Cusco, Peru

Through spells of occupation by Incas, conquistadors and colonialists, Cusco has remained a breathtaking Peruvian treasure tucked high up in the thin Andes air. A popular stop-off for trekkers on their way to hike the Inca Trail and visit Machu Picchu, the small, easily walkable town draws history buffs with its classic Spanish architecture and pre-Columbian antiquities. On weekdays, browse the lively market for colourful mountain-town crafts, including beaded cuffs and bright-accent rugs. Those who'd rather not rise with the sun for a trek can indulge in wild nights fuelled by soy sauce-splashed lomo saltado, potent pisco sours and salsa dancing off the main square.

When to go

Avoid the region in the rainy season of November to April. During these months, landslides can shut down the roads and rails, and parts of the valley often flood.

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Getting there

  • Planes

    Alejandro Velasco Astete International Airport (+51 084 222 601) is a 10-minute drive from the centre of town. Several airlines, including Lan (www.lan.com), Aeromexico (www.aeromexico.com) and Iberia (www.iberia.com) operate flights to and from Peruvian cities, including Lima, Arequipa, Juliaca and Puerto Maldonado.
  • Trains

    Poroy Station, the departing station for Machu Picchu, is a 25-minute drive. PeruRail (www.perurail.com) travels to Puno (home to Lake Titicaca) and Machu Picchu.
  • Automobiles

    Cusco is not particularly car-friendly. You're more likely to find a corgi-toting royal than convenient parking on the narrow streets of Cusco.
  • Taxis

    The city is walkable, but taxis are easily hailed if needed. There are no meters, so be sure to establish the price before embarking. Aló Cusco Taxis are recommended (+51 084 222 222).