Cusco, Capital of the Former Incan Empire

Cusco’s colonial charm, Incan history, surrounding Sacred Valley and, not least, proximity to Machu Picchu combine to make it Peru’s tourism capital. With great food options and lots to see, the city is an excellent trip hub despite its 3,400 metre-high elevation. I was based there for three weeks in July and August 2016.

Plaza de Armas and Surrounding Mountains, Cusco

Cusco’s central Plaza de Armas including the imposing cathedral

Also known as Cuzco, Cusco was capital of the Inca Empire for almost a century until conquered by the Spanish conquistadors in 1533. The Spanish destroyed the original structures and replaced them with the colonial city, often building on Incan foundations.

Statue of Pachacuti, former Inkan ruler, Plaza de Armas, Cusco

A statue of former Incan ruler Pachacuti tops a fountain in Cusco’s Plaza de Armas

At Healing House with Xindi and Rich

With Xindi and Rich at the Healing House, San Blas, Cusco

Cusco also saw Xindi, Rich and I reuniting after first meeting almost five months earlier in Sucre, Bolivia. While in Cusco I enjoyed Rich’s and other yogi’s yoga classes at Healing House.

Arco Santa Clara Top, Cusco

The top of the impressive Arco Santa Clara (Santa Clara Arch); the arch lies between Plaza de Armas and Mercado San Pedro

Local Women with Alpacas, Cusco

Tourists pose (and pay) for photos with local women and alpacas

Central Cusco is extremely touristy and full of shops and people selling tours, souvenirs, meals, massages and photos with alpacas.

Colourful Souvenir Stalls, Cusco A souvenir stall alley; the rainbow flag represents Andean indigenous and is also the official flag of CuscoRainbow, Cusco

A rainbow in non-flag form shining over Cusco

Cobbled street, Cusco   An old cobbled street in Cusco’s centreBroad bean Bracelet, Pre-Columbian Art Museum, Cusco

A bracelet fashioned to resemble beans on display at the Museum of Pre-Columbian Art

Cusco’s several museums include the excellent Museum of Pre-Columbian Art which contains wonderful artwork, sculpture and jewellery created by the Inca and other Peruvian pre-Columbian civilisations.

Despite the inherent tourism, high elevation and variable weather, I loved my time in historically important Cusco.

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