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Situated high in the Peruvian Andes, Cusco is South America’s archaeological capital and oldest continuously inhabited city. Now a UNESCO World Heritage site, it is also the perfect base to explore nearby Machu Picchu and Amazon jungle.

Under the Inca ruler Pachacutec it developed into a complex urban centre with distinct religious and administrative functions. In the 16th century the Spanish conquistadors preserved the basic structure, but built Baroque churches and palaces on top of the older Inca city.

Cusco’s origins date back to the 14th century, when it grew from a small feudal settlement into the magnificent capital of the Inca Empire of the Tawantinsuyo (the four corners). Engineered in the shape of a puma, the city had many fine temples and palaces located around its wide plazas and paved streets. The first Spanish conquistadors who reached Cusco were amazed by its architecture and the riches found inside its buildings. The city gradually evolved under colonial government and was rebuilt several times following earthquakes. At this time Inca buildings were dismantled, replaced by whitewashed walls and wooden balconies reminiscent of towns in southern Spain. 

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Key info

  • Where: Central and Southeast Region, Peru

Wildlife trips

This location is featured in the following itineraries:

Amazon’s Secrets: Rainforest Photography

Peru’s Manu Biosphere Reserve is one of the most biologically diverse places on earth and is the jewel in the crown of Amazon wildlife viewing experiences. Discover its secrets with wildlife photographer Nick Garbutt on a journey through highland Andean cloud forest and lowland Amazon rainforest.

  • When to go: Sep
  • Duration inc. flights: 20 days
  • Price inc. flights: From £7,495 pp
  • Trip type: Group tour

Manu’s Jaguars & Woolly Monkeys

Explore Cusco, the City of Gold, and the prolific Manu National Park and assess the importance of regenerating tropical forest for jaguar and woolly monkey conservation in Manu. You identify factors that allow both species to recolonize, and assess the impacts of human behaviour on their populations.

  • When to go: Jun-Oct
  • Duration inc. flights: 17 days
  • Trip type: Group tour
Suggested accommodation is shown below. Please contact us for further recommendations.

Casa San Blas

This 18th century colonial house was completely restored in 2003 in traditional Cusqueño style. The first boutique hotel in Peru, Casa San Blas offers a blend of comfort and fine design with its rustic furniture and décor that combines earthy tones and traditional hand-made weavings.