The Cusco (Cuzco) Rundown
As the heart of the great Inca Empire many years ago, Cusco is a majestic city that tops the list on many a traveller’s journey. Today, Cusco is listed as the archaeological capital of the Americas that hosts the oldest continuously inhabited city on the continent. The historical centre of Cusco is beautiful, including a walk around the ‘Plaza de Armas’ with many of the local churches, shops and restaurants backing on to it. A visit to the Cusco Planetarium is a great way to see how the Inca’s saw the world. The Incas seriously studied astronomy and even aligned some of the city’s main streets to line up with the stars at certain times of the year.
A must see are the Qorikancha ruins, one of richest temples of the Inca empire and today stands as the base of the colonial church of Santo Domingo. The construction of La Catedral started in 1559 and took nearly 100 years to build. Built on the site of the Inca Viracocha’s palace, it was built using blocks taken from a nearby Inca site. The ‘Museo Irq’i Yachay’ (Irq’i Yachay Museum) is a bit more an art and craft exhibition.
When To Go
Cusco’s climate is relatively fresh. Average temperatures are between 10° and 11° Celsius (50° to 52° Fahrenheit). The temperature is fairly stable throughout the year. In general, it is cold at night and during the first hours of the morning the temperature rises considerably until about noon. On sunny days the temperature can go up to 20°C (68°F). In June, the temperature frequently decreases below zero to -5° and -7°C (23° and 19°F).
The change of the seasons during the year is not very noticeable; but it is generally divided into two seasons:
- The dry season runs from April to October, with plenty of sunshine, and occasional nighttime freezes.
- The wet season goes from November through March, during which time night frost is less common.
- While frost and hail are common, the only snowfall was recorded in June of 1911.
Coming into Cusco by air, the airport is at the edge of the city. There are daily flights into Cusco from Lima. A traveller’s tip is to book one of the earlier flights in the day to avoid possible weather delays or overbooking. When leaving the Cusco airport be prepared to pay a small airport tax; some tickets included this fee in their price.
The trip from the airport into town is a short ride with one of the many taxis available. Getting an ‘official’ airport taxi may run you up to 30 or more soles. While taxis are common and inexpensive, most don’t use meters. Be ready for a short haggle as you agree on your price before getting in.
- Alejandro Velasco Astete International Airport is in Cusco.
- Taxis are readily available at different price points.
- For the best deal, haggle with the taxi driver prior.
The venerable historic capital of the Inca Empire is a supreme destination point for international pilgrims on the way to Machu Picchu. Unlike many indispensable stopovers however, Cusco is a place where you want to linger. The UNESCO World Heritage city is a sensorial banquet, with a location in the high Andes that will take your breath away, literally and figuratively.
Cusco is a veritable permanent excavation site for scientists and archaeologists alike, with remains of the lost Inca civilization in and around the city. The Plaza de Armas is the foremost symbol of colonial Cusco, with all of the requisite architectural landmarks of 16th century Spanish conquest. Cathedrals, convents and palaces radiate from the plaza, which serves as the de facto pulsepoint of the city. Authentic Cusco life can be found in the innumerable city markets, small restaurants, coffee bars and mad atmosphere of Estadio Garcilaso de la Vega.
Attractions & Activities
Restaurants & Nightlife
Cusco's high altitude brings even and predictable weather throughout the year, with temperatures between -1°C and 22°C.
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