Cusco is a city in southeastern Peru, with great history and culture and is often called the “historic capital” of the country. Find out what beautiful sights our Globe Aware volunteers will have the chance to see on their volunteer vacation in and around this South American city.
Cusco highlights - 7 best things to see
July 4, 2022
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Cusco is a city in southeastern Peru, with great history and culture. It’s often called the “historic capital” of the country, as it was the capital of the Inca Empire, until the Spanish conquest. The best Cusco hotels are even built on colonial houses, experiencing a modern and classic colonial fusion.
The vast history and culture of the city and its proximity to the Inca citadel of Machu Picchu have made Cusco one of the most visited cities in Peru. The Inca architecture is so precise and resistant that it has survived even major earthquakes, such as the one in 1950 that damaged and even toppled several of the colonial buildings. There are plenty of activities, and many places in and around the city to visit.
1. Plaza de Armas
The historic center of Cusco, the Plaza de Armas, is a strategic place to start visiting Cusco. The best Cusco hotels are in the surroundings, as well as many other historic places in the vicinity. You can visit the church, and it’s especially recommended to have a drink in the bars or restaurants located in the square.
2. The Twelve-Angled Stone
Although a visit to a stone may seem irrelevant, this rock is a representation of the precision of Inca architecture. It’s considered an archaeological artifact and of national heritage. Inca architecture is so resistant to the passage of time and natural disasters thanks to structures like this one, as the twelve angles of the stone fit precisely into each of the stones around it. It is currently located on one of the walls of the archbishop’s palace.
3. Casa Concha Museum
Also known as the Machu Picchu Museum, while this museum is not well known, it holds a collection of over three hundred pieces and artifacts that were returned by Yale University, a dynamic exhibit with photos from National Geographic, an Inca house, interactive videos, and even an interactive map of Machu Picchu. Most of the Inca artifacts found in archeological excavations are located at this museum.
If you are looking to learn about cocoa and chocolate, there is no better place. In addition to visiting the museum about the history of chocolate and the plantations, there are activities to make your own chocolate, cooking classes, tours to the chocolate plantations, workshops, and a store with a great variety of chocolates to try. Definitely a very different museum from what we are used to.
5. Sacred Valley
Beginning the visit to the surroundings of Cusco, the best place to start is the Sacred Valley of the Incas. Now part of the Cusco region, this valley is full of small towns like Chinchero, Pisac, Ollantaytambo, also Maras with its more than three thousand white basins where salt is extracted by evaporation, and Moray, with circular agricultural terraces.
6. Machu Picchu
Definitely, the best place to admire the grandeur of the Inca empire. Hidden among green mountains and built of huge blocks of stone, it’s much better appreciated from above to really see “the whole picture”. Machu Picchu is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and chosen as one of the New 7 Wonders of the Modern World. Its architecture is a classic Inca style, mainly made of polished dry-stone walls.
7. Rainbow Mountain
Its official name is Vinicunca, famous for its unique coloring. The mixture of quartz, sand, clay, phyllites, calcium, iron and other minerals are arranged in different layers that make the mountain look different colors at different angles. Red, yellow, green, orange, and even some shades of blue are some of the colors that can be perceived. It’s recommended to visit in late summer when the weather is drier, and the colors are more vivid.