- One must be a fox in order to recognize traps, and a lion to frighten off wolves. Machiavelli Niccolo
Travel to Cusco
Nothing can prepare visitors for the moment they first enter the heart of the ancient Incan capital, Cusco. The city’s vast main square of grand churches and romantic porticos unfolds like a vision, while the surrounding dark hills bear down in the distance.
More than 20,000 Inca roads used to converge at the Plaza de Armas, once the very core of the mighty Inca Empire that stretched from Ecuador to Argentina.
Despite the splendour of this reimagined colonial masterpiece, gleaming with impressive baroque churches and glamorous houses, the history of the legendary Incan city of Qosqo still lies beneath it.
The colossal Cathedral of Santo Domingo is the jewel of modern Cusco, but it was built upon the site of the great Incan place, Viracocha, using stones from the nearby Sacsayhuaman complex. It even impressed the conqueror of Peru himself, Francisco Pizarro, who called it the greatest city of the Americas.
The earthly wonder of Machu Picchu, some 75km (46 miles) away, is what brings many to Cusco, but a city so steeped in history deserves a few days exploration on its own.
The immaculate historical centre gives the feeling of an affluent city but (as some tour guides are quick to point out) the wealth generated by Machu Picchu ticket sales is diverted straight to Lima. The outskirts of Cusco still show the scars of poverty that wrack large parts of the country.
Things to do in Cusco
Make like the locals and speak Quechua
Seeing as you’re visiting the ancient capital of the Incas, why not learn a few words of Quechua? Depending on the length of your stay you can either do series of lessons or a very tourist-friendly one-day crash course. Thankfully, teachers are well known for being patient with well-meaning travelers.
Rejuvenate your aching limbs in a spa
After your Machu Picchu trek, the only activity you’ll feel like doing is jumping into a hot bath. Go one step further by visiting one of the traditional-style bath treatments in the Inca Spa in Hotel Eco Inn, which offers delights such as mud and chocolate therapy.
Make your own chocolate
The ChocoMuseo is far more than just a museum. Offering several chocolate-making workshops, the museum lets those with a sweet tooth (over)indulge in their creations as they make anything from delicious chocolate bars to mouth-watering truffles over a two-hour session.