, as well as high ranking members of the Inca Empire. The structure and region is mostly known for being one of the areas defended by Inca where Manco Inca Yupanqui won a battle against the invading Spanish, which was a rarity given the superior technology, arms, and diseases of the conquistadors.
The Manco Inca Yupanqui used his superior knowledge of the region and the irrigation system to win the battle. Settling themselves on high ground, after the Spanish had entered the area below the terraces, he flooded the ground then rained down boulders and arrows from above making the battle a sure win, despite the many other advantages of the Spanish.
Pizarro announced the retreat while being chased down by the Inca warriors. The victory did not last long, however, and the Spanish returned with greater forces to take Ollantaytambo.
To see the site gives a fantastic feeling as you can imagine its incredible history and can look upon the giant stone blocks of the Ollantaytambo Fortress with amazement. Some of these blocks weigh over 50 tons each. The region is dotted with other Inca structures and is located by the Patakancha River, which is about 60 kilometers from Cusco.
Some travel bloggers who explored the Ollantaytambo Ruins are Tony & Thomas from Contemporarynomad.com.
Hike the Inca Trail
One of the main attractions in Peru is the Inca Trail, which was a historical Incan route from the Urubamba River to the Sun Gate on Machu Picchu Mountain. The route starts about 80 km from Cusco and, although it can be a challenging hike, it offers a glimpse back in time in the footsteps of the Inca, while providing great opportunities to see Incan structures, beautiful Andean scenery, and of course beautiful views of the incredible Machu Picchu itself.
There are a variety of options to enjoy the hike and to suit your fitness level, your days available, and your interests. There are even some other hikes for an alternative route to this well trodden path.
Short Inca Trail
The shortest way to enjoy the Inca Trail is the Short Inca Trail, which is a one day hike starting at the end of the main trail, so you don’t miss out on some of the most spectacular views. The Short Inca Trail also has the advantage of being a little more comfortable as there is no camping involved, but you still get the hiking experience. This guided Inca Trail option starts at kilometer 104 on the railway and takes around 6 hours.
Classic Inca Trail
The Classic Inca Trail is the the most popular option and involves 4 days of hiking, which can last 10 hours per day, but you will have many breaks to take in the views, archaeology, and to rest. Although this sounds strenuous, there will be incredible views to keep you distracted on the walk from start to finish.
You will first drive through the picturesque Sacred Valley of the Incas to the mark at Km. 82 of the Machu Picchu railroad. To start the walk, you will trek down the Urubamba canyon and enjoy seeing the Incan terraces before setting up the first camp. Following this will be walks to the incredible Warmiwañusca, Wiñay Wayna, the ruins of Sayacmarca, into the fantastic cloud forest filled with orchids, bromeliads, and lush vegetation, and on to the Sun Gate of Intipunku.
Both of these options include a final day where you will explore the ruins of Machu Picchu themselves before a return trip to Cusco.
Sacsayhuaman was a citadel of the Inca Empire, which dates back before the Inca civilization and was built by the Killke culture. Because of its historical significance, the ruins are listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site and it’s one of Cusco’s major archaeological attractions.
Overlooking Cusco, the structure is a heavily fortified building and provides fantastic views of the city and surrounding region. The 3,000 hectare area around the structure contains over 200 different Incan ruins.
Cusco was the hub of the Inca Empire and the watchful eye of Sacsayhuaman high on the hill acted as its protector. Not only a great place to enjoy for its historical significance, this is also the site of the Inti Raymi celebration, which is a traditional Inca and Andean ceremony held in honor to the Inti or Sun god every 24th of June. But in true Peruvian fashion, the party does usually extend from a few days before this to a few days after.
Visitors often come and marvel at the stonework as the gigantic blocks weigh around 100 tons each. It’s estimated that Sacsayhuaman took over 20,000 men decades to complete and the Spanish never imagined the people capable of such impressive engineering feats.
If they also found Machu Picchu, it may have added context to the technological feats of the Inca and pre-Incan civilizations.
A travel blogger who explored Sacsayhuaman is Sonja from Breadcrumbsguide.com.
Tour the Manu Rainforest
If the cloud forest mentioned further up isn’t of interest and you would like to focus on the Manu lowlands instead of combining them both on the Bio Trip (departing from Cusco), you can take a short 45 minute flight to Puerto Maldonado just south of the city. The Manu Rainforest surrounding Manu National Park is an area of Amazon Rainforest regarded as one of the most pristine in all Amazonia. Manu National Park is the largest national park in the country and contains a fantastic amount of Amazonian and Andean forests.
Enjoy guided tours from the Manu Wildlife Center, which is a lodge regarded by Conde Nast Traveler as offering “the most intense wildlife experience in Amazonia” where you will see macaws at the large macaw parrot clay lick, tapir at the tapir lick, and chance sightings of giant river otters in the beautiful Amazonian lakes. You will also enjoy guided tours in the rainforest to spot several different monkeys, such as howler monkeys, capuchins, squirrel monkeys and more.
Although not permitted in the actual Manu National Park itself, you can enter the Reserved Zone on the Manu Adventurer, which again starts from Puerto Maldonado. Because you are only limited to a short time in the Reserved Zone, it makes a great combination tour and the Manu Adventurer combines the Manu National Park with the Manu Wildlife Center located just at the park boundary within the continuous Manu Rainforest.
If you would like to combine the Manu Reserved Zone with the Manu Wildlife Center and the Cock of the Rock Lodge in the Peruvian cloud forest, you can combine all three experiences on the Manu Macaws and Tapir tour, which begins straight from Cusco.
Enjoy San Pedro Market
Of course, as we’re in Cusco there are some fantastic places to buy the iconic alpaca wool clothing, blankets, leather products, souvenirs, and snacks. One of the most loved markets is San Pedro Market where the Peruvian locals in traditional dress sell their products. Choose from a diversity of products, including clothing and bags of all shapes and colors.
It’s a great place to see, buy, and taste weird and exotic fruits. There are usually stalls set up of blenders where you have your pick from exotic flavors. To give a stark contrast to this delicious thing to do, the meat section of the market is infamous for its display of animal heads and other parts. The good part of this is that nothing goes to waste, but it can often be a sight best for the less squeamish. It does, however, make for some weird and wonderful photos.
San Pedro Market is a very large market full of fascinating Peruvian products both for the local and tourist markets. The area can get very busy, so make sure you keep an eye on personal belongings.
This is also the place where locals buy their fruit and products, so the attraction is also seeing locals living their daily lives and to enjoy Peruvian culture. Peruvian markets are a great place to try some of local juices, snacks and foods. Peruvian food is delicious and we will go more into detail about this below.
Enjoy Peruvian Food & Drink
Peruvian cuisine is widely considered among the best in the world and there are a number of delicious dishes to satisfy almost everyone. Cusco is one of the best places to enjoy the food and there are a number of top Peruvian restaurants.
At the time of writing, some great restaurants include the Pirqa Restaurant, the Morena Peruvian Kitchen, the Restaurant Sumaqcha, Kusikuy, and the Deva Restaurant Tipico.
Some favorite Peruvian dishes to try include lomo saltado, which is slices of steak cooked with tomatoes, coriander, and onions and is usually served with rice; tallarines verdes, which is green spaghetti prepared with a basil sauce and topped with steak or steak pieces; and papa a la Huancaína, which is a light meal with sliced potatoes served with a tasty yellow sauce.
Of course, as we’re in the Andes environment some weird, wonderful, and more familiar foods to try include steaks of llama, guinea pig (cuy), and potatoes. The Andes are where all the world’s potatoes came from, but only a few varieties of the thousands available reached international attention.
To mention a refreshment, you have to try a traditional chicha morada, which is a sweet drink that dates back to beyond the Inca Empire and is prepared with purple corn, pineapple, cinnamon, clove, and sugar.
Fly 30 Minutes North to Iquitos for an Amazon Cruise
If you like the idea of a cruise on the Amazon River instead of a guided tour from a rainforest lodge, you will need to take a short 45 minute flight north to Iquitos.
Iquitos is a port city of the Amazon River where you can set off on fantastic voyages into the heart of Amazonia. One of the largest protected areas in Peru can be explored here, which is a national reserve called the Pacaya Samiria.
The Pacaya Samiria Reserve contains a fantastic amount of flooded tropical forest. The forest is home to a rich assemblage of animals and plants, including several different monkeys, colorful birds, and the larger animals like manatees, tapir, black caiman, and jaguar.
If you really want to make the most of the experience, a recommendation is to explore the reserve from one of the Amazon’s top luxury tours, such as aboard the incredible Delfin I or the sister ship called the Delfin II Amazon Cruise.
On these cruises you will enjoy gourmet cuisine of Peruvian, Amazonian, and international inspiration, luxurious comfort from large soft sofas, organic bath products, and large beds of fine Peruvian cotton linen as soft as silk.
Of course, you will also be led by some of the best guides in the Amazon to explore the Pacaya Samiria National Reserve and its incredible animals. If you’re more interested in a lodge-based rainforest experience from Iquitos, you can enjoy a privately guided tour with a custom itinerary from the highly regarded Tahuayo Lodge in the adjacent Tamshiyacu Tahuayo Reserve.
The wildlife you’re likely to see include the howler monkeys, capuchins, squirrel monkeys, titi monkeys, saki monkeys, and marmosets. Because the Pacaya is a flooded forest, you can find pretty little frogs here in abundance as well as the more intimidating looking caiman and anaconda.
On the tops of trees you will see two and three toed sloths clinging to the branches and many different birds. You will see hundreds of different birds, and the colorful individuals you’re likely to spot include paradise tanagers, crimson tanagers, various toucans, blue and gold macaw parrots, and many kingfishers.
Experience the Cloud Forest
If you’re interested in a shorter experience of the Andean cloud forest instead of the full Bio Trip down to the lowland Amazon Rainforest, you can enjoy a guided tour from the Cock of the Rock Lodge on the Peruvian Andes. Cloud forest is defined as forest at such a high altitude that it’s penetrated by cloud cover. This adds to the enchanting feel and look of this biologically rich area.
The cloud forest lodge was specifically placed to be close to one of Peru’s most spectacular birds, the beautifully plumed Cock of the Rock. These birds show of their red feathers and fascinating form in dances to attract females close to the lodge. The most showy and attractive male then wins the chance to mate.
In addition to seeing these courtship rituals, you will tour the cloud forest to see different birds, such as the delicate hummingbirds and a diversity of other wildlife. Enjoy seeing woolly monkeys and capuchins at this altitude, colorful butterflies, and even have a chance sighting of the fantastic spectacled bears.
The lush forest is full of different plants to the lowlands and is the ideal place to find a diversity of different orchids. You will also see the bromeliads and enchanting stands of bamboo to see some different bamboo specialists.
The Cock of the Rock Lodge is positioned in a 5,060 hectare (12,500 acre) private cloud forest reserve next to the famous cloud forest area of Manu National Park. There are many different trails winding their way through the reserve and you will have many opportunities to spot different birds and other animals. For those of you looking to stay longer than the usual three days, there is a more extensive trail system around the lodge.
Visit the Church of the Society of Jesus
Ranking as one of the most intricate and beautiful of all Peru’s churches, the Church of the Society of Jesus is a Jesuit church, which was built in 1576 and positioned in the city center on the Plaza de Armas. Before the Spanish built the church, the same site was the location of the Incan palace of Huayna Cápac.
You can have a guided tour of the church to learn about the history and to see the fantastic view from the 2nd floor. The church is home to many examples of colonial paintings and sculptures, such as the marriage ceremony of the nephew of Saint Ignatius of Loyola and Ñusta who was the daughter of the last Inca ruler.
A travel blogger who visited the Church of the Society of Jesus is Elisabeth from Sidetrackedtravelblog.com.
Enjoy Different Museums
There are some fascinating museums in Cusco to learn about Peruvian history and to see some fantastic Incan artifacts. If you’re here to see Machu Picchu, you should pay a visit to the Casa Concha Museum dedicated to the Incan structure.
The museum was a joint effort between Yale University and Cusco’s San Antonio Abad University to present information on Machu Picchu, its artifacts, and the people who lived there. The vast majority of items were taken from the site by Hiram Bingham himself who introduced the world to Peru’s main tourist attraction in 1911.
Another of the great museums is the Museo de Arte Pre-Colombino, which stores different artifacts from Peru before the Spanish colonised the country in the 15th century. The museum is housed in a beautifully built colonial style mansion with 11 different rooms.
Another of the museums worth a visit is the Museo Histórico Regional de Cusco, which is within the original house of the Inca Garcilaso de la Vega. The museum is a great choice to learn more about Cusco and the surrounding region and focuses on the area from before the Inca Empire to after the Spanish conquest. You should definitely take advantage of the free tour by English speaking tour guides to get the most of the exhibits.
Fly 25 Minutes South to the Incredible Tambopata Reserve
If you would like a short Amazon Rainforest experience as an add-on tour to your visit to Machu Picchu or the Inca Trail, we recommend a short flight to Puerto Maldonado just south of Cusco.
If you only have a few days available, you don’t want to spend an entire day getting to and from your Amazon Rainforest lodge. This means you want a lodge that’s close to town while still in the middle of an area with incredible wildlife. For this, we recommend Puerto Maldonado as the Tambopata National Reserve is close by.
There are some fantastic rainforest lodges in Tambopata to choose from and this is part of the largest continuous tract of protected tropical forest on Earth and home to fantastic clay licks, amazon lakes, and animal-filled forests.
If you’re after an add-on experience, a great lodge that works very well for a combination tour is the Sandoval Lake Lodge. The lodge is located within the Tambopata National Reserve itself on the glistening water of the Sandoval Lake.
Sandoval one of the Amazon’s most beautiful lakes and home to many different monkeys, toucans, macaw parrots, cormorants, caiman, and giant river otters. On guided excursions around the lake, you will enjoy spotting many different amazon animals. Despite being home to abundant wildlife, at Sandoval Lake Lodge you will be restricted to the lake itself.
If you would prefer forest walks and more rainforest activities, or even massages, our recommendation is the Posada Amazonas Lodge, which is surrounded by wildlife-filled forests.
If you would like a similar lodge a little deeper in Tambopata with fantastic extra activities, a children’s trail through the forest, and a fantastic spa room then you should have a look at the Refugio Amazonas Lodge. Next to Refugio is the recent addition of the luxury-level Amazon Villa as well. This area also seems to be a favored nesting site of the large and powerful harpy eagles, which are one of the Amazon’s most sought after wildlife sightings.
The Tambopata region is also home to some excellent deep Amazon lodges to maximize your chances of spotting some more elusive wildlife. These include the Tambopata Research Center, which is near one of the Amazon’s largest macaw clay licks.
You can also choose the Heath River Wildlife Center where you can enjoy close visits to a clay licks to see hundreds of macaws and also a tapir lick to see the largest land-mammal in South America. The Heath River Wildlife Center can also be combined with the Sandoval Lake Lodge. This combination tour means you maximize your chances of enjoying three of the most incredible wildlife experiences in the Amazon.
Visit the Impressive Moray
Moray is one of the most thought provoking Inca sites and is visually fascinating. The area consists of curved and circular terraces, which can be about 30 m (100 ft) deep. Moray looks as if it could have been some giant amphitheater if it wasn’t for some of the details found onsite.
Each of the terraces was found to contain different types of soil and the temperatures were found to vary from one terrace to another that gets to be 15 °C (27 °F) between the top and the bottom rung. What is fascinating about this, is that now we know the soil and temperature differences mirror the soil differences and the temperature at different sections of the Incan Empire.
The theory that best fits the information is that Moray was a laboratory to experiment with growing different vegetables to find and select for different varieties. This is not so surprising when you supplement this knowledge with the fact that the Inca were known to have thousands of varieties of potatoes and other crops available.
Despite its fascinating and important potential function in Incan society, Moray isn’t as popular as the other archaeological sites but provides a glimpse at the ingenuity and advances of Incan culture to improve crop yield. You can walk around the terraces and feel the temperature difference yourself between the top and bottom to marvel at the potential the area has.
Pisac and its Incan ruins provide a great day trip from Cusco and the small traditional Andean village is home to a popular Andean market every Sunday, Tuesday, and Thursday. The town is located in the Sacred Valley and is surrounded by many different Incan structures, including the main archaeological draw to the area, the fantastic fortress that watched over the valley below.
In addition to the fortress, other incan ruins in the region include temples, agricultural terraces, and many undiscovered treasures. To compliment your time seeing the ruins, the market at Pisac is a great place to buy souvenirs, alpaca clothing, leather goods, traditional clothes, pottery, and jewellery.
Some travel bloggers who explored Pisac are Ray & Sue from Travelandwildlifephotography.com.
Built around 1500, Tambomachay is a popular and mysterious site to visit. The nature and use of Tambomachay is not known and there is a lot of disagreement among historians. The area is an Incan ruin consisting of different canals, waterfalls, and aqueducts that run through formed rocks. The ideas surrounding what it actually was include a spa resort for the Incan elite, a sacred site to honor the god of water, or a fortress area to help defend Cusco.
Tambomachay is about 8 km (5 miles) from Cusco and you will marvel at the site’s construction whatever it may have been. The meticulous placing of stones and carved stones allow the mind to wander about what the site may have once looked like. In addition, the site includes a fortified structure that seems to have almost certainly been used for defence, which is why the defence theory came about but that was probably just one of its functions.
A travel blogger who explored Tambomachay is Julie from Pbfingers.com.
See the Cusco Planetarium
A favorite attraction offering something a little different, the Cusco Planetarium shows a little about the Incan interpretations of the cosmos and our current understanding. The Inca studied the constellations and tied astronomy into everyday life. Some of the main streets of Cusco were designed to line up with the stars.
The small planetarium is a family operated attraction of Cusco’s Valencia family located just behind Sacsayhuaman, which is mentioned further up. You can look up at the stars yourself in the small observatory and learn about the transitioning view of the constellations from the Inca, the Spanish conquistadores and sailors, and the modern day.
As well as learning about current knowledge on the stars and astronomy, learn about how the Inca interpreted the night sky and the significance it had on Incan culture.
Some travel bloggers who explored the Cusco Planetarium are Gemma & Craig from Twoscotsabroad.com.
Trek to Choquequirao
Choquequirao is the archaeological structure that was thought to have been built to rival Machu Picchu. Built either between both Túpac Inca Yupanqui and emperor Pachacuti, his father, or commissioned solely by his son in competition with his father’s masterpiece, Choquequirao is one of Peru’s other most popular attractions.
The Cradle of Gold, as it is often called, is located in the Willkapampa mountain range and positioned on a flattened hill. You can reach the structure on a two day hike from Cusco and it makes an alternative adventure to the well-known Inca Trail to Machu Picchu. To add a different flavor on the tradition Peruvian adventure, you could see Machu Picchu on the Short Inca Trail or simply take the train from Cusco and then enjoy the hike to Choquequirao to marvel at two of the greatest achievements of the Incan world.
The area was the last stronghold of the Inca against the Spanish and was an administrative and political hub for the empire. You will enjoy exploring the ruins to see different temples devoted to earth, water, the sun god, and other gods, and buildings to house the elite, artisans, and workers. In Incan tradition, you can also find different farming areas and terraces.
If you would like an intensive and extraordinary hike, you can also combine both monuments on a hike between Choquequirao & Machu Picchu, which takes around 12 days and passes incredible mountain scenery bookended by two of the greatest structures of the Incan civilization.
Some travel bloggers who explored Choquequirao are Jeff & Kristen from Kristenwidman.com.
Relax at the Plaza de Armas
Finally, we recommend simply sitting and relaxing at the fantastic Plaza de Armas in Cusco’s main square to enjoy thinking on the incredible history and culture that surrounds you.
You are now in the heart of the city and this has been a square since the Inca as a guarding building is now the Church of the Society of Jesus but was once an Incan palace. The square itself was also known as Huacaypata or Aucaypata during the Incan Empire.
The other side of the plaza is then bordered by the cathedral and both buildings were once in competition as to which should be the city’s grandest. This became such a concern that the Pope Paul III in Rome was called to mediate the issue. The cathedral was given precedence while the Church of the Society of Jesus was being constructed and the cathedral can be identified by its ornate stairs and larger size.
Like many of Peru’s squares, the area can be best enjoyed at night as the fountains and buildings are lit up and locals start to congregate to enjoy the atmosphere. Of a day, you can walk the square to admire the construction and the gardens.
The area is a hive of activity from morning to dusk and makes a fantastic place to people watch and to absorb the area once known as the navel of the Incan Empire.