72 hours in Cuzco: the cazenove+loyd way
Historical, cosmopolitan, packed full of culture and with a great atmosphere, Cuzco is undoubtedly one of the coolest cities in Peru. The ultimate place to stay is Belmond Palacio Nazarenas. A converted, 17th-century convent built on Inca foundations, it is steeped in history and ideally located in the city centre. Everything has been lovingly restored and is beautifully designed, and it is the only hotel in Cuzco with a swimming pool, which is constantly heated to a lovely 24°C. The rooms are sumptuous and come with a personal butler. The service cannot be faulted, the food is also delicious and the spa is a welcome retreat after a day of exploring.
Below, we reveal how best to spend 72 hours in what was once the capital of the Inca Empire:
Cuzco lies at 3,400m above sea level, so we would typically recommend spending a minimum of three days here, including one day to acclimatise. Take it slowly, go for a gentle stroll, relax, drink plenty of water and, ideally, lay off any alcohol for the first 24 hours.
Cuzco is extremely walkable and taxis are cheap, so spend the afternoon weaving through the cobbled streets, ending up in one of the city’s amazing local restaurants. Peruvians are famed for their long lunches, so take advantage and live like a local. Afterwards, lounge by the pool and escape to the hotel spa. There’s no better way to relax in the city.
By now you should be more accustomed to the thinner air. Throughout your time in Cuzco, we will pair you with one of our excellent specialist guides who will bring the city’s past to life and enable you to have a richer experience. We suggest starting your second day at Sacsayhuamán, an ancient citadel situated at 3,700m above sea level. Still remaining completely intact today, this is the perfect introduction to Inca engineering and craftsmanship. While it was originally built as a fortress to hold roughly 1,000 soldiers, it was rarely (if at all) used for that, instead, being utilised as a temple and storage space for their expensive goods. From this magnificent site, you are rewarded with breathtaking views of the metropolis.
After making your way down to city level again, it’s time to explore the numerous churches. Peru is largely Catholic due to the Spanish invasion from 1532 to 1572. Before the conquest, they followed an Inca way of life, and you can see this displayed in almost all art and sculpture commissioned by the Spanish at that time. The churches are incredibly ornate and showcase a lot of two materials that would have made Peru one of the wealthiest countries in the world: gold and silver.
Peru is very well respected around the world for its cuisine, and a new trend of Japanese fusion has taken the country by storm. The best place to sample this combination is LIMO, which overlooks the picturesque Plaza de Armas. Here, you will be spoilt with the unusual mix of flavours that will leave a lasting impression – imagine tempura asparagus, then a soy pork joint and finishing off with a ginger-and-lime cake. Heaven.
Enjoy a leisurely breakfast before being picked up by your guide and taken to meet artist Julio Gutiérrez. This man is one of the most celebrated ceramicists in Peru and you will find his work in almost every building in Cuzco. We can arrange private access to his workshop, where he will teach you how to paint your own ceramic bulls. The Peruvians are a rather superstitious nation and believe that having two bulls on your roof will protect your home and warn off any evil spirits, so these are excellent souvenirs to take home with you. You will paint your first bull in a clay-based substance, before adorning it in several colours and styles and ‘firing’ it in the kiln. Your second will be painted using acrylic as well as adding some ‘gold’ and ‘silver’ leaf, so it resembles traditional sculptures that would have been decorated in a similar way using the original materials. Both will be waiting for you at your hotel later in the day.
The national spirit of Peru is pisco, and you can’t leave without sampling the country’s famed cocktail: a pisco sour. However, at Museo Del Pisco, it is possible to dabble in a little tasting. Made by distilling fermented grape juice into a high-proof spirit, you can sample up to four varieties. The live music starts from around 9pm and this fun experience is a wonderful way to round off three days in this extraordinary city.