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Things to do in Cusco

Become a dab hand at Peruvian cuisine

Peru's cuisine has become world famous, and innovative chef Marcelo Batata's in-depth lessons give visitors an understanding of Peruvian gastronomy with a market visit, including tastings and, of course, a little pisco. You can find the man himself at Cuzco Dining classes (www.cuzcodining.com).

Make like the locals and speak Quechua

Seeing as you're visiting the ancient capital of the Incas, why not learn a few words of Quechua? Depending on the length of your stay you can either do series of lessons or a very tourist-friendly (i.e. easy) one-day crash course. Thankfully, teachers are well known for being patient with well-meaning travelers (tel: +51 84 242 292; www.spanishcusco.com).

Make your own chocolate

The ChocoMuseo (tel: +51 84 244 765; www.chocomuseo.com) is far more than just a museum. Offering several chocolate-making workshops, the museum lets those with a sweet tooth (over)indulge in their creations as they make anything from delicious chocolate bars to mouth-watering truffles over a two-hour session.

Raft along the Urubamba River

Peru Rafting Tours (tel: +51 84 242 824; www.perurafting.com) offer white-water rafting and kayaking along the Urubamba River, the frothing waterway that runs from near Cusco to Machu Picchu. Alternatively, tours can head into the Tambopata rainforest, promising loads of wildlife and some hardcore rapids.

Rejuvenate your aching limbs in a spa

After your Machu Picchu trek, the only activity you'll feel like doing is jumping into a hot bath. Go one step further by visiting one of the traditional-style bath treatments in the Inca Spa in Hotel Eco Inn (tel: +51 12 160 111; www.incaspa.com/en), which offers delights such as mud and chocolate therapy.

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Featured Hotels

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Inkaterra La Casona

Cusco's first luxury boutique hotel is located in what is probably Cusco's first Spanish construction. The colonial courtyard is surrounded by 11 sumptuous suites furnished with antiques and all mod cons imaginable. Brilliantly located for the arty San Blas district and Plaza de Armas, Inkaterra La Casona is a quiet oasis of serenity with an eco conscience.

Palacio del Inka

Just moments from the Plaza de Armas, the Palacio del Inka combines utmost luxury with an Incan and Spanish twist. Expect framed dark ochre (a nod to Andean spirits), gold and burgundy furnishings that reflect the conquistador influence and original artworks. There are 203 wonderfully fitted rooms to choose from and all boast handcrafted furniture, huge beds and historical décor, along with fast internet, LED TVs and big bathtubs. The Inti Raymi Restaurant downstairs plates up remarkable Peruvian fine dining and there is a tranquil spa onsite as well.

Hotel Monasterio

Located two blocks from the Plaza de Armas, this is the best hotel in Cusco. A sensitive conversion of the 16th-century Seminary of San Antonio Abad, this former monastery has retained its original infrastructure and colonial décor but is now a 5-star international hotel boasting a gilded chapel, superb fine dining and oxygen-enriched air in every room. The therapy suite is also ideal for those returning from a long Machu Picchu trek.

Hotel Costa del Sol Picoaga

Formerly the colonial home of the17th-century Spanish noble, the Marqués de Picoaga, this top-end hotel in Cusco close to the heart of the city makes the most of its handsome colonnaded courtyard, beautiful stone columns and elegant archways. Service is excellent and the hotel has its own bar and high-quality restaurant.

Mama Simona

Quite frankly the coolest hostel in town, Mama Simona (named after one of the mountains in the Scared Valley range) is a clean, kitschy hostel that offers private rooms and dormitories. With varnished wooden floors, comfy beds and artworks adorning the cream walls, those that stay here could quite as easily be bedding down in a New York apartment. Free Wi-Fi and a decent breakfast buffet come as standard with the odd live music night providing the ideal opportunity to make friends too.

Hostal Suecia II

This friendly, budget Cusco hotel option is set in a colonial-style building located two blocks from the Plaza de Armas. Its 16 rooms are set around an attractive interior courtyard and are basic but spacious, clean and comfortable. A safe, sociable, economical option, this hostel has a family atmosphere and is particularly popular with backpackers, especially as Wi-Fi is now available. Ask for a room away from the street. No breakfast.