Sitting at over 11,000 feet high in the Andes, it is one of the 10 highest cities in the world, making the air thin and the temperatures cool. Cusco was the historic capital of the Inca Empire from the 13th century until the Spanish Conquest in the 16th century. Inca archaeological sites can be found within and all around the city, with Spanish architecture often built directly on top. There is also evidence left by the Killke who occupied the area prior to the Inca, from 900 to 1200. In 1950 a great earthquake destroyed more than a third of the city. While many of the modern buildings were destroyed, the Inca architecture survived, including many sites that became newly exposed. A fascinating culture where belief in Catholicism and the Inca traditions have come together for a unique view on life. It is also a place where you get to indulge in world renowned Peruvian food, which includes ceviche, quinoa dishes, and an assortment of Peruvian-Asian fusion. You have the opportunity to try Cuy (guinea pig) and Alpaca, and enjoy checking out many of the towns vibrant markets.
Cusco is the former capital city of the Incas, and the oldest inhabited city in the Americas, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
We had a great time in Cusco. There's a lot of history here and it's a great location in the Sacred Valley to base yourself to see Inca ruins like Ollantaytambo. There's a lively main square. Climb uphill for beautiful views of the city. In town, you'll see llamas and women in traditional dress, mostly wanting your tourist dollars, but still cool to see.
Cusco will take your breath away - quite literally, considering the high altitude. But once you recover, you will be in awe at every turn, from the colonial Plaza de Armas to the Inca sun temple Qurikancha. The juxtaposition of cultures makes this city fascinating and one of the world's top destinations. My advice is to spend at least two to three full days exploring the city before moving on to the Sacred Valley and Machu Picchu.