Cusco is a magical place not only for its historical richness but also for its vibrant energy. Machu Travel Peru has compiled an interesting list of Cusco top attractions that guarantee to impress anyone.
Indeed, there is no doubt that Cusco is the most visited city in Peru for the incredible heritage of our Inca culture, and especially because it is the gateway to Machu Picchu.
But the capital of the Inca Empire has much more to offer. There are plenty of things to do in Cusco, for real. So, we consider that it’s well worth spending time exploring the city itself to discover the Cusco top attractions.
Get dazzled: Cusco top attractions
Needless to say, the top attraction you can’t miss when traveling to Cusco is Machu Picchu.
Being one of the Seven Wonders of the World makes the Inca Sanctuary a must-see in many visitors’ bucket list.
In spite of its historical richness, Machu Picchu boasts -obviously- an impressive architecture. It was constructed with a technique called ashlar. With this technique, the stones are fit so well that not even a needle would fit between them. Simply amazing!
With over one hundred structures divided into royal sites, sacred zones, residences, water channels, and farming areas, Machu Picchu seduces anybody in several ways. Beyond doubt, anyone who takes some Machu Picchu tours will definitely feel extraordinary energy surrounding the entire sanctuary.
*Machu Picchu has been considered Cultural Heritage of Humanity in recognition of its political and religious importance.
Plaza de Armas
Cusco’s main square is considered the heart of the city since most of the Cusco top attractions are around the Plaza de Armas and surrounding streets.
On the Plaza de Armas northeastern side is the imposing and charming Cathedral, fronted by a large flight of stairs. On its southeastern side, La Compañía de Jesús, a remarkably ornate church. Indeed, there are also buildings with magnificent architecture, colonial arcades, restaurants, hotels, bars and shopping surrounding this historic plaza.
Moreover, at the center of the plaza, there is the rainbow-colored flag of Tahuantinsuyo that dances with the wind. This colorful flag is easily mistaken with the gay-pride flag, but it represents, in fact, the four quarters of the Inca Empire.
Our piece of advice is to visit the Plaza de Armas both by day and night. If during the day it’s dazzling, imagine how it looks after dark, when it is all lit up. Strikingly beautiful!
This imposing and historic church is the main cathedral of Cusco. Its construction took almost a century.
Originally, it was an Inca temple designed to worship the Inca god Wiracocha. For this reason, it’s the main religious temple and one of the most popular architectonic monuments of Cusco.
Inside, you can appreciate one of the greatest repositories of the colonial art of Cusco. Works from the “Escuela Cusqueña” (Cusco school) decorate the walls. A fine sample is the portrayal of the Virgin Mary wearing a mountain-shaped skirt with a river running around it, identifying her as Pachamama (Mother Earth in Quechua). Another famous painting of the Escuela Cusqueña is The Last Supper which is one of the most solemn occasions in the Christian faith. The particularity of this painting is that it is graced with a small feast of Andean ceremonial food. Taking a city tour in Cusco will allow you to immerse better in this part of the Inca history.
On the other hand, on the right side of the main altar is the Señor de Los Temblores, the patron of the city. During the feast of Corpus Christi, this image is taken around the main streets of Cusco.
Indeed, religious festivals are a superb time to see the Cusco top attractions like the cathedral. Many people and bands of musicians accompany the processions with prayers and Andean tunes.
Not so far from Cusco center is where Sacsayhuaman takes place. It is one of the most finely worked stone structures from the Inca civilization that was constructed between the XV and XVI centuries.
Sacsayhuaman exemplifies the masonry skills of the Incas. Its walls are composed of different shapes of stones which were precisely cut to fit tightly together like a jigsaw puzzle.
According to history, the Sacsayhuaman Fortress was used for military and religious purposes during the Spanish conquest. Indeed, Sacsayhuaman means “satisfied falcon” in Quechua. A peculiar feature of this is that Sacsayhuaman represents the head of Cusco’s famous puma shape and its walls represent the puma’s teeth.
Besides, its perfect location on the hill above Cusco will allow you to get an extraordinary and beautiful view of the magical city of Cusco and its landmarks.
Furthermore, Sacsayhuaman is also famous among the Cusco top attractions for being the place where people celebrate the Inti Raymi or Festival of the Sun.
*Each year on June 24, Cusco celebrates the Inti Raymi in honor of the Inca god “Inti”.
As you have noticed, Cusco is a place where you can witness the beauty of ancient ruins, incredible Andean culture, and majestic mountains. Visiting the Cusco top attractions will be an amazing experience, for sure.
But we know you may be wondering “Is that all Cusco has for me?” Of course not! Cusco has lots of nice alternatives for when the sun goes down. Cusco nightlife scene is vast and vibrant as well as the Cusco top attractions. It doesn’t really matter what day of the week you want to grab a beer or dance all night long. Cusco has a particular and special atmosphere that attracts ludic souls like yours.