Gay Cusco: The Rainbow City

Once the capital of the Incas, Cusco is now a fast-growing cosmopolitan city that's well-frequented by tourists visiting Machu Picchu. With its city center still shaped like a puma -- the sacred animal of the Inca -- Cusco boasts not only stunning colonial architecture but also charming back-alley shops and restaurants. For a long-stay traveler, it's an excellent home base for day trips into the surrounding region. On top of that, the entire city seems to emanate ineffable magic that makes a simple morning stroll feel like a mythic adventure. That might also just be the smell of eucalyptus wafting down from the forests above the city.

Cusco is more than just a home base or stopping point, though. It also boasts its own ruins not far from the city: Sacsayhuaman. These mighty, impressive stone walls form the head of the "puma" at the center of the city. Meanwhile, the bustling Plaza de Armas forms the puma's heart, while Coricancha, or the Temple of the Sun, marks the beginning of its tail. Between these points, you'll find plenty of opportunities to learn about the history of Cusco, its surrounding region, and the venerable Inca.

You will also find many gay visitors in Cusco, though the gay locals may be a bit more hidden. (Hint: Check Grindr.) And while actual gay bars don't exist here any more thanks to the pandemic, you'll find that most tourist cafés and restaurants are still tolerant of public displays of affection. However, Cusco, like the rest of Peru, is anchored in Catholic conservatism, so be aware that discretion may be the better part of valor in some areas.

Also, a tip: The official flag of the city of Cusco is almost identical to the Rainbow Flag -- just with one extra blue stripe -- so don't fool yourself into thinking everyone in Cusco is celebrating Pride month. You'll also have to consider Cusco's altitude during your stay. Cusco is one of the highest cities in the world -- at 10,800 ft -- so you WILL lose your breath after climbing a flight of stairs. Actually, let's be real: You'll be exhausted after two steps. Finally, be wary of pickpocketers. With all this in mind, you will undoubtedly have an unforgettable experience in this legendary and charismatic city entrenched in ancient history.