Known to the Incas as the "navel of the world", CUSCO is still an exciting and colourful city, built by the Spanish on the remains of Inca temples and palaces, and as rich in human activity today as it must have been at the height of the empire. Cusco is one of South America's biggest tourist destinations offering a thriving Andean culture, monolithic Inca architecture and treasures from the colonial era, which attract visitors from every corner of the world. Its exclusive access to Machu Picchu makes it one of the most popular destinations in Latin America.
Nestling majestically in the belly of a highland valley and fed by two rivers, the city's unique layout was designed by the Incas in the form of a puma. Many of Cusco's finest Inca architectural treasures were so masterfully constructed out of local stone that they are still in great shape today. Enclosed between high hills, the heart of the city is the Plaza de Armas. From this bustling attractive square, the imposing ceremonial centre and fortress of Sacsayhuaman dominates the hillscape. The Inca capital's whitewashed streets and red-tiled roofs are home in the 21st century to a rich mix of traditional culture, lively nightlife and a seemingly endless variety of museums, walks and tours.