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Wednesday, February 23, 2011
By Waheeda Harris
This mountain top city is the gateway to one of the world’s most popular ancient sites, Machu Picchu, as well as a vibrant city showcasing modern and ancient Andean culture. From backpackers to five star travellers, Cusco welcomes visitors with winding cobblestone streets filled with historical must-sees and plenty of shopping must-haves.
Where to Stay
The discreet entrance hides a lovely mix of modern luxe and modernity of Casa Cartagena, a boutique hotel with 16 distinct suites surrounding a courtyard. A multitude of modern amenities and decor touches is paired with Peruvian style and hospitality – guests should take advantage of the Qoya Spa massage treatments and oxygen system to avoid altitude sickness. For travellers who want to insure they easily make the transition to the high altitude, consider Inkaterra La Cusona, which offers 11 contemporary suites in a former Spanish colonial mansion featuring terraces with impeccable views of the surrounding mountains.
What to Do
Visitors should explore this ancient Incan capital with tours of Catedral de la Cuidad de Cusco and the Templo de la Compañía de Jesús, two historical churches. The main square is a meeting place as well as place to find local Alpaca clothing and blankets as well as art and jewellery. Those who want to explore the Andean history should head to the Complejo Arqueológico de Sacsayhuamán, with 33 sites to explore including ancient Incan temples. Cusco is also the gateway for those who want to trek, bus or train to other Incan sites including Ollantaytambo, a former fortress, town and farming community.
Where to Eat
Combine a visit to the museum with an elegant dinner at Map Cafe, found within the walls of Museo de Arte PreColombino. Dine on contemporary Peruvian cuisine and get to wander the exhibits of ancient cultures of this South American nation. La Chola is a popular dining spot, for its fusion of Peruvian traditional dishes with European cuisine (and apparently a favourite spot of writer Pablo Neruda.) For a quick snack or hit of java, head to Don Esteban Y Don Pancho Gourmet Cafe or for an exploration of pisco, the popular Peruvian spirit, make tracks to El Pisquerito.