The Incas designed their capital in the shape of a puma, with the head at the north end, at Sacsayhuamán (whose zigzagged walls are said to have represented the animal's teeth). This is pretty difficult to appreciate today; even though much of the original layout of the city remains, it has been engulfed by growth. Still, most of Cusco can be seen easily on foot, and walking is certainly the best way to take in this historic mountain city that is equal parts Inca capital, post-Conquest colonial city, and modern tourist magnet. For outlying attractions, such as the handful of Inca ruins that lie just beyond the center of town, taxis are the best option.
The old center of the city is organized around the stunning and busy Plaza de Armas, the focal point of life in Cusco. The streets that radiate out from the square -- Plateros, Mantas, Loreto, Triunfo, Procuradores, and others -- are loaded with travel agencies, shops, restaurants, bars, and hotels. The major avenue leading from the plaza southeast to the modern section of the city is Avenida El Sol, where most banks are located. The district of San Blas is perhaps Cusco's most picturesque barrio; the labyrinthine neighborhood spills on cobblestone streets off Cuesta San Blas, which leads to crooked alleys and streets and viewing points high above the city.
Much of what interests most visitors is within easy walking distance of the Plaza de Armas. The major Inca ruins are within walking distance for energetic sorts who enjoy a good uphill hike.
Hang a Right at Donkey Lips
Cusco is littered with difficult-to-pronounce, wildly spelled street names that date to Inca times. In the bohemian neighborhood of San Blas, though, they're particularly colorful. Here's a primer of atmospheric street names and their literal meanings:
Atoqsayk'uchi -- Where the fox got tired
Tandapata -- Place of taking turns
Asnoqchutun -- Donkey lips
Siete Diablitos -- Seven Little Devils
Siete Angelitos -- Seven Little Angels
Usphacalle -- Place of sterility/place of ashes
Saqracalle -- Where the demons dwell
Pumaphaqcha -- Puma's tail
Cajonpata -- Place shaped like a box
Rayanpata -- Place of myrtle flowers
One to seek out: P'asñapakana -- Where the young women are hidden
And, finally, one to avoid: P'aqlachapata -- Place of bald men
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.