Once it was just a stopping off point en route to Machu Picchu, but now Cuzco has suddenly become rather chic. It could be down to gastronomy – there are quite a few celebrity chefs setting up restaurants – or perhaps it’s the lovely fashion boutiques which are appearing on many of the cobbled streets. Whatever it is, we are delighted that Cuzco has become such a delightful stepping stone to the majestic Inca ruins of Machu Picchu.
Where to stay
La Casona Hotel. Eleven suites surround a sumptuous courtyard, where the history of time has been tastefully preserved. Furnished with antiques, and decorated with original architectural details this is probably the best place to stay in Cuzco.
In July there are two new five-star hotels opening. The first is the opulent Orient Express run Palacio Nazarenas with doubles from £315; it is in a beautiful old convent and will be the only hotel in Cuzco with its own pool. The next is the JW Marriott set in a converted church and we like the fact that all rooms have oxygen machines to help alleviate altitude sickness.
What to see
The city has a curious characterwith its huge walls of intricately laid stone and narrow cobbled streets. A great place to see Cuzco life unfold is the Plaza de Armas – probably the most beautiful in the world with the dominant sixteenth century cathedral and 17th centuray church next door both of which are surrounded by colonial buildings with balconies. The Inca Museum is also a must see, built on Inca foundations its exhibits include, carved ceremonial goblets, weavings, mummies, silver and gold figurines, as well as Inca weapons and tools.
What to eat
The diverse population and climate make Peruvian cuisine one of the most exciting in the world. You have the pungent heat of Spanish tastes brought over from Cortes and, through immigration, influences from China and Japan. So it’s no surprise that Ceviche – bite-size pieces of white fish marinated raw in lime juice mixed with chilli’s – is one of the most sought after dishes. One of the best places to try it is at Chicha Cuzco, overlooking the charming Plaza Regocijo and managed by Peru’s most famous chef Gaston Acurio. Set in an airy loft like setting on the second floor of an old colonial house, it has high ceilings and an open kitchen. The menu is very reasonably priced too.
Recently you may have read about Peruvian cuisine as an international food trend – indeed there were two high profile London restaurant openings in January alone, including Lima London and Coya.