Cusco is one of my favorite cities in Peru and it’s the common starting point for many travelers planning to visit Machu Picchu, Rainbow Mountain, Sacred Valley, and other treks in the Andes Mountains.
I spent around five days in Cusco upon arriving in Peru, firstly to acclimatize to the high altitude, and secondly to relax after my seven-day trek in the Andes.
There are many things to do in Cusco that are not to be missed so I have put together this useful Cusco City Tour Guide which you can use to craft together your own itinerary!
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WHERE IS CUSCO
Cusco is a city located high in the Peruvian Andes which was once the capital of the Inca Empire.
The altitude in Cusco is 3, 400m above sea level and the population is approximately 430,000.
HOW TO GET HERE
There are a couple of options for getting to Cusco which I have listed below:
Cusco is very well connected with daily flights available from within South America. Most flights will arrive in Lima first and then continue on to Cusco. I always use CheapOair to search and book all of my flights as they always have the cheapest rates.
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Arriving in Cusco by bus is another great option for reaching this beautiful city in the Peruvian Andes. The most reputable bus company in Peru that I discovered to be the most comfortable and reliable is Peru Hop.
They offer many different bus routes and itineraries throughout Peru and Bolivia and I highly recommend traveling with them.
Click Here to visit the Peru Hop website for more information and to book your bus tickets online.
Street scene in Cusco – What to do in Cusco
10 AWESOME THINGS TO DO IN CUSCO
#1 PLAZA DE ARMAS CUSCO
First up on this list of things to do in Cusco is a visit to Plaza de Armas which is the perfect place to begin any Cusco city tour. Located in the center of the city, Plaza de Armas has a bit of everything for everyone.
A beautiful water fountain can be found in the middle of the main square which is surrounded by gardens, restaurants, bars, cafes, and retail stores, enough to amuse you for a good hour or two.
The main shopping street in Plaza de Armas is Calle Plateros for all your Peruvian knick-knacks and souvenirs.
Also located in Plaza de Armas are the impressive Cusco Cathedral (Catedral del Cuzco) and the Natural History Museum (Museo De Historia Natural), two iconic landmarks that are not to be missed!
Tip: For an elevated view of Plaza de Armas head into Starbucks located on the second floor in the building next to the Natural History Museum.
Catedral del Cuzco
Plaza de Armas
Calle Plateros market
#2 SAN PEDRO MARKET
Next on this Cusco itinerary is the famous San Pedro Market, a must-visit location to add to your list of things to do.
From Plaza de Armas it is approximately a ten-minute walk to the San Pedro Market.
In this market, you can find basically everything from fresh produce, cold cut meats, spice shops, fresh juice stalls, local handmade garments, and much more!
When I visited San Pedro Market, the first thing I did was grab a freshly squeezed juice to take away and went on the hunt to purchase a colorful handmade poncho to keep me warm on my seven-day Andes Mountain trek that I was about to embark on.
There are countless garment stores inside the San Pedro Market and I guarantee you’ll find something that fits you perfectly. I paid 70 soles for my poncho so expect to spend something around this price.
Tip: If you are planning on doing a trek in the Andes, cocoa leaves are known to be a natural remedy to help with altitude sickness and San Pedro Market is the best place to buy a fresh bag for cheap!
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San Pedro Market
San Pedro Market – Cusco day tours
#3 STATUE OF CHRIST AT PUKAMUQU MOUNTAIN
About a thirty-minute walk from Plaza De Armas is the white Statue of Christ and the best viewpoint in Cusco. The climb is steep and tiring but very rewarding once you reach the summit of Pukamuqu.
At the top, you’ll find the towering Statue of Christ and a panoramic viewpoint offering expansive views of the entire Cusco region and surrounding mountain ranges.
The Statue of Christ was a gift from Palestinian Christians in 1945 as a token for the kind refuge they received in the city. This statue is reminiscent of Christ the Redeemer in Rio de Janeiro, dominating the summit of Pukamuqu with wide-open arms.
If you are in search of what to do in Cusco, this little adventure to the Statue of Christ is not to be missed.
Tip: The best time to visit the Statue of Christ is early in the morning or late in the afternoon. I promise you will get to witness an unforgettable sunrise or sunset, weather permitting!
Viewpoint at Pukamuqu – Things to see in Cusco
Statue of Christ Cusco – Cusco Things To Do
#4 SAQSAYWAMAN ANCIENT RUINS
Just five minutes walk from the Statue of Christ are the ancient ruins of Saqsaywaman. These ruins are considered to be the first of the ‘new seven wonders of the world’ and one of the more interesting Cusco attractions to check out!
The Incas once called Saqsaywaman the House of the Sun and the Spaniards called it a fortress due to its zig-zag design.
One thing that was very intriguing to me when I visited Saqsaywaman was the enormous boulders that form the walls at these ruins. They were put together perfectly, like a game of Tetris, without the use of mortar.
If you go early enough you may be able to avoid paying the 70 soles entrance fee as I did, however, I was told to leave by one of the guards when the archeological site opened at 8 am because I didn’t have a ticket.
So it’s best to get a ticket if you wish to explore the Saqsaywaman ruins without any hiccups.
Find All → Best Hotels in Cusco
Follow this sign from the Statue of Christ
Saqsaywaman ancient ruins
#5 VISIT THE STREETS OF SAN BLAS
On your way back down to the city from Saqsaywaman be sure to take the route that leads down through the streets of San Blas.
An artisan neighborhood that is filled with beautiful architecture and quaint shops that line the cobblestone streets of San Blas.
Get your cameras at the ready to capture the beauty of it all and be sure to purchase a few trinkets while you’re at it!
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Streets of San Blas
#6 EAT STREET FOOD IN CUSCO
Eating street food in any third-world country can be daunting but I assure you that it’s perfectly safe to do so in Cusco.
The best street-side food vendors can be found in the morning selling artisan bread with avocado, egg, and other varieties for just 1 Soles! What a freaking bargain. I think I ate my weight in food on the morning I discovered these cheap eats!
Another tasty treat to try is the street side Churros! You’ll find that the younger local kids will have their little stalls set up along the streets of Cusco selling their freshly made, probably by their mothers, sweet treats!
Street-side Churros – What to do in Cusco
Street food vendors
The ultimate avocado bread – To do in Cusco
#7 WALKING CITY TOUR CUSCO
Without a doubt, you will be approached by many locals in the streets asking if you would like to join a free walking tour around Cusco.
I can tell you now that this is not a scam and it’s one of the best things to do during your visit. The walking tour in Cusco is completely free of charge, however, it is recommended to tip your guide at the end of the tour.
I always recommend joining a walking tour where possible as the local guides generally take you off the beaten path and share information with you that can’t be found in any travel guide.
Visiting Plaza El Regocijo on the Cusco City Tour
The Qurikancha Museum
Local market on the City Tour Cusco
#8 EXPERIENCE CUSCO’S NIGHTLIFE
Another one of the best things to do is to enjoy a night out in the town! Cusco is known to be the party capital of Peru and welcomes people of all ages.
The best places to go out for a drink and a boogie are Mama Africa (Cusco’s most popular club), Ukuku’s, Paddy’s Irish Pub, and The Point Hostel!
Tip: If you are looking for a good place to have pre-drinks before heading to the clubs, it’s always happy hour at The Point Hostel and they also have beer pong tables!
Things to do in Cusco at night
The Point Hostel – Cusco nightlife
#9 DAY TRIPS FROM CUSCO
There are dozens of tour operators and offices dotted around Cusco City to book day trips from Cusco, but in my experience, it can be overwhelming trying to decide which operator to book a tour through without being ripped off.
Alternatively, you can book your Cusco day tours online in advance to avoid the hassle of having to organise a trip once you have arrived.
I recommend finding a tour that best suits you on the Get Your Guide website. They have thousands of travel deals worldwide that are affordable and reliable!
Click Here to search for all-day trips from Cusco and book online!
Ancient ruins of Moray – Day trips from Cusco
Rainbow Mountain Trek
#10 BOOK A TREK IN CUSCO
You can’t visit Cusco and not go on a trek! The nearby Andes Mountains is one of the most beautiful places in the world.
There are many different treks in Peru that range from 1-day treks and up to 10-day treks, it’s entirely up to you which kind of adventure you are seeking.
I personally joined a 9-Day trek with Killa Expeditions which, in my opinion, is the most reputable adventure tour company in Cusco. Myself and eleven other keen trekkers embarked on the 9-Day Ausangate Adventure which included Rainbow Mountain, Machu Picchu, and Sacred Valley. It was hands down one of the best experiences I have ever had!
Killa Expeditions offer a range of different treks and adventures all year round. Head over to the Killa Expeditions website to find a trek that interests you and book online.
The Ausangate Trek
Peru trekking with Killa Expeditions
WHERE TO STAY IN CUSCO
Cusco has hundreds of accommodation options to choose from, so I have narrowed it down to a few of the best places to stay in Cusco to fit the needs of budget backpackers, luxury travelers, and everyone in between.
See the list of accommodations below that I personally recommend:
Luxury: JW Marriott El Convento Cusco
An unforgettable stay at any Marriott Hotel around the world is never a bad choice. This particular Marriott boasts beautiful interiors with antique exposed bricks and it’s just a few minutes walk to the main square, Plaza de Armas. The rooms are elegantly styled featuring cable TV, wifi, a minibar, and a private bathroom. Oxygen-enriched rooms are also available for those who struggle with high altitudes.
Mid Range: Tambo del Arriero Hotel Boutique
A charming colonial boutique hotel located in the Nueva Alta neighborhood, a short walking distance to the San Pedro Market and Cusco’s main square. The rooms are spacious and cozy featuring a TV, iPhone docking station, free wifi, work desk, warm heating, and some even boast a private jacuzzi.
Budget: Frankenstein Hostel
There are countless hostels in Cusco but there is only one Frankenstein Hostel. This is where I stayed during my time in Cusco and I can’t recommend this place enough for its unique ambiance and central location! Ludwig, the owner, was very welcoming as soon as I set foot in the door and made me feel right at home. The hostel lives up to its ‘Frankenstein’ name with spooky ornaments hanging in doorways and from staircases. Ludwig is also a nature lover and has many plants growing in the internal courtyard and he even has his own terrarium. There are cozy private rooms available at a very affordable price and breakfast is included.
FOR ALL OTHER PLACES TO STAY IN CUSCO, SEARCH ON AGODA OR SEARCH ON BOOKING.COM
Another option for accommodation is to stay at an Airbnb, which generally has some great deals.
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THINGS TO KNOW BEFORE YOU GO
The best time to visit Cusco is from May to October which is the dry season and temperatures are cool. The wet season in Cusco is typically from November to April.
The currency in Cusco is Peruvian Soles and the exchange rate is approximately 1 Soles = $0.30 USD
MORE CENTRAL & SOUTH AMERICA TRAVEL GUIDES
- Mexico: 4 Week Mexico Itinerary
- Cuba: 10 Day Cuba Itinerary
- Peru: Backpacking Peru – 3 Week Itinerary
- Bolivia: Things To Do In Bolivia
- Brazil: 2 Day Rio De Janeiro Itinerary
- Argentina: Things To Do In Argentina
- Chile: Things To Do In Chile
LONELY PLANET PERU
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