Cuzco, Peru

Here's a video of Cuzco and the surrounding area, shot during our 'Jaguar' trip:

The ancient Inca capital is said to have been founded around 1100 AD. It is today a major commercial centre of 275,000 permanent residents, most of whom are Quechua. The city council has designated the Quechua, Qosqo, as the official spelling.

Cuzco is considered the oldest continuously inhabited city in the western hemisphere and is of major historical importance. Cuzco was more than just a capital city to the Incas and the millions of subjects in their realm. It was a Holy City, a place of pilgrimage with as much importance to the Quechuas as Mecca has to the Moslems. Every ranking citizen of the empire tried to visit Cuzco once in his lifetime; to have done so increased his stature wherever he might travel.

According to Inca myth, the Sun sent his son, Manco Capac, and the Moon sent her daughter, Mama Ocllo, to spread culture and enlightenment throughout the dark, barbaric lands. They emerged from the waters of Lake Titicaca and began their journey in search of the place where they would form their kingdom. When they reached the present-day Cuzco, Manco plunged his golden staff into the ground in order to test its suitability, and it duly sank deep into the fertile land. This was the sign they were looking for to choose the capital of their empire. They named the spot Cuzco - meaning 'navel of the earth'. Thus was the significance of Cuzco and the Sacred Valley established for many hundreds of years to come.

Cuzco is still laid out much as it was in Inca times. The Incas conceived their capital in the shape of a puma with the river serving as the spine, Sacsayhuaman the head and the main city centre the body. Almost every central street has remains of Inca walls, arches and doorways. Many streets are lined with Inca stonework, now serving as foundations for more modern buildings. Inca stonework is tapered upwards (battered) and every wall has a perfect line of inclination towards the centre, from bottom to top. The stones have each edge and corner rounded.

Cuzco is the archealogical capital of the Americas and has something for everybody. The variety of museums, religious and historical sites will keep you occupied for as long as you are willing (access to the sites listed below are included in your trip fare). If you want entertainment, fine food, great coffee, and awesome shopping, there's no better place than Cuzco.

 

Wonderful Trip

“Terrific Trip!! Beautiful Country! Terrific Organization! Wonderful Guides! Great Food! I was very impressed with Cynthia and Puma and all the others that contributed to making this kind of trip possible. It is a sign of a well run organization when it values and hires such terrific people. They took very good care of us, were extremely well educated, and were very easy to get along with not to mention patient and fun. The Inca Trail views were absolutely breath taking but this really was a very well rounded trip. I enjoyed the cities of Cuzco and Puno, the trip to Porto Maldonado and the jungle with the extremely interesting hotel, and Lake Titicaca with our trips to a couple of the islands and stay with one of the families. Our tour of Lima was a great way to finish off our trip. One more thing-the food was absolutely the best. I have never eaten that well.”
Minnesota, United States
Jaguar 2017, August 2016
Read Reviews

Cuzco, Peru

Spend 4 days in Cuzco on our Ultimate Peru Adventure 'Jaguar' trip:

 

  • Ultimate Peru Adventure - Jaguar

    10 Days  | 

    Peru  | 

    US$3999

    ACTIVE 3 - 4
    • ACTIVE 1

      What's The Rush?

      I’m not a triathlete, but I’m in decent shape and I’m not looking to experience a place just through a bus window. I’m happy to slow down on the trail, soak it in and breathe in the fresh air.


    • ACTIVE 2

      Leg Stretcher

      Sure, I own some hiking boots, they’re even worn in, but they don’t go on long trips. I like my creature comforts and I like to give a range of activities a go.


    • ACTIVE 3

      Earn Your Lunch

      I stay active on vacation so that I can eat and drink what I like without feeling guilty. I season my trips with a little fresh exercise.


    • ACTIVE 4

      Challenge Accepted

      I’ll let my trusty guides sweat the small things, so I can focus on my goal. Getting to the top, reaching the end, achieving my dreams! Sure, it’ll be tough, but the views will be worth it.


    • ACTIVE 5

      The Ultimate

      I’ve put in the hard yards and now I get to reap the rewards. I’m a seasoned adventurer, not afraid to get my boots wet.


    • Read more about the Active Range

    4.50 out of 5 (from 1974 reviews)

    Experience the very best of Peru in ten days on a multi-activity adventure you'll never forget. Hike in the footsteps of the Incas, cycle through Andean villages and explore the Amazon jungle.

 

  • Peru Lodge to Lodge Trek - Alpaca

    10 Days  | 

    Peru  | 

    US$5399

    ACTIVE 5
    • ACTIVE 1

      What's The Rush?

      I’m not a triathlete, but I’m in decent shape and I’m not looking to experience a place just through a bus window. I’m happy to slow down on the trail, soak it in and breathe in the fresh air.


    • ACTIVE 2

      Leg Stretcher

      Sure, I own some hiking boots, they’re even worn in, but they don’t go on long trips. I like my creature comforts and I like to give a range of activities a go.


    • ACTIVE 3

      Earn Your Lunch

      I stay active on vacation so that I can eat and drink what I like without feeling guilty. I season my trips with a little fresh exercise.


    • ACTIVE 4

      Challenge Accepted

      I’ll let my trusty guides sweat the small things, so I can focus on my goal. Getting to the top, reaching the end, achieving my dreams! Sure, it’ll be tough, but the views will be worth it.


    • ACTIVE 5

      The Ultimate

      I’ve put in the hard yards and now I get to reap the rewards. I’m a seasoned adventurer, not afraid to get my boots wet.


    • Read more about the Active Range

    5.00 out of 5 (from 3 reviews)

    Immerse yourself in Peru's cultural richness, explore the Pisac Ruins, Rainbow Mountain and take a comfortable alternative route to Machu Picchu, via the Classic Inca Trail.

Weather

Cuzco has an agreeable climate with an average annual temperature of around 68 degrees Farenheit. Nights are cool and comfortable, mornings are generally fresh and the sunshine hours are high.

Things to see in Cuzco

Plaza de Armas
In Inca times, the plaza was twice as large as it is today. It was the heart of Inca Cuzco and remains the heart of the modern city. Two flags fly here, the red and white Peruvian flag and the rainbow colored flag of Tahuantinsuyo (representing the four quarters of the Inca empire.) Colonial arcades, cathedrals and Inca walls surround the plaza. Extending from the plaza are many cobbled pathways leading to the fascinating sites around the city.

La Catedral
Started in 1559 and taking almost a hundred years to build, the cathedral is Cuzco's main main church and also one of the cities greatest repositories of colonial art. Many of the hundreds of canvases are from the Cuzco school of painting. Cuzcos' cathedral is elaborate, ornate and will take you back in time.

La Compania
This church on the Plaza de Armas is often lit up at night and can be seen from Machu Picchu after dark - a splendid sight. Its foundations are built from the palace of Huayna Capac - the last Inca to rule an undivided, unconquered empire. This church was built by the Jesuits, commencing work in 1571. They planned to make it the most impressive church in Cuzco however the bishop of Cuzco complained that its splendour should not rival that of the Cathedral and Pope Paul III was called upon to arbitrate. His decision was in favour of the cathedral, but by the time word reached Cuzco, La Compania was almost complete.

Inca Ruins in Cuzco
Most of the Inca ruins in Cuzco have been converted into colonial or modern buildings, but their walls remain visible. The main ruin within Cuzco is Coricancha. This Inca ruin forms the base of the colonial church of Santo Domingo. Today, all that remains of Coricancha (once the Inca empires richest temple) is the stonework - the precious stones and metals were looted by the conquistadors.

In Inca times, Coricancha was literally covered in gold. The temple walls were lined with some 700 solid goldsheets, each weighing about five pounds. There were also lifesize solid gold replicas corn, llamas, as well as a replica of the sun. Various religious rites took place in Coricancha or the temple of the sun which is why it was one of the most important sites in the entire empire.

Inca empire
There are many other Inca walls in Cuzco that are not visitor sites in themselves but are equally as impressive. These are all visible around the city centre.

Sacsayhuaman
This huge ruin is the most impressive in the immediate Cuzco area. This mountaintop site overlooking the city is shrouded in mystery. Its precise function is still not known however most authorities agree that the site had important religious and military significance. Sacsayhuaman hosted one of the fiercest battles between the Incas and their Spanish Conquistadors. The fortresses' zigzag ramparts form the teeth of the 'puma' and contain rocks weighing as much as 300 tons.

Museums:
Museo Arqueologico Q'orikancha
This small underground museum is in front of the Church of Santo Domingo and is entered from Avenida del Sol. There are various archaeological displays that interpret both Inca and pre-Inca cultures.
Museo de Historia Regional
This museum is in the colonial Casa Garcilasode la Vega, the house of the Inca historian that is buried in the cathedral. The chronologically arranged collection holds artifacts from the many pre-Inca and Inca cultures that thrived in Peru.
Museo Palacio Municipal
This small museum has a small collection of local modern art on display. Well worth a look.

Eating

If one thing is certain, you won't go hungry here. Cuzco has a great variety of restaurants catering to every taste and budget.

Restaurants:

Kusikuy has plenty of Peruvian and international dishes.
Pucara has good food and menus with photographs, so even the linguistically challenged can order chicken and not get eggdrop soup.
Govinda Vegetarian Restaurant has fantastic vegetarian food, and is highly recommended.
Inka Grill is deservedly popular and recommended for its high quality food and service.
Los Perros is a favourite amongst the Active Adventures South America crew. The food is fantastic and the service is second to none.

 

Trip Reviews

  •   4.53 out of 5 (from 16212 reviews)

    Ecuador

    We had an amazing week in Ecuador. Each day was a new adventure, and the scenery was beautiful. The best part was Jhayro, our tour guide. He was knowledgable, personable, and genuine. We could tell that he wanted us to experience how special Ecuador is.
    Ryan Quale Review Image
    – Minnesota, United States
    Tapir, September 2017
  •   4.53 out of 5 (from 16212 reviews)

    Simply said: Excellent

    We’ve booked our trip with Active Adventures from NZ but ended up with Galakiwi Adventures as the implementing party. A bit confusing at the beginning but it turned out quite well.
    Our trip through the Galapagos Islands started in San Cristobal, followed by Floreana, Isabela and ended in Santa Cruz.
    We booked an all-inclusive trip and it turned out to be a very good decision. In fact we realized only after a few days how convenient is was to have everything organized for you and how much time you can actually safe. Starting with swimming gear that is provided as part of the package. Transportation to the ferry, getting on & off, having the transportation ready when you arrive, all those organizational aspects are taken care off which makes travelling from island to island very easy and smooth. Then hotels are ready, check in & out done super fast, luggage’s pick up etc. all organized. Lunch and/or dinners arranged in advance to maximize the vacation time and reduce wasted time to a bare minimum. What else to say besides that the organization was simply said excellent!!!
    Then we had Zambo our tour guide, a fantastic & very knowledgeable person.
    Not only questions from adults were not a problem for him, our kids and the other families kids who were also part of the group constantly came up with all sorts of questions and somehow, Zambo always had an answer.
    All of this made it a great vacation; we enjoyed it a lot
    Thomas Mueller Review Image
    – Sai Kung, Hong Kong
    Tortuga, April 2017
  •   4.53 out of 5 (from 16212 reviews)

    Jaguar, November 2016

    This trip truly was an 'active adventure', and exceeded my expectations in so many ways.
    Peru is such a beautiful country, rich in history, and culture. All of our guides were superb, but Erick as our trip host absolutely made this trip worry free, a true learning experience, and SO much fun! If it's all in the details, Erick and Active covered them all and more!
    I arrived as a solo traveler and left having made friends and memories that I will treasure always.
    Thank you Active Adventures, until next time!
    Sandra Datoff Review Image
    – British Columbia, Canada
    Jaguar 2017, December 2016
  •   4.53 out of 5 (from 16212 reviews)

    Awesome, Awesome, Awesome!

    The Condor trip with our tour leader, Zac, was AWESOME! Our W guide, Cem, was also exceptional. The two of them kept us at a great pace and kept us laughing. You're on this trip for the scenery, and it was breath-taking. A great one word description of the landscape is "rugged". This tour provides a nice balance of longer hiking days and shorter hiking days with just truly stunning scenery including Torres del Paine, French Valley, Grey Glacier, Perito Morano glacier, and Fitz Roy. Definitely do the ice hiking!
    Sandy Landsberg Review Image
    – Virginia, United States
    Condor, February 2018
  •   4.53 out of 5 (from 16212 reviews)

    7 Day Jaguar Adventure

    I have nothing but positive reviews for this week-long adventure of a lifetime (I would have loved to stay on for the full 14 day experience, but unfortunately work responsibilities limited my time away). As a seasoned solo traveler/hiker, and it being my 30th birthday week, I must rank this trip as my top guided-tour experience. Everything from the Lares Inca Trail experience (with its less crowded characteristics making it a much more attractive alternative to the Classic Inca Trail, at least to me), to the accommodations, the food (which can be catered to most anyone’s dietary needs, at least from what I experienced both first hand and from others in the group...still not sure how the chef/porters can transport all that fresh food and whip up such fantastic meals miles and miles from the nearest town!?), our tour leader Daniel and other affiliated guides and porters...quite honestly above and beyond what my original expectations were for the trip! I met several fellow hikers from around the world with whom I bonded and would now call lifelong friends, and have numerous photos and memories to last a lifetime! I would also like to mention that during our 4 day/3 night hike, we encountered several other hikers along the trail who were with various other tour companies (some of which I had researched prior to booking with Active Adventures), and were told several stories about various mishaps and/or negative experiences they were having with their tour leaders...perhaps we lucked out with our fantastic tour leader, but I definitely do not regret for a second my decision to ring in the third decade of my life with Active Adventures! I can’t thank you guys enough and will definitely keep you in mind for my next hiking adventure, wherever that may be :)
    Kevin Bui Review Image
    – New Hampshire, United States
    Jaguar 2017, October 2017

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Why travel with Active Adventures?

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