One of the most popular destinations in Peru, Cuzco is a charming colonial city perched high up in the Andes Mountains of Southern Peru.
In 1533 the Spanish arrived in Cuzco with the conquest of Francisco Pizarro who ordered a new city to be built on the foundations of the ancient capital of the mighty Inca Empire. Today, many of the prominent colonial buildings in Cuzco, such as the Church of Santo Domingo, are built on top of ancient Inca structures. The ancient ruins of the city exude a rich history causing many to dub Cuzco the archaeological capital of the Americas. Astonishingly well preserved, Cuzco is comprised of enchanting colonial-style architecture dating back hundreds of years.
Home to nearly half a million people, Cuzco receives close to two million visitors each year. The popularity of Cuzco as a major tourism hub has resulted in some of the best restaurants, bars, museums and other cultural attractions of Peru being located there. Regardless of the amount of tourists the city receives, Cuzco has retained its old-world charm and remains a distinct and unique Peruvian destination. The charming cobblestone streets are easily navigable on foot prompting visitors to meander across rolling hills, picturesque neighborhoods and lively outdoor markets.
More than being a cultural wonderland, Cuzco is the most popular starting point for trips through Peru's Sacred Valley to Machu Picchu, and many of the travelers in Cuzco are on their way to or from the majestic ancient ruins. For those who want to try their hand at hiking the famous "Inca Trail", Cuzco is also the most popular starting point for the active endeavor.
The city of Cuzco itself also has a number of cultural ruins for visitors to explore. Nearby, the ruins of Sacsayhuaman (pronounced saxy-woman) are a popular attraction, located just outside of town. The ruins were once an Inca fort, where the original inhabitants of Cuzco mounted a final, doomed defense against the Spanish conquistadors. Today, the hilltop fort offers spectacular views across the city of Cuzco. The ruins are a must-see attraction, especially for travelers who are not continuing on to Machu Picchu.