Cusco Guide: top 5 attractions to see
Cusco Guide: what to see and what to do
“Navel of the world” at the time of the Incas, actively coveted by the Spanish conquistadors, heritage of UNESCO since 1983 and object of fascination of travelers and historians, welcome to Cusco. Although it is the starting point of all the excursions leading to Machu Picchu, it is a city that deserves to be visited. We could spend days browsing the streets discovering a new charming corner, a nice little restaurant or an architectural detail.
But by the way, do we say Cusco or Cuzco? In fact, both spellings are officially accepted. On the other hand, Peruvians always write Cusco and that is why we prefer to use this form.
Be aware that flights to Peru will take you to Lima. You will need to arrange a transfer to Cusco, either by bus or plane to Cusco Airport (Alejandro Velasco Astete).
Since today’s weather is a rare commodity, choices must be made. Here are 5 attractions not to be missed in Cusco, during your trip to Peru.
1. The Place d’Armes
Place d’Armes is still the central heart of Latin America’s major cities. It is therefore definitely a strategic place to start a visit. It is here that begins the famous celebration of the Inti Raymi the great Inca festival in honor of the sun on June 24th.
There is the magnificent Baroque cathedral, built in the middle of the 17th century on the Inca Wiracocha Palace. She is huge and loaded with details. If I have a particular affection for the Cathedral of Arequipa, it must be admitted that that of Cusco is breathtaking, especially if you are art lovers (there are beautiful examples of paintings from the school of Cusco) and history. We offer a guided tour at the entrance. I highly recommend it if you do not want to miss anything. We enter the cathedral via Iglesia del Triunfo, the first Christian church in the city.
The Compañía Church, built by the Jesuits on the ancient palace of the Inca Huayna Capac, is also a must-see attraction. Among other things, there are beautiful examples of Métis art.
Visit the cathedral: Tuesday to Saturday 10h-11h30 14h-17h30, Sunday 14h-17h30, entrance 25 soles
Visit the Church of Compañía: Tuesday to Saturday 11h-12h 15h-16h, free entry.
2. The Coricancha
Dedicated to the sun, the Coricancha, sometimes written Koricancha or Qoricancha, was the most sacred temple of the Inca empire. It is said that up to 4000 priests lived in its enclosure. Richly decorated with gold, silver and precious stones, it was unfortunately destroyed by the Spanish conquistadors. On its walls was built the Santo Domingo Convent around the middle of the 16th century. It is possible to see some original walls, consisting of large blocks of stone perfectly nested, a typical Inca construction process that can also Machu Picchu, for example.
Visit the Coricancha: Santo Domingo chapel Monday to Saturday from 8:30 am to 5 pm, Sunday from 2 pm to 5 pm; museum Monday to Sunday 9 am-5pm, entrance 10 soles, guided tour 10 soles.
3. San Blas district
Travelers often forget to leave the area around Place d’Armes, for fear of getting lost or lack of time. However, everyone who has traveled the San Blas district will tell you: it is charming. Small, steep and narrow streets, white houses, small craft shops, cafes, restaurants, it is a romantic place and offers, as a bonus, a superb view of the city. Go ahead without hesitation, it is only a few blocks from the Place d’Armes. Do not forget to climb slowly or you will be quickly out of breath because of the altitude.
4. The ruins
Cusco having been the capital of the Inca empire, it is not surprising that there are many archaeological sites nearby. There are four sites not to be missed: the fortress of Puca Pucara, Tambo Machay, Qenqo and Sacsayhuaman, where the celebration of the Inti Raymi takes place. They are all close to each other, within a radius of 8 km from Cusco, so they are easily accessible. In addition, you will have a breathtaking view of Cusco, as evidenced by this photo taken from Sacsayhuaman.
5. The museums of Cusco
Like any city with a great history, Cusco has many interesting museums. I concede, with so many places to visit, museums are not necessarily a priority. But know that the Museum of Pre-Columbian Art (Plaza Nazarenas, 231, Cusco) presents a beautiful collection of gold objects, beautiful works of the colonial era (mainly paintings and sculptures), as well as beautiful exhibitions on Pre-Columbian cultures: Inca, Nazca, Mochica, Huari, Chimu and Chancay. This is an opportunity to discover the great civilizations of Peru, which we finally talk about very little, compared to the Incas. You can end the visit with a meal or coffee at MAP Café, one of the best restaurants in Cusco. You will find it in the patio.
Admission: 20 soles, 10 soles students
Hours of operation: museum Monday to Sunday 9 am-10pm, Map Café Monday to Sunday 11 am-10pm