Cusco means “the navel” in our ancestral language of Quechua, and was the sacred cultural capital of the Inca Empire. Nowadays it is known as the ‘Historic Capital of Peru’ and is the oldest continuously inhabited city in South America. It lies in a dry lake bed at 3334 masl (10938ft) and is located in the south-east highlands, 1100km from Lima. Surrounded by mountains and valleys. It has a population of 428.450 inhabitants – most of them indigenous – and has much beauty to offer: The exquisite panorama and sceneries of the Andes terrain and the world famous Inca ruins including Machu Picchu. Cusco is now an very important link in the South American travel network. Its legacy as the hub of the Inca Empire is readily apparent: Most of the city streets are lined with Inca-built stonewalls and crowded with Quechua-speaking descendants of the Incas. The city has magnificent repositories of colonial art such as the Cathedral (begun in 1559) and La Merced Church. There is also Koricancha – The Tenple of the Sun, in the middle of the city center, which was known to have been formerly covered with gold (the stonework is all that remains) and the arqueological Museum – the interior of which is filled with metal and gold work, jewelry, pottery, textiles and mummies. There are four magnificent ruins in the city surroundings; Sacsayhuaman, Qenqo, Puca Pucara and Tambo Machay. Our city has an average temperature of 14°c. It is the most popular tourist destination in Peru and one of the 10 top world destinations.
HOW TO GET HERE:
International flights fly in and out of Lima (international airport tax on leaving the country is US$ 30.43) and there are several airlines that offer many daily flights to Cusco from Lima costing approximately US$ 50 and US$ 80 one way (one hour journey). Also, a variety of bus companies provide services to Cusco costing approximately $30 one way – This takes about 22 hours! From other major cities in Peru there are also flights (domestic airport tax is 14 s/ or approximately $ 4) and bus services are available from most urban areas.
Many banks on the main street (Avenida del Sol) have ATMs from which you can withdraw cash with Visa or Mastercard. A lot of hotels, agencies and restaurants also accept payment with Visa, Mastercard or American Express.
The current exchange rate for an American dollar is 3.24s/. (soles) and there a lot of places (Casa de Cambio) where you can change your money (dollars) or traveler’s cheques into soles. Please note that dollars need to be in perfect condition to be accepted – if not in perfect condition they can be changed at the main banks.
You can also change Euros or Pounds Sterling, although the rates are not very good. Therefore it is worth changing your money into dollars before you come to Peru.
There is accommodation in Cusco to suit every budget; from budget hostels to five-star hotels. In peak season we recommend booking ahead (we can suggest hotels according to your requirements and make the necessary reservations). For longer-stay travellers, there are also unfurnished and furnished rooms and apartments that can be rented per day, week or month for good rates.
FOOD AND DRINK
There are plenty of local and tourist restaurants that offer a wide-variety of food; from the delicious grilled-guinea pig (local delicacy), ceviche (raw fish marinated in lemon), pollos a la brasa (chicken grilled in a fire-wood oven, served with chips – Peruvian fast food!) to pizza and fancy pasta restaurants. Popular drinks here are coca tea (tea made from the coca leaf), Inca Kola (soft drink made with lemon grass – only found in Peru!), Pisco Sour (a mix of Pisco, egg whites, lemon, sugar, cinnamon and ice) and chicha (alcoholic drink made from corn).
A vast array of hand-made textiles can be found here; popular purchases are alpaca, llama or the high-quality vicuña wool fabrics. There are also beautiful ceramic works and gold and silver jewellery on sale. Most of the best shops are located around the main square (Plaza de Armas) in Cusco.
In the highlands in general, there are only two seasons: the dry one – May to October, during which the days are usually hot and sunny (20-25°c) and the nights are cold, particularly in June and July (0°c or below). And the wet season is from November to April (the wettest months are January to March.) Although this is known as the wet season it does not usually rain all day! The mornings are generally clear and dry and it is in the afternoons that there are heavy outbursts. In the day, the temperatures are normally around 18°c and in the night, around 15°c.