How to spend 24 hours in Cusco

The capital of the Incas, and a UNESCO World Heritage Site, Cusco is where Incan and Andean baroque architecture meet.

By Nicola Trup
Published 23 Aug 2019, 13:33 BST
Plaza de Armas, Cusco
Plaza de Armas, Cusco
Photograph by AWL

10.00: Set off to explore the historic centre, starting at Plaza de Armas. Once an important site for Inca ceremonies, it was decimated by the Spanish and rebuilt in the colonial style, so today it’s a place of colonnaded arcades, wide walkways and a smattering of churches. Visit the cathedral for the art (including a 17th-century, distinctly local take on the Last Supper, in which Jesus and his disciples are dining on guinea pig), and the baroque Compañía de Jesús church for the gaudy decor.

12.30: Wander over to San Pedro Market, where, alongside fresh produce and an assortment of alpaca-wool products, you’ll find everything from suckling pig to pastries, with a few offaly options in between. Wash it all down with a juice from one of the many women hawking mixed fruit concoctions.

13.30: Just south of the old town is Coricancha. Once the most sacred site for the Incas, it was incorporated into the Catholic church and convent of Santo Domingo. Today, what’s standing is a confounding combination of original masonry and colonial architecture. If you have time, also squeeze in a visit to Sacsayhuaman, a citadel just north of the city dating back in part to the 12th century.

17.00: Grab a cab — or walk 10 minutes from Sacsayhuaman — up to Cristo Blanco, the ‘White Christ’ statue that stands guard over the city. Like a miniature Christ the Redeemer, it was a gift from Palestinian refugees who sought asylum here after the Second World War, and it’s a good spot from which to watch the sunset (check the timing of this before heading up).

19.00: Sit down for dinner at Limo, a restaurant in the historic centre that dishes up Nikkei cuisine — the Japanese-Peruvian fusion of flavours — including top-notch sushi using local fish. Round it all off with a pisco sour, of course.

Click here to see the full list of classic experiences in Peru.

Published in the September 2019 issue of National Geographic Traveller (UK)

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