Set against the backdrop of the dramatic Andes mountain range, this vibrant Peruvian city has captivated imaginations since long before the Spanish conquistadors colonized it. A living testament of ancient cultures, it seamlessly blends tradition with lively modern life.
At this farm, museum, and textile production center in the hills just outside Cusco, the traditional Andean processes of weaving have been preserved. Visitors can learn about the culture and traditions behind alpaca farming, chat with the local artisans who still weave in the same way their ancestors have for centuries, and purchase blankets, scarves, and housewares made on site.
Delve into both ancient Inca culture and astronomy at the Cusco Planetarium, which is as much an educational cultural center as it is a planetarium. Not only were the Inca avid astronomers, but they laid out their cities and sacred sites – like Cusco and Machu Picchu – according to the stars. They also named “dark” constellations, as well as the light ones. Be sure to book a visit (in advance) for early in your stay, in order to make the most of the knowledge while exploring the region.
Eleven galleries of pre-Columbian art offer a glimpse into the creative history of some of the world’s oldest civilizations. Each is dedicated to a particular style of Peruvian art: for example, ceremonial crowns and jewels fill the Gold and Metals Gallery, while, in the nearby Inca Gallery, whimsical bottles take the form of native birds and mythological beings. The museum is also home to an acclaimed restaurant serving traditional Andean cuisine.
The area around Cusco is filled with Inca ruins, but Qorikancha, located in the heart of the city, is one of the most impressive. One of the grandest and best-preserved temples, the original 15th-century building was added onto by the Spanish, making it a rare amalgam of architectural styles. Originally covered in sheets of gold and filled with gold and silver statues, the temple was later owned by Dominican monks, who installed magnificent frescoes adjacent to the ornate Incan stonework.
Immense, precisely cut stones form thick, terraced walls that curve like ribbons against a vivid, green Andean hillside. Their smooth grey surfaces are testament to the dedication and perseverance of the Incas. Built to withstand earthquakes and enemy attacks, the powerful wall of Sacsayhuaman rises to heights of six meters. Once an important Incan ceremonial site, this impressive fortress sits in the foothills north of Cusco, overlooking the city.
With its brightly painted balconies, terracotta rooftops, and cobbled streets, San Blas is one of Cusco's most charming neighborhoods. Whitewashed colonial-era buildings house artists' studios and traditional shops where shopkeepers arrange colorful cloth dolls, woven blankets, and fine earthenware in outdoor displays. Many of the handcrafted artisan goods come from surrounding mountain villages. In addition to the many shops, an open-air handicrafts market is held regularly in the square.
Cusco’s largest open-air market, the Mercado Central de San Pedro fills one of the city’s main squares with the scents, tastes, and sounds of traditional Andean life. Farmers sell local produce like hard-to-find indigenous varieties of corn and potatoes, chefs serve up traditional treats and prepared foods like pigs’ heads and roasted guinea pigs, and artisans and artists fill stalls with traditional handicrafts and artwork.
High up on Huayna Picchu sit the ruins of an ancient shrine known as the Temple of the Moon, purported to have been the final resting place of the mummies of important Incans. Hike up the tall, conical mountain that overlooks Machu Picchu on steps carved by the ancient Inca, or have the hotel organize a guide so you can ride up on horseback.
Grand bell towers flank the ornate Gothic-Renaissance façade of Cusco Cathedral, which crowns Cusco's Plaza de Armas. Beyond a green door studded with bronze rosettes, art-lovers and the faithful seek sanctuary amidst a collection of masterworks. Rare canvases by artists from the revered Cusqueña school, including as Marcos Zapata's “Last Supper,” join a richly carved cedar choir and 10 exquisite chapels leading to the altar.
While hiking the Inca Trail is an extraordinary physical feat, no one ever claimed anything luxurious about it. For an equally scenic and infinitely more relaxed trip up to Machu Picchu from Cusco, board the Hiram Bingham Luxury Train. These vintage railway cars offer panoramic views of snowcapped Andean peaks and alpaca-filled meadows – as well as gourmet meals, Peruvian wines, and an old-world elegance.
Cusco’s largest craft fair – whose name literally means “selling of the saints” – is held on Christmas Eve, turning the city into an outdoor celebration of arts, community, and hot buttered rum.
A festival with roots dating back to ancient times, the Andean New Year is a celebration of the earth. Families leave offerings for Mother Earth and the city is filled with confetti in celebration.
Usually falling around the winter solstice, Corpus Christi is a daylong parade of the statues of saints from the city’s many churches, surrounded by dancing, music, and fireworks.
Held at the Raqchi temple archaeological site in advance of Inti Raymi, the Raqchi Folk Festival is a vibrant celebration of traditional Andean dance and music.
Peruvian Independence Day is celebrated throughout the country, but Cusco’s festivities are famous, with parties and events ranging from parades to bullfighting to horse exhibitions, and more.
For approximately nine days each June, Cusco turns into one giant, traditional Inca festival, celebrating the winter solstice – or, the Festival of the Sun – with parades, pageantry, and performances.
The most important traditional Andean festival after Inti Raymi, the Snow, or Ice, Festival attracts Quechua villagers from around the region to its live music, dancing, and parades.
Tapping into the ancient mysticism of the Andes, our 500-square-meter, signature Palacio del Inka Spa unites traditional, holistic treatments with modern wellness and luxury.Learn More
For a truly memorable stay, book Suite 465, which features a postcard-worthy view of the Convent of Santo Domingo's main basilica, completed around 1633.Learn More
Bring history to life in our 15th-century house in the heart of ancient Cusco, built as part of the Temple of the Sun, Qorikancha.Learn More