Published September 2021
Year after year, thousands of tourists visit Machu Picchu, the imposing and mysterious Inca citadel of Peru, and Cusco, known as the archeological capital of the Americas. Because they are pretty close, the tourists usually travel to get to know both places simultaneously and use Cusco as their base.
The fabulous ruins of Machu Picchu were discovered by the American explorer Hiram Bingham in the early 20th century. They are considered one of the most incredible architectural feats of the ancient world. Reaching these huge farm terraces, with intricate stone buildings and epic hilltop views of the Sacred Valley, involves logistics and planning, but nothing too complicated.
The easiest way to get from Cusco to the holy city is by taking the train to Aguas Calientes, but you need to book your ticket in advance as seats are limited. It is a scenic trip that lasts 3,5 hours along the trails that flank the Urubamba River, in the Sacred Valley, with dramatic canyons overhanging on both sides. However, many visitors walk throughout these paths. They were built many centuries ago during the expansion of the Inca empire. Dozens of tour operators offer hikes to Machu Picchu, with different durations and difficulty levels (all require camping).
Although amazing history and breathtaking landscapes have been the destination's main attractions for tourists for decades, the local cuisine has been receiving considerable investments. It is also among the main attractions of the region. This aspect has been developed in recent years, and it follows the success of Lima's cuisine, which is currently the most important gastronomic destination in Latin America.
There are two award-winning chefs from the capital that have invested in their own restaurants in Cusco. The first one is Gastón Acurio, who runs the famous Astrid y Gastón in Lima, and is also ahead of Chicha, specialized in Cusco food. The second one is Virgilio Martínez, from the celebrated Central, who heads the Mil restaurant in the region. Currently, the restaurant, which uses only ingredients grown in communities less than 50 km away or are self-produced, is not open regularly, but only for special requests and occasions.
The Inca canton of Peru has delicious specialties, such as chiri uchu (in Quechua, it means cold or hot chili pepper), which uses roasted white corn, cheese, guinea pig, chicken, jerky, cochayuyo, fish roe, and pepper. Fried trout, usually served with rice and cassava, is also a local dish, as is chairo, a soup made with lamb, sweet potatoes, peas, carrots, beans, mint, oregano, parsley, cumin, and salt.
Choclo, an enormous variety of corn from the Andes, is served with cheese in Cusco. In contrast, chicharrones, fried pork served with corn, potatoes, and salad, are popular among tourists in the city's restaurants. Alpaca meat is also widely consumed in the region.