One of South America’s most atmospheric cities, Cusco is an intoxicating place that exudes rich history and vibrant culture at every turn. Framed by the imposing peaks of the Andes, Cusco was one-time capital of the Inca empire and of key strategic importance. When the Spanish invaders arrived in the early 1500s, they were so impressed by the city that they chose not to destroy it entirely, and instead to build on top of and around its mighty Inca foundations. What was left behind is a unique architectural mix which still captivates visitors to this day. Korikancha is one of the best-preserved examples of this architectural fusion, with the colonial church and convent of Santo Domingo perched on top of the foundations of the Inca Temple of the Sun, though you will encounter countless other examples throughout Cusco. Imposing Inca walls can be found by wandering the city’s labyrinthine network of side streets and alley ways, and a wealth of impressive Inca sites in the hills and valleys that surround the city are not to be missed.
It is not just history lovers who will enjoy Cusco however. Its buzzing centre is home to colourful local markets and elegant squares lined with cafes and bars, ideal for watching the world go by. You will also find excellent restaurants, cookery classes and some intriguing museums (the Machu Picchu museum and the chocolate museum both come particularly recommended.) Cusco is also the regional gateway for onward visits on to the Sacred Valley of the Incas, Machu Picchu and Andean treks such as the Inca Trail.