To see a glimpse of the past and future of Peru, explore deeply in the city of Cusco, the historic capital of the Inca Empire. Its multitude of archaeological and cultural sites draw upwards of a million tourists every year. At the same time, the rise of novoandino cuisine has made Cusco a destination of the here and now. Chic hotels, fantastic food, and rich culture make it one of the most versatile and popular destinations in South America.

Just outside of Cusco, you can tour the amazing ruins of the fortress at Sacsayhuaman, another example of the Incas’ incredible engineering talents and the site of an even earlier pre-Incan temple believed to have been built by the Killke people. In the heart of the city, there are fine examples of colonial architecture, many of which make use of ancient Incan ruins such as the Koricancha Temple, which has been incorporated into the Santo Domingo Convent. Visit the sprawling Plaza de Armas and the many museums to discover more about the fascinating colonial history of this city.

Cobblestone streets, and restored monasteries make the city center feel like a trip back in time, and properties like Belmond’s Palacio Nazarenes or Inkaterra’s La Casona, capture the historical essence with an attention to detail that makes them some of the most luxurious properties in the city. Both hotels share a palazzo with the Museum of Pre-Colombian arts, where after perusing the fascinating collection of antiquities, you can enjoy a romantic dinner in the museum courtyard.

In addition, Cusco is the gateway to the Sacred Valley of the Incas and Machu Picchu. Fly into the high altitude city (11,000 ft) and immediately head to the Sacred Valley to acclimate. Once you have your mountain legs, return to Cusco for non-stop exploration.

Cusco is a must-see on any Peruvian itinerary. Check out some of the suggested itineraries and properties, and ask your Ker & Downey expert to help you customize a Peruvian itinerary that is just right for you.