Thursday, November 02, 2006

Cusco, Peru- Capital of the Incas and much more!

Almost everyone has a recollection of a high school world history class and the lesson on the great Inca Empire that stretched down the west coast of South America in the 16th century until the arrival of the Spanish conquistadors. Fewer people know that in the high Andean mountain and plateau region of southeast Peru, the city of Cusco was the political, religious, and commercial center of the vast Inca Empire. Still fewer realize that in addition to being packed with historical sites and famous archaeological monuments; Cusco has a nightlife, bar, and restaurant scene that is as intense and diverse as its history.

Almost every visitor to the region heads up to the spectacular ruins at Machu Picchu, the world famous “lost city” of the Incas. In addition there are spectacular ruins at Pisac, Ollantaytambo, and other locations in the picturesque Sacred Valley. The architecture in the main square of Cusco, or Plaza de Armas (as all main squares are called in Peru), is all stunning Spanish colonial work done in brick. For those interested in culture, one only need visit the Plaza de Armas on a Sunday and venture into the Cathedral to view a Sunday mass, or catch one of the colorful parades that begins there and eventually heads down winding brick side streets.

Heading down those same side streets in the evening will bring you face to face with young touts in the streets attempting to sell you on the virtues of their particular evening establishment, whether it be a Peruvian seafood restaurant, night club, disco, or bar. Those who enjoy late nights must be careful not to miss their early morning tour departures into the mountains the following day since the clubs are open basically all night every night of the week. For those who want to do an evening on the town “Peruvian style”, start with a piece of fresh “trucha” (trout) with a “sopa a la minuta” (soup with noodles, veggies, meat, spices) at a local (not tourist) restaurant. Afterwards, head out for a Pisco sour or a Cusquena beer at a local bar, and finish it off dancing to salsa and listening to live music (in Spanish) at one of the nightclubs.

In short, Peru offers a wide array of opportunities for exploration and enjoyment. Cusco is probably one of the best places in Peru to capture the entire spectrum of that experience. Just take it easy the first night on the dance floor since Cusco is at 11,000 feet above sea level!

For more information on this type of trip- including pictures, Peru in general, or other adventures around the world, check out, or write me at