Cuzco (or Cusco) is a fascinating city that was the capital of the Inca Empire and is now a Unesco World Heritage Site. It is one of Peru's most visited cities because visitors arrive at Cusco as their starting point for Machu Picchu and Sacred Valley visits and tours. However, Cusco should not be only considered as a passing by or based city for further traveling, but as the jewel it is on its own. It is a beautiful city with well preserved colonial architecture, by merely walking the streets one sees the layers of history. The city is surrounded by a number of ruins, the most impressive being Sacsayhuaman (absolutely worth visiting).
Cusco is perfect for exploring: one minute you’re walking down a shadowy, stone-walled alley, the next you burst onto a plaza full of brightly dressed dancers from the countryside offering religious celebrations for which Cusco is famous. Nearly every site is within walking distance of the main Plaza de Armas, and you can easily cover the main features of the city walking.
-Sightseeing: San Pedro Market is a colorful, vibrant, packed local market by Peruvians for Peruvians - however, a large percentage of the shops sell souvenirs to tourists. Walk around the Plaza de Armas; the square has churches, shops, restaurants and bars backing on to it and is a great place to spend an afternoon. The historical center of Cuzco is beautiful, but you will have to deal with all the street vendors and hawkers of cheap paintings and other souvenirs.
-Eating & Drinking: A perfect place to try Andean Cuisine! Try Cuy, (guinea pig), The absolute traditional holiday food of the region. Alpaca (llama), Grilled, tastes like a more tender steak. You must try it. You can get alpaca pizza as well. Lomo saltado (beef tips stir-fried with tomatoes, onions, and spices, over a bed of french fries and rice), Aji de gallina (chicken in a very good yellow pepper sauce with olives and hard-boiled eggs), or papa rellena (stuffed potato with beef, olives, hard-boiled egg, vegetables, and spices). When it comes to drinking, your life will NEVER be the same after trying Inca Kola, a bubble gum/tutti-frutti-flavored golden-yellow soda.
-Alpaca Clothing: Nothing says “Cuso” like a sweater, shawl, poncho, or scarf woven from the hair of the alpaca. There are vendors in the markets and squares where you can get amazing prices, but you have to bargain for them.
-Machu Picchu start point: You can start your Machu Picchu trek either by foot here(if you are on the Inca Trail) or by train. The 3.5-hour trip from Cusco to Aguas Calientes is a pretty one, right along the Urubamba River with canyon walls on either side. The Cusco train station is actually in the nearby town of Poroy.
It is very important to point out that at 3,400 m above sea level, altitude sickness can be a problem. Regarding its weather, Cuzco is somewhat dusty and you will be very happy wearing boots or sneakers rather than flip-flops. Cuzco can be very hot during the day and quite cold in the early morning and late at night. The months of September, October, November and December have a nice average temperature.
Cusco can be easily accessed by plane if you are in Lima. However, it is important to know that there are VERY different prices for Peruvians and foreigners (being quite more expensive for non-Peruvians), but there are also many other options such as train and bus. Once there, the city is easy to walk and little buses can take you anywhere you need to go.
-Sightseeing: lose yourself in the marvelous “Imperial city of Cusco” to witness how the Inca civilization used to live. From here, you can get to the majestic Machu Picchu ruins
-Alpaca Clothing: get unique and real alpaca wool clothing to feel like a local
- Andean Cuisine: Experience this authentic and exotic cuisine cooked from locals and don’t forget to side with an Inca Kola!
''We really did have the most wonderful and unforgettable time in Peru, thanks to all of you. The Spanish institution is a fantastic organization, thank you for all the effort everyone went through to help us realize this dream. We had a great time home staying in a Cusco family. Thank you to the teachers, our classes with you were an absolute delight, we felt we learned a lot. We likewise enjoyed the cultural activities in the afternoons and just loved Cusco. '' Spanish course. Pam
''I really like how everyone speaks in Spanish. I can’t speak Spanish yet after just a week but sure I understand a lot more.'' Spanish course. Sam Rogers
''I have been a student here at the language institution now for just short of eight weeks. This has been an unforgettable experience for me so far and I am sad that I will be leaving soon. The city of Cusco is very beautiful and I have made lots of new friends. There are tons of places to shop as well as places for entertainment and nightlife. The food is great and if you like to dine out it is very inexpensive. Also, it is very healthy, I have eaten like a pig and actually lost some weight. The best part of being here in Cusco so far has actually been meeting the other students. I have met people from all over the world and we normally hang out in groups on the weekend. It is normal to be a bit homesick when traveling at first...but the people here are great at making you feel at home. I highly recommend the institute as well as the city of Cusco. I hope that you do not miss out on an opportunity of a lifetime. '' Spanish course. Cody
''Currently I’m learning Spanish at the language institution in Cuzco, Peru and I like it very, very much!!! An overall enriching and positive experience!'' Spanish course. Sandra Wyss