Reasons to take a guided city tour in Cusco

In an earlier post I listed ideas for a free day in Cusco. Having acknowledged that there are great ways to learn about the city’s history and culture on your own, I’d like to make a quick case for actually taking a guided city tour.
Most likely this will be your first, and perhaps only, visit to the ‘naval of civilization’ and the capital of the Inca Empire. There are so many layers of history in Cusco, the Sacred Valley, and the jungle surrounding the high Andes it would be extremely difficult to get even all the highlights from a written guide book or trying to piece together the information at various sites. Tourism is big business here, and as a result the local universities provide four-year Tourism degrees that teach your prospective guide the country’s history (both human and natural), and most often English. Understanding your guide makes a huge difference when you’re trying to cram several centuries of history into an afternoon.
If you have booked with a reputable tour operator your tour will not only include the downtown historic sites such as the Cathedral and Koricancha, but will most likely take you to the ‘local’ Inca ruins such as Sacsayhuaman, Q’enqo and Tambomachay. All of these places are included on the Tourist Ticket you purchased and are well worth the visit.
If you are traveling alone, or are just looking for other people to join up with for dinner or a trek, these tours are great ways to meet fellow travelers. The city tour I was on included people of every age and nationality I could imagine…there’s got to be somebody you could share a few hours of mountain biking and a beer with here.
Taking a guided city tour early in your stay will give you a better understanding of the history behind Cusco’s architecture, art, and the many parades and celebrations that are an integral part of life here. The tours are generally inexpensive, and well worth an afternoon of your time in Peru.