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Things to see in Cusco

Attractions

Cathedral of Cusco

Built between 1556 and 1669 on the site of the Inca Viracocha's palace, the monolithic cathedral dominates one side of Plaza de Armas. Full of treasures, it is one of the city's best repositories of colonial art and includes detailed carved altars and a sacristy full of portraits of priests from the past. It also holds the blackened crucifix that was paraded around Cusco in 1650 to stop a giant earthquake. There's also a very famous painting of the Last Supper by Marcos Zapata, at which Christ and his disciples are pictured feasting on Andean fruits and, instead of the usual Paschal lamb, there's a vizcacha (a kind of wild chinchilla), commonly mistaken for a cuy (guinea pig).

Address: , Plaza de Armas, Cusco,
Telephone:
Opening times:

Mon-Sun 1000-1745.

Website:
Admission Fees:

Yes

Disabled Access: Yes
UNESCO: No

La Compañía de Jesús

This Jesuit church is the other massive building on the Plaza de Armas. Built on the ruins of the palace of the Inca Huayna Capac, it is a grand building complete with decorative baroque facade. Work began in 1578 but a giant earthquake in 1650 practically demolished the building and it wasn't finished until 1668. Interesting paintings of local weddings show plenty of period detail, whilst the catacombs beneath the church are worth exploring and the view from the second floor choir area is worth climbing a set of rickety steps to see.

Address: , Plaza de Armas, Cusco,
Telephone:
Opening times:

Mon-Sun 0900-1730.

Website:
Admission Fees:

Yes

Disabled Access: Yes
UNESCO: No

Coricancha and Santo Domingo

The Inca Sun Temple, Coricancha, was the centre of the Inca religion. The building was once lavishly decorated with gold plates and precious stones, but the Spanish conquistadors pillaged the site and gave the temple to the Dominicans, who built the monastery of Santo Domingo on top of it. In 1950 an earthquake destroyed the monastery, but left the Inca stonework, some of the finest masonry in Peru, undamaged.

Address: , Plazoleta Santo Domingo, Cusco,
Telephone: (84) 249 176.
Opening times:

Mon-Sat 0830-1730, Sun 1400-1700.

Website: http://www.qorikancha.org
Admission Fees:

Yes.

Disabled Access: No
UNESCO: No

Templo de San Blas

This simple adobe church contains an intricate carved cedar-wood pulpit, the detail of which includes a cherub, a sun-disc, faces and bunches of grapes. At the top stands St Paul, his foot resting on a skull believed to belong to the craftsman responsible for the carving. The church also has a baroque gold-leafed altar.

Address: , Plaza San Blas, Cusco,
Telephone:
Opening times:

Mon-Sat 1000-1730, Sun 1400-1730.

Website:
Admission Fees:

Yes

Disabled Access: No
UNESCO: Yes

Museo de Arte Precolombino

Previously an Incan ceremonial court, a Santa Clara convent and the mansion of the Earl of Cabrera, this impressive museum still boasts segments of Inca wall. The rather poetic descriptions of items on display – which include silver, woodwork and ceramics – attempt to rank the pieces alongside fine art. The objects, however, speak for themselves. Displays are divided amongst the various indigenous cultures dating from the 13th century and delight in their imagination, intricacy and variety. The Mochica culture is the most advanced with skilfully sculpted pottery and ornaments adorned with animals including the ubiquitous llama.

Address: , Plazoleta Nazarenas 231, Cusco,
Telephone: (84) 237 380.
Opening times:

Mon-Sun 0900-2200.

Website: http://www.map.org.pe
Admission Fees:

Yes

Disabled Access: Yes
UNESCO: No

Machu Picchu Museum

It may have taken a hundred years, but the artefacts discovered by American explorer Hiram Bingham at Machu Picchu made their way back to Peru in 2011. Many can be seen in this small museum, which is the ideal prelude for visits to fabled Lost City of the Incas. Several hundred objects are on show, but don't miss the fascinating video explaining Yale University's research into the ancient city.

Address: , Calle Santa Catalina Ancha 320, Cusco,
Telephone: (84) 255 535.
Opening times:

Mon-Fri 0900-1700, Sat 0900-1300.

Website:
Admission Fees:

Yes

Disabled Access: Yes
UNESCO: No

Museo Inka

Taking visitors from the earliest cultures in Peru through to the reign of the Incas in the 13th century and beyond, this informative museum gives a wholesome understanding of one of the world's greatest empires. Telling the story through artefacts that range from ceramics and jewellery to weapons and hairbrushes, it's possible to grasp just how complex and sophisticated the Incas were. The room about textiles – more prized by the Incas than gold – is perhaps the most impressive; the explanations on what different patterns depict and represent are truly illuminating. Upstairs you'll come face to face with real mummies, their hands grasping around agape mouths as if in horror.

Address: , Cuesta del Almirante 103, Cusco,
Telephone: (84) 224 051.
Opening times:

Mon-Fri 0800-1700, Sat 0900-1700.

Website: http://museoinka.unsaac.edu.pe
Admission Fees:

Yes

Disabled Access: No
UNESCO: No

Coca Museum

For a break from Cusco's usual historical sights, visit the Coca Museum to learn more about the Inca's sacred leaf. The museum introduces visitors to the history of the coca plant and explains exactly why it is so important to the Peruvian identity, today and in times past. It also covers the botanical and medicinal properties of the plant and tackles the more recent issues of drug trafficking and cocaine addiction.

Address: , Calle Palacio 122, Cusco,
Telephone: (84) 501 020.
Opening times:

Mon-Sun 0900-2000.

Website:
Admission Fees:

Yes

Disabled Access: No
UNESCO: No

Tourist Offices

Direccíon Regional de Industria y Turismo (DRIT)

Address: , Portal de Mantas 117, Cusco,
Telephone: +51 84 223 701
Opening times:

0900-2000.

Website: http://www.dirceturcusco.gob.pe

Alternatively, iPeru (www.peru.travel) have information offices in the main hall at Aeropuerto Velasco Astete and Plaza de Armas.

Oficina de Información Turística

Address: Cusco, Portal Mantas 188, Cusco,
Telephone: +51 84 222032
Opening times:

Monday to Saturday 0800-1830; Sunday 0800-1400.

Website:

Tourist passes

It's worth buying the highly cost-effective Boleto Turistico (www.cosituc.gob.pe), which provides access to the Museum of Contemporary Art and some Cusco ruins such as Saqsayhuaman and Pisac in the Sacred Valley. It's sold in both the DRIT and iPeru tourist offices, and at the attractions themselves.

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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.

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.

Hostal Rumi Punku

Built on an old Inca temple and recognisable by the giant stonework around its entrance, this elegant, older colonial house has a rooftop terrace and gardens in addition to well-equipped, stylish rooms. Three blocks from the main plaza, the Rumi Punku enjoys superb panoramic views over San Blas. There is a decent breakfast buffet too, which is served from 0500 for those up to tackle the Inca Trail.