Although many people like to spend their vacation time catching rays and quaffing cocktails, there are plenty of travelers who like nothing more than to discover ancient civilizations, climb mountains, explore archaeological relics, take in a new culture, and enjoy breathtaking views.
So if this is what you want in a vacation, where in the world can all this be found? The answer is Cusco, Peru and there are plenty of good Cusco tours and excursions to show you everything this amazing part of the world has to offer.
With this in mind, it’s time to take a deep dive into everything Cusco has to offer.
Booking a Cusco Trip
It is a good idea to book a trip using a tour provider that specializes in trips of this kind. They will probably have special deals that they can pass on to you, know the best providers of excursions, and some may even help you plan your Peru adventure.
The general rule is always to use a reputable, experienced provider.
Related Read: Best Things to Do in Lima, Peru
Must See Day Trips or Longer in Cusco
Given you’re at the former capital of the Inca Empire, there are places that should be on the bucket list. The following are reachable as day trips from Cusco and some will help you understand the Incas and how they lived:
· Rainbow Mountain – As you can imagine from the name, this mountain has many colors and is a popular destination. The mountain is a new addition to the must-see attractions of Peru, as before 2013, the 14 different mineral colors were hidden by snow.
Since 2013 it is visible to anyone. As it is a protected attraction, you need to use a licensed excursion operator to visit.
· Sacred Valley of the Kings – The Incas left several impressive and amazing relics behind, one of which was the Sacred Valley of the Kings. Also known as the Urubamba Valley, the site contains many archaeological finds including Ollantaytambo, Pisac, and Moray. As you can imagine, a visit here stays with you for many years to come.
· Lake Humantay: Lake Humantay is favored by hikers who take on the 7 km trail. The route is very picturesque and has populated many an Instagram feed over the years.
Machu Picchu is classed as one of the New Seven Wonders of the World. It has been described as quite hard to reach, but a good tour provider will be able to guide you straight to it. Do not be surprised if you miss it at first as the top of the citadel is often obscured by clouds.
In case you don’t know, Machu Picchu is a stone citadel built at the summit of a mountain. It is believed to have been built around 1450 but abandoned when the Spanish colonized Peru around 80 years later. Much of the mountain was utilized by the Incas, and it is believed that the place was a royal estate and housed around 750 people.
When you take in and visit the sight it is quite astonishing it was only found in 1911 by America Hiram Bingham in 1911.
These days, restoration work is trying to restore Machu Picchu to its former glory. As a result, some of it is not accessible to the traveler. It is still a must-see attraction, however, as much of it can be experienced.
Cusco Cathedral & Church La Compañía de Jesús
Although a big draw about Peru is the ancient Incas there is much more to Cusco than just that. Head to the north side of Plaza de Armas and you’ll be greeted by Cathedral Basilica of the Assumption of the Virgin or Cusco Cathedral.
It is famous for its depiction of the Last Supper. Here, you’ll see Jesus and the disciples dining on traditional local food including guinea pigs.
If you head to the north of the Plaza de Armas you’ll find the Church La Compañía de Jesús. Both this and the Cusco Cathedral have beautiful ornate decoration and you’ll notice the distinctive red brick. This was taken from the Inca temples that were there previously.
Interestingly, the Pope of the time of construction of the church was worried that its grandiose design would overshadow the cathedral. Sadly for the Pope by the time his message reached Peru, the church was already constructed which is why the two buildings look like they complement each other.
Experience the Ancient City
To get an understanding of today’s Cusco it is a good idea to wander through the city, especially around Plaza de Armas and the San Blas area. There are many tours that give you a good feeling of the city, or you can just take a stroll.
You’ll be surprised by the amount of Inca constructions there are. The Incas used big stones to build and polish them so that they knitted together with other similarly sized rocks.
As you stroll you’ll take in the people and the feel of the place, which is a great life-enriching thing about traveling.
You’ll find that there are a number of good viewpoints to take in the whole city, and no doubt you’ll take a few pictures from here.
Enjoy your Cusco trip.