Tuesday, November 29, 2011


All in all we spent five or six days in Cuzco, as it was perfectly suited as a base from which to explore the rest of Peru, for many reasons.

First, it is well connected with other interesting places in Peru. Not only it is a gateway both to the Amazon Jungle and Machu Picchu, but it is also just a few hours away by bus from Lake Titicaca and Arequipa.

Second, there are, literally, hundreds of travel agencies in Cuzco that can help you organize any trip you might want (even including trips to other countries, e.g., Bolivia). That means that you can shop around and pick the offer that suits you best. I would even advise against booking any trips in advance, as you will have far more options, and more negotiating power, once in Peru.

Third, there are thousands of hotels, bed and breakfasts, pensions, restaurants, cafes, and pubs in Cuzco, some of which cater to the budget-conscious, while others to the luxury, traveler. The night scene seems quite happening too, so I’m sure you could keep yourself busy here for quite some time. In fact, I’ve heard about travellers who went for a short trip to Cuzco only to find themselves falling in love with the city, and moving here (semi-) permanently.

Fourth, at 3,399 meters (11,152 feet) of elevation, Cuzco is a perfect place to get acclimatized to high altitude, which is crucial for anybody planning to set out for a high-altitude trek in the Andes (e.g., the Inca Trek).

Last but not least, Cuzco is an interesting tourist destination in itself, as there are many important archeological sites dispersed throughout the city. Cuzco’s importance in the world’s history was recognized in 1983 by UNESCO, when it inscribed the city onto a list of World Heritage Sites.

The history of Cuzco is a violent one. The first inhabitants of the region were the Killke people, who established the city in the early 9th century. Three centuries later, the Inca invaded and conquered the region, and made Cuzco the capital of their empire (between 13th century and 1532). Another three centuries passed and the same fate that the Incas inflicted upon the Killke now became their fate. Just as the Inca built on top of Killke structures, the Spanish invaders replaced temples built by the Inca with Catholic churches. Cuzco became the center for Spanish colonization and spread of Christianity in the Andean world. Under Spanish rule, the city flourished thanks to agriculture, cattle raising, mining, as well as trade with Europe. Cuzco retained its importance after Peru declared its independence in 1821 and has continued to grow since, despite being shaken by several major earthquakes. Today, Cuzco is a busy happening city with many beautiful streets and squares, as well as freshly renovated buildings–likely thanks to tourists’ dollars in action.

Cuzco by day and night: