Most come to Cuzco (also spelled Cusco and Q’osqo, population 350,000) en route to Machu Picchu, but to many it is Cuzco that leaves them breathless, although maybe that’s from the altitude, which stands, at 3360 meters (roughly 11,000 feet) above sea level. A city shrouded in myths and legends. A city thought even the present day to have elements of magic to it. At night the lights on the surrounding hillsides resemble stars so much that it can be difficult to tell where the earth begins and the heavens start. It is one of the most important tourist destinations in the world. Most of Peru’s two million annual visitors pass through here. The Incas considered it the navel of the world because it was once a transportation hub for the Inca Empire and connected much of the entire continent and much of modern day tourism revolves around it still. It is the backpacker hub of the America’s, one of the best locations for language schools, a excellent base for hiking, rafting, trips into the jungle, and for trains to Machu Picchu. There are a few incredible hotels, fine dining restaurants and charming cafes, a lively nightlife, immense Incan built walls, an array of Pre-Colombian ruins, and stunning churches built on ancient temples. Some are turned off by the amount of tourists here (particularly in the April-September high season), the sometimes aggressive children shining shoes or selling postcards, or the occasional undervalued tour or dinner. However, these things are minor inconveniences and shouldn’t ruin your visit to one of the most beautiful cities on earth.
Climate: Cuzco features an average annual temperature of 11° (Maximum 17° and minimum -2° C). The rain season runs from November to March.
Tip: The flag: The rainbow flag often seen in Cuzco is the flag of the Tihuanaco Empire, now the city’s own flag; not the gay pride flag as is it is sometimes confused.
Writer and photographer Nicholas Gill is the editor/publisher of New World Review. He lives in Lima, Peru and Brooklyn, New York. His work has appeared in publications such as the New York Times, Los Angeles Times, CondeNast Traveler, National Geographic Traveler, Afar, and Penthouse. Visit his personal website (nicholas-gill.com) for more information.