My Travel Bucket List: Experiencing the history and magic of Cusco, Peru

Peru is a country that has always inspired my imagination. At the center of the Incan Civilization, it has long piqued the history buff inside of me. But I was never completely sure what city would be my base of operations while I’m there. Then, I learned about Cusco.

As usual, I am somewhat motivated by the food but in this case it’s more of an archaeological and cultural fasciation. While there are a number of places in South America I hope to visit someday, Cusco, Peru is now high up my bucket list.

The history of Peru in this region

At this point, it should come as no surprise to anyone who has read anything I’ve written that I’m always fascinated with history in general. I’m always interested in learning more about the region I’m in, hopefully deeper than the traditional touristy destinations allows.

Cusco, Machu Picchu, Peru

MACHU PICCHU, PERU – JANUARY 18: The Inca ruins of the Machu Picchu sanctuary on January 18, 2014 near Cusco, Peru. The 15th-century Inca site, MachuPicchu also known as ‘The Lost City of the Incas’ is situated high above the Urubamba River. Now a UNESCO World Heritage Site it was discovered in 1911 by the American historian Hiram Bingham. (Photo by Justin Setterfield/Getty Images)

What I always find appealing about destinations like Peru is that the history of the region is open and waiting. You really don’t have to look very hard to find the past. Places like Cusco wear their history of their cultures on their sleeves.

The wealth of Incan archaeological sites around Cusco seem impossible to fathom at first. And seeing it all might be overwhelming to work all into one trip, though I’m happy to give it a solid try. Machu Picchu is definitely on the list, but there’s more than that.

Ollantaytambo, Moray and Pisac are all high priorities for me. But other ruins like Sacsayhuaman are a relatively easy walk from Cusco. Coricancha is actually in the middle of the city itself, which is just further evidence of how tangible the history is here.

The stunning Andes Mountains

Maybe it’s because I’ve grown up in the middle of the open Prairies of Saskatchewan where the highest peaks are generally considered hills by others. Maybe I just like looking up. But I’m constantly entranced by mountains.

Over the years, I’ve had a lot of opportunities to spend time in the Rocky Mountains. Relatively speaking, they’re a quick drive from my home as they’re just a province away from me. Still, they’re not as close as I would like.

The Andes Mountains are one of the most famous, not to mention stunning, mountain ranges in the world. In Peru, Cusco and many of the archaeological sites I want to check out are in the mountains themselves. As such, spending time in the Andes will be inevitable and welcome.

That being said, I also want to check out the flora and fauna of the region. Seeing what kind of animals have made homes for themselves in the mountains and valleys is always a fun experience for me, particularly in a new environment.

Cusco itself

To be completely honest, I had never thought about Cusco being a travel destination before writing a relatively recent piece about the city. During the process of researching it, I realized that Cusco absolutely belonged on my bucket list.

Cusco, Peru

CUSCO, PERU – JANUARY 13: Early morning sunlight dawns over the Incan city of Cusco from Sacsayhuaman, on January 13, 2014 in Cusco, Peru. The historic town of Cusco lies high in the Andes and is the typical rest-stop for tourists bound for Machu Picchu. (Photo by Justin Setterfield/Getty Images)

Peru is obviously an interesting country to visit, and one I’ve planned on heading to someday. But I now find myself specifically drawn to Cusco. It being in the midst of so many places I want to visit certainly doesn’t hurt the situation.

But it’s more than that. Cusco has museums, historical buildings and a marvelous mixture of architectural styles from different periods. On top of that, there do appear to be more than a few great regional restaurants to eat in.

At this point, there are too many reasons for me to go to Cusco to let the opportunity pass me by. That being said, life often gets in the way but hopefully I can make the trip happen because Cusco might turn out to be a dream vacation.