Welcome to Cusco
Cusco offers a living past amidst its narrow streets and in its Quechua-speaking people, descendants of the Incas. Extravagant palaces and elegant plazas shine like new in the streets of this mystical city. The Incas venerated Cusco and called it the ‘navel of the universe’, building from here the trails that united their vast empire. Cusco has much to offer; why not tour the cities monuments such as Plaza de Armas, the Cathedral, La Campanía de Jesús, Calle Loreto. Explore the Puma’s Head at Sacsayhuaman, learn all about the Inca Culture in Cusco’s Museums or visit the Art Museum of Andean Children. Cusco’s surrounding countryside is stunning, much of it sculpted by agricultural terraces once watered by complex irrigation systems. Pisac, 32km northeast of Cusco, is the starting point for a visit to the scenic Rio Urubamba Valley, or Sacred Valley, home to a wonderful collection of Inca villages and ruins.
A vibrant and exciting city, it is one of South America's biggest tourist destinations with a thriving traditional culture, ancient ruins, archaeological treasures, and magnificent colonial architecture. Chief among its attractions are the Inca Trail (culminating at the magnificent hidden city of Machu Picchu), the villages and archaeological ruins in the nearby Sacred Valley, and the Inca fortress of Sacsayhuamán overlooking the imperial city.
Despite its popularity, Cusco remains relatively unspoiled and its beautiful setting in the Andean mountains, at an altitude of 11,000ft (3,400m), is guaranteed to leave visitors breathless. Cobbled streets run steeply up the hills and are lined with quaint whitewashed houses, steps are bordered by craft stalls watched over by traditionally dressed indigenous women, and elevated church bell towers offer fantastic views over the red-tiled roofs.
Information & Facts
Cuzco has a sub-tropical highland climate characterised by dry, temperate weather. There are two defined seasons; the dry season (April to October) and the rainy season (November to March). The dry season is sunny and mild, with temperatures averaging around 55°F (13°C), while the wet season is slightly colder with average temperatures of around 53°F (12°C). Incidentally, Cuzco has the highest ultraviolet light level on Earth.
Spanish and Quechua are the official languages, but many other dialects are spoken. English is spoken only in major tourist centres and hotels.
The official currency is Nuevo Sol (PEN) divided into 100 céntimos. Visa is the most widely accepted credit card, but all major international credit cards, including Diners Club and MasterCard, are accepted in many, but not all, establishments. Outside Lima facilities may be more limited. Travellers cheques may also be difficult to exchange in small towns and villages, and travellers are advised to have cash on hand. US Dollars are the easiest currency to exchange and plenty of restaurants, hotels and shops in the main cities accept dollars for payment. Casas de cambio(exchange bureaux) often give better rates than hotels and banks and can be found in any town on the tourist circuit. ATMs are available in the main cities.