Located in southeastern Peru, Cusco is one of the most popular destinations to visit when in Peru. It is the seventh most populated city in the country and holds the title of being the enchanting former capital of the Inca empire. In 1983 it was declared World Heritage Site by UNESCO, and due to a large number of monuments and historical sites it encloses, it is often referred to as “the Rome of America”. The past and present lives in Cusco, a fascinating city so easy to fall in love with.
All of our students taking a Spanish course in Cusco, keep reading and discover some of the best things to do in Cusco!
1. Visit Koricancha and Santo Domingo church
These sites perfectly represent the overlap and clash between the Inca empire and the Spanish conquistadors. Koricancha was the centerpiece of the Inca empire and a holy site in Incan mythology, dedicated to worship deities and to honor the sun god Inti, the most revered figure in the Inca religion. However, when the Spanish conquistadors arrived, they stripped the temple of any gold and they destroyed most of the site. They only left the foundation stones, upon which they built the Iglesia de Santo Domingo. These sites are one of the most important in Cusco, crucial to understand the link of Koricancha to the Incas and the clash of two civilizations.
2. Absorb Cusco’s spirit in Plaza de Armas
The main square and beating heart of Cusco, Plaza de Armas is the best place to absorb both the traditional and modern world conviving in Cusco. Bordered by the Cusco cathedral (designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1983) and the beautiful church of La Compañía de Jesús, the square encloses cafes and restaurants in which to get a rest from walking and enjoy a relaxing moment amid the hustle and bustle of the plaza.
3. Take a day trip to the Maras Salt and the Moray Ruins
Located in the Sacred Valley of the Incas, we can find the town of Maras and its salt ponds. The salt obtained has proven to be of great nutritional value and to have therapeutical properties. However, the salt ponds of Maras are usually visited due to the breathtaking scenery.
They are operated today the same way they were centuries ago. Saltwater fills the innumerable shallow pools tucked in the mountainside. When the saltwater evaporates, salt is left behind in the pools and later collected and sold in nearby shops.
Only 7km away from Maras we can find the Moray Ruins. This archeological site is formed by circular shaped hollows and have stair-like projecting stones to access the valley above. Though it is not completely clear what was the function of this site, it is thought that Incas used it as a place for agricultural research.
4. Take a stroll around San Pedro market
Cusco’s central market is a must for all visitors and tourists in Cusco. Undeniably local, this hectic market is been active since 1925, being one of the oldest markets in Cusco. Its vivid colors make it a beautiful kaleidoscope in which to find varied types of meats, vegetables, and handicrafts. Located only 10 mins away from Plaza de Armas, the market is the best place to immerse in the local lifestyle of cusqueños and try some typical food. Remember that Peru is been chosen as the world’s best gastronomic and cultural destination!
5. Machu Picchu
Peru’s most famous archeological site, and for a good reason. Machu Picchu is the name given to an Inca’s old town, built before the XV century and located in the Andes mountains. This wonder of humanity was designated a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1983 and since 2007 is also one of the New Seven Wonders of the World. It is the most visited attraction in Peru and one of the most visited sites worldwide. Machu Picchu is, without a doubt, one of the places to add to your bucket list.