The ancient city of Cuzco is one of the most important cities in modern Peru, and also served as the historic capital of the Inca Empire during the period before the country was conquered by the Spanish conquistadors. With over two million visitors to Cuzco every year, there is a strong tourist industry in the city, and here are some of the best tourist sites and activities that visitors can enjoy in and around the city:
Sacsayhuaman – Located on the hill above the modern city of Cuzco, this stunning site enjoys spectacular views over the valley and holds the remains of a fortress temple which was made from remarkable cut stone that fits together almost seamlessly, without requiring any mortar or cement to keep the walls in place.
Santo Domingo Cathedral – The first major religious building built in Cuzco following the Spanish occupation of the country, this cathedral was built on the foundations of an Inca temple in the city. It is a beautiful place to see some of the best colonial art in Cuzco, along with the legendary Black Christ statue which is revered by the locals.
Cristo Blanco – Set on the hill above Cuzco near the site at Sacsayhuaman, this large statue of Christ is similar to the famous statue in Rio, and enjoys stunning views back over the city and can be easily combined with a trip to the Sacsayhuaman temple site.
Inti Raymi – This celebration of the sun god Inti is an annual festival that is held on June 24 every year, and is a celebration of the New Year in the Inca calendar. Visitors are able to enjoy a magnificent celebration which includes music and ornate costumes and a sharing of food with those present at the event.
Museo Historico Regional – This quirky museum is based within the large colonial home of the Peruvian born Garcilaso de la Vega, and it was his collection of artifacts and items from the Wari, Pukara and Inca cultures that make up the majority of the exhibits in this museum.
Qorikancha – The remains of an Inca temple which was demolished in order to build the Santo Domingo Cathedral, today visitors can see some of the walls which were built in the Inca way using cut stone without mortar, and these are situated in a prominent location within this historic district of city.
San Pedro Market – The traditional shopping area of Cuzco, a visit to the market offers an insight into the lives of the Peruvians living in the city. One attraction is that it isn’t packed with souvenir sellers, and this gives the San Pedro Market a much more authentic atmosphere, as well as being a great place to buy food and drink if you are cooking for yourself during your visit to the city.
White Water Rafting – A day trip from Cuzco, the Rio Apurimac river is one of the best rivers in Peru for white water rafting and offers rapids ranging from class 3 to 5, taking visitors through a stunning gorge and some of the finest scenery in Peru.
The Hiram Bingham Train – One of the most famous luxury trains in the world is named for the explorer who rediscovered Machu Picchu, and this day trip takes visitors from the city of Cuzco up to the historic site at Machu Picchu. Passengers are offered an excellent range of food and drink as well as a remarkable viewpoint of the scenery from an open deck observation carriage.
Choquequirao – Those who will be staying in Cuzco for a period can undertake the wonderful trek to this ancient Inca city, which enjoys a similar hilltop vantage point to Machu Picchu, and remained as one of the Inca bastions for several years after Cuzco itself was conquered.