Aside from Machu Picchu, Cusco is undoubtedly one of the most popular stop-off points for those on luxury Peru tours. The city has a wealth of top attractions that can be visited, making it a great place to learn more about the country's rich and varied history.
One of the first place tourists should head to is the Plaza de Armas. As the city's main square, the location is situated right at the heart of modern Cusco, yet is steeped in history and culture. The plaza was used as a destination for ceremonies and military parades in times gone by and is known locally as the Huacaypata - the Place of Tears or the Weeping Square. Various buildings surround the Plaza de Armas, including everything from bars to restaurants, churches to museums. On approach to the north-west side of the square, visitors can see the ancient walls of the Inca Pachacutec's palace, while more modern buildings are on the northern and western sides of the plaza.
After exploring the Plaza de Armas, Cusco Cathedral should be next on the itinerary. Built in the 16th century, the cathedral contains a range of striking features, including a solid silver altar and a gigantic Maria Angola bell, which dates back to 1659. Other highlights include five different chapels, including one dedicated to Nuestro Seoor de los Temblores, otherwise known as Our Lord of the Earthquakes. Legend has it that the solid gold crucifix in the chapel minimised damage to the structure during an earthquake back in 1650. Another story that surrounds Cusco cathedral is that an Incan prince was walled up in one of the towers when it was constructed and that when it falls, he will emerge to claim his right to the throne and free his people.
Cusco Cathedral is far from the only religious site worth taking a look at in the city. The Iglesia La Compania de Jesus, Church of the Society of Jesus, is equally as grand and prominent as the cathedral and can also be found in the main square. It was constructed on the site of the Inca Huayna Capac palace and is one of the finest examples of colonial Baroque architecture in the whole of South America. Striking features include the golden altarpiece and gilded altar, both of which are particularly spectacular when illuminated. Iglesia La Compania de Jesus has a number of examples of important artwork, such as a depiction of Saint Ignatius de Loyola by local painter Marcos Zapata, and a Crucifixion by Cristo de Burgos.
If art is more appealing, than there is no better place to explore than the San Blas District. Widely considered as one of the most intriguing parts of the city, the area is characterised by narrow cobbled streets and several artisan shops. Colonial architecture can be seen all around, while exceptional views over Cusco can also be achieved from the region. San Blas is as interesting during the night as it is in the daytime, as a wealth of bars and restaurants come to life, allowing visitors to party away until the early hours.
Of course, in order for people to make the most of these great attractions, they will need to secure themselves a luxury hotel in Cusco. There are few finer than Hotel Monasterio, which is a well known residence throughout the whole of South America. The hotel has been constructed inside a restored monastery in the heart of the city, with the main plaza, museums and top restaurants just a stone's throw away. Hotel Monasterio is held in such high regard that it is protected by Peru's National Institute of Culture, making it a rather unique place to stay in Cusco.
A range of room types are available, including two Royal Suites that offer the ultimate opulence and comfort. They are equipped with an outdoor terrace, separate living area and marble bathroom - not to mention a whole host of other top facilities. Guests can expect their own individually controlled heating system, personal safety box, televisions and complimentary Wi-Fi connection to make their stay as stress-free as possible. There is also the option for the rooms to be enriched with oxygen for anyone who finds the altitude difficult to cope with.
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