Cusco (or Cuzco) is one of the largest cities in Peru, and once upon a time, the largest city in South America during the era of the Inca Empire. Cusco was the central capital of the Incas. Most budget adventure travelers spend much time in Cusco (it is after all the base point for all Machu Picchu travels). There are differing opinions among tourists and travel bloggers on the authenticity of some aspects of the City (to be fair, this opinion applies to nearly every major global tourist hub), but there are some treasures that are unique to it and indicative of the rich history of Peru’s Inca empire.
At 3,400 m (11,200 ft), Cusco is higher in elevation than Machu Picchu ruins, which stands at only 2,430 m (7,972 ft). Unless you are accustomed to such altitudes, or have acclimatized to it by spending 2 days, you are likely to feel symptoms of altitude sickness ranging from anything mild like dizziness, nausea to extreme like faint spells, cramps, severe breathing problems. Consult your doctor at home before undertaking a trip up here.
2. The Good and the not so good.
With over 1.5 million tourists visiting Cusco any given year, Cusco gets its fair share of global tourists. Which is both good and bad. As one can only expect of bustling tourist venues, the city has its fair share of overpriced hotels, restaurants, clubs, and souvenir shops. Before jumping in to a purchase or booking that hotel, do you research, spend some time shopping around, do bargain, and get recommendations from locals with whom you have built up a rapport. Do spend time to get to know the environment first. For the most part, it is quite safe here for tourists. Just express common sense as you would anywhere unfamiliar.
3. Spend time here prior to the big visit to Machu Pichu Ruins
A common complaint expressed by tourists that visit Cusco AFTER completing the Machu Pichu trek is that they feel “ruined” out. So I recommend touring these local spots (Saksaywaman, Qorikancha, Tambomachay, Kenko) before departing for Machu Picchu trek as these spots have cultural and historical significance to the Machu Picchu ruins. In fact, what most people don’t know is that Machu Picchu was not the centre of the Inca empire, Cusco was. From here, the Inca empire traversed north to parts of modern Venezuala and all the way down to modern Argentina. There are also some very unique tours to take within Cusco, but most local operators do not offer it, which is sad. It is a behind the scenes Cusco tour offered by select companies.
Here are some other notable places to visit in Cusco
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