Why the city of Cusco should be on your Latin America bucket list

Looking for the trip of a lifetime? Look no more. Cusco needs to be on your Latin America bucket list, pronto. Set at an altitude of 3,400 metres and the gateway to Machu Picchu, it's one of the most vibrant cities in Latin America, packed with bars, restaurants and shops. From ancient Inca buildings to intricate colonial architecture, artisan masterpieces & boutiques - Cusco is the perfect city for mountains of adventure.

It’s the gateway to the Inca trail and perfect for adventure travellers

With a collection of mountainous peaks rising over 6000m, and the city itself sitting at 3399 metres, plenty of travellers looking for a hike (or two) voyage here to take part in some of the best trekking in the world. For many though, Cusco is the gateway to the Inca trail, and we all know where that road leads… Why not spend some time mountain-bike riding or whitewater rafting, before making your way to the mother of all treks – the 4-day Inca trek to Machu Picchu. This is a great city to begin your journey and soon after, recuperate.

Epic llama selfie? Shot by @contikihollyday at Machu Picchu. #contiki #contikilatam #travel #Peru

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Learn the history of the Spanish Colonials

Did you know that the Spanish conquered Cusco in 1533? Or the fact that it was once the capital city of the Incas? Today, it is one of the best places in Latin America to discover the mix of the Inca culture and the Spanish colonial influence. The result? Plenty of rounded archways, delicate balconies and terracotta tile roofings which exude a colonial vibe that makes you feel like you’re stepping back in time. After all, the buildings in Cusco have been around for over nine centuries! 

The best way to navigate around Cusco is to walk around the city’s streets and plazas – soak up the fascinating archeology and hit up the central Plaza de Armas. For some history, head to the Machu Picchu Museum (Casa Concha), which contains artifacts found at Machu Picchu in 1911. If you’re looking for the best panoramic views of the city, hike up the stone fortress of Sacsayhuamán, once a citadel for the Incan capital. 

Image of sacsayhuamán

Experience the amazing Peruvian nightlife

A trip to Cusco wouldn’t be complete if you didn’t attempt to party it up, local style. With the Plaza de Armas at the epicentre of this city and surrounded by plenty of local restaurants and bars, it’s always a good starting point for your night. Why not party the night away at Illary sunrise club, see live music at Ukuku’s, drink a Pisco Sour, learn salsa or jump on a pub crawl. No doubt, partying in Cusco is amongst the best in the world, so enjoy it!

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Fine dine at Cicciolina

Don’t judge a book by it’s cover – Cicciolina is a top-rated restaurant in Cusco, with their ingredients sourced straight from Sacred Valley. With over 2,800 reviews on Trip Advisor alone, if you’re up for a culinary experience, this old colonial home turned restaurant is perfect. Make a reservation for dinner as it gets booked out quickly.

Visit the local San Pedro market

For a taste of local life, the San Pedro market (just a short 8 minute walk from Plaza de Armas) is going to be a winner. Expect to pick up everything and anything from local food to colourful and high-quality artisan products, textiles, handicrafts, silver, artwork & ceramics. If you’re looking for the infamous Alpaca clothing woven with baby-alpaca wool, you’ve come to the right place. And if you’re a fan of local delicacies, you’ve struck gold. From freshly made juices, to the salchipapas (fried sausages and potatoes) and the more extreme antichucos (beef hearts), there’s something for all taste adventurers.

Image of shopping in Peru - Craig Howes

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