Cusco, Peru is a vibrant city full of history and adventure. With a plethora of activities and tours available, visitors can explore everything from ancient ruins to colorful mountains. Trek the infamous Inca trail to Machu Picchu, wander through the charming streets of Cusco, or try a cooking class at the San Pedro Market. With so much to see and do, Cusco is the perfect destination for any traveler looking for a unique and exciting experience.
Planning your trip to Cusco
Best Time to Visit Cusco
Planning a trip to Cusco should start by deciding when is the best time to visit. The high season in Cusco is from June to August and December to January when the weather is dry and sunny. Keep in mind that these months are also the busiest and most expensive months to travel to Cusco. The shoulder season, from April to May and September to November, offers better prices, fewer crowds, and still good weather.
How to Get to Cusco
Getting to Cusco can be done either by air or land. The city is well connected with daily flights from Lima and other cities in Peru. The flight from Lima takes about one hour. Another option is by train, with services from Cusco to nearby towns like Puno or Arequipa. For those who prefer overland travel, buses are a convenient option with frequent departures from Lima and other cities in Peru.
Where to Stay in Cusco
Cusco has a wide range of accommodation options to fit every budget and travel style. The most popular areas to stay in Cusco are the city center and San Blas, a charming neighborhood known for its artisan shops and quaint narrow streets. Other options include the bohemian district of San Blas, the upscale neighborhood of Santa Ana, or the quieter area of San Cristobal.
For budget travelers, there are several hostels and guesthouses in Cusco. These types of accommodation are perfect for backpackers, solo travelers, and students who are willing to share a room and keep costs low.
Mid-range accommodations in Cusco offer a balance betwee conmfort and price. These types of accommodation include hotels, hostels, and guesthouses with private rooms, private bathrooms, and some amenities like breakfast and Wi-Fi.
For those looking for luxury and comfort, Cusco has several high-end hotels and resorts. These types of accommodations offer spacious rooms, luxurious amenities, and personalized services to make travelers feel pampered and relaxed.
What to Pack for Your Trip to Cusco
Cusco is located at an altitude of over 11,000 feet, so it’s important to pack appropriately. When traveling to Cusco, be sure to pack warm clothing, comfortable shoes, and rain gear. Layers are key, as temperatures can vary greatly throughout the day. Additionally, consider bringing high SPF sunscreen, a hat, insect repellent, and a reusable water bottle to stay hydrated while exploring the city.
Things to do in Cusco
If you are wondering what to do in Cusco, you are in for an adventure! This vibrant city has something to offer everyone, whether you are interested in cultural experiences, outdoor activities, or historical landmarks. Here are some of the top things to do in Cusco:
Explore the City of Cusco
Cusco is a city with a rich history and culture that dates back to pre-Columbian times. The city is full of impressive architecture, charming streets, and hidden corners. Take a stroll through the city and explore the narrow streets of San Blas, a bohemian neighborhood filled with art galleries and artisan shops. Walk around the colorful neighborhood of San Pedro market and discover the local vendors selling textiles, freshly roasted coffee, and exotic fruits.
Visit the Plaza de Armas
The Plaza de Armas, or Main Square, is the heart of Cusco. This grand square is surrounded by impressive colonial buildings, including the Cusco Cathedral and the Church of the Society of Jesus. Take some time to relax on one of the benches and soak in the atmosphere of the square.
Discover Cusco’s Museums
Cusco is home to many museums that showcase its rich history and cultural heritage. Visit the Museo de Arte Precolombino, which houses an impressive collection of pre-Columbian art and artifacts. The Inca Museum, located in the Casa del Almirante, is dedicated to the Inca Empire. The Museum of Religious Art, located in the Church of the Company of Jesus, is home to a collection of colonial art and artifacts.
Take a Hike to Rainbow Mountain
Rainbow Mountain, also known as Vinicunca, is a stunning natural attraction located near Cusco. The mountain is famous for its vibrant colors, and the hike to the top is a popular activity for adventurous travelers. The hike takes about 6 hours round trip and is considered moderately difficult.
Trek the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu
One of the most popular activities in Cusco is trekking the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu. This 4-day trek takes you through the stunning Andean mountains and ancient Incan ruins, ending at the iconic Machu Picchu citadel. The trek requires a good level of fitness, but the stunning views and historic landmarks make it worth it.
Take a Day Trip to the Sacred Valley
The Sacred Valley is a region of stunning natural beauty just outside of Cusco. Take a day trip to visit the picturesque village of Pisac and its impressive Incan ruins. Stop at the colorful market of Chinchero and visit a traditional weaving workshop. End the day with a visit to the impressive Incan fortress of Ollantaytambo.
Visit the Humantay Lake
The Humantay Lake is a stunning turquoise lake located at the base of the Humantay mountain. The lake is a popular day trip from Cusco and is located at an altitude of 4,200 meters above sea level. The hike to the lake takes about 3 hours round trip and is moderately difficult.
Explore the Citadel of Pisac
The Citadel of Pisac is an impressive Incan complex located on a hilltop near the village of Pisac. The site features remarkable terraced walls, ancient temples, and stunning views of the surrounding mountains. The site is easily accessible by car or bike and is a must-see destination for anyone interested in Incan history.
Experience the Salkantay Trek
The Salkantay Trek is an alternative to the Inca Trail that takes you through the stunning Salkantay mountain pass and remote Andean villages. The trek takes about 5 days and ends in the vibrant town of Aguas Calientes, where you can take a bus to Machu Picchu.
Ollantaytambo is a charming village located in the Sacred Valley. The town is known for its well-preserved Inca ruins and impressive fortress that overlooks the valley. The town is a popular starting point for the Inca Trail and is a great place to explore the local culture and cuisine.
From exploring the city to trekking in the Andes, there is something for everyone in Cusco. Whether you are interested in culture, history, or adventure, Cusco is an incredible destination that should not be missed.
Tours and excursions from Cusco
If you’re visiting Cusco, there’s no doubt that one of the main activities on your agenda is exploring the surrounding area. The city is conveniently located close to many of Peru’s most popular attractions, including the famous Machu Picchu. Here are some of the best tours and excursions you can take from Cusco:
Machu Picchu day tour
A Machu Picchu day tour is perfect for those who are short on time but still want to experience the famous Incan ruins. This tour includes a train ride to and from Aguas Calientes, a bus ride up to Machu Picchu, and a guided tour of the ruins. You’ll have around seven hours to explore this amazing site before returning to Cusco.
Machu Picchu full-day excursion
A Machu Picchu full-day excursion is similar to the day tour but allows for more time to explore the ruins. You’ll have the whole day to take a guided tour, hike to the Sun Gate, and soak in the stunning views. This excursion also includes transportation to and from Cusco.
Machu Picchu with a guide
If you want a more personalized experience, you can opt for a Machu Picchu tour with a guide. With this tour, you’ll have a private tour guide who will tailor the visit to your interests and pace. You’ll have a much more immersive experience and can learn more about the history and significance of the site.
One day Inca Trail trek
If you’re up for a challenge, a one day Inca Trail trek is a great option. This trek offers stunning views of the Andean mountain range and includes a visit to the ruins of Winay Wayna before arriving at Machu Picchu. Keep in mind that this trek is physically demanding and requires excellent fitness.
Sacred Valley and Ollantaytambo tour
The Sacred Valley and Ollantaytambo tour takes you through the stunning landscapes of the Sacred Valley, visiting the ancient ruins of Pisac and Ollantaytambo. This tour also includes a visit to the Pisac Market, where you can find a variety of souvenirs and local products.
Day excursion to Pisac and Chinchero
If you want to learn more about local culture, a day excursion to Pisac and Chinchero is perfect. You’ll visit the ruins of Pisac, the colonial church in Chinchero, and have the opportunity to see local weavers at work.
Salkantay Trek and Machu Picchu tour
The Salkantay Trek and Machu Picchu tour is a multi-day trek that takes you through the stunning landscapes of the Andes. This trek is less crowded than the traditional Inca Trail and offers a unique experience. You’ll end the trek at Machu Picchu, where you can explore the ruins.
Cusco city tour with a guide
A Cusco city tour with a guide is perfect for those who want to explore the city’s rich history and culture. You’ll visit iconic sites such as the Plaza de Armas, the Cathedral of Cusco, and the Incan ruins of Sacsayhuaman.
Full day tour of Cusco
A full day tour of Cusco is a comprehensive exploration of the city. You’ll visit historical landmarks such as the Plaza de Armas and the Cathedral of Cusco, as well as local attractions like the San Pedro Market and San Blas neighborhood. You can find tours by Gay Peru Travel.
San Pedro market and cooking class
If you’re interested in Peruvian cuisine, a San Pedro market and cooking class is a must. You’ll visit the bustling San Pedro Market to learn about local ingredients and then participate in a cooking class to learn how to prepare traditional Peruvian dishes. Whether you want a challenging trek or a relaxing cultural experience, Cusco has a wide range of tours and excursions to suit your interests. Make the most of your visit by exploring the city and its beautiful surroundings.
Tips for visiting Cusco
Cusco is a beautiful city with a rich history, unique culture, and stunning scenery. However, as with any destination, there are a few things to keep in mind to ensure a safe and enjoyable trip. Here are some tips for visiting Cusco:
Altitude Sickness in Cusco
Cusco is located at an altitude of over 11,000 feet, and some visitors may experience altitude sickness. Symptoms can include headache, nausea, dizziness, and shortness of breath. To prevent altitude sickness, it is recommended to drink plenty of water, avoid alcohol and caffeine, and take it easy for the first few days.
Safety Tips for Visiting Cusco
Cusco is generally a safe city for travelers, but it’s always important to take precautions. Keep an eye on your belongings, especially in crowded areas, and only take registered taxis. It’s also a good idea to avoid walking alone at night and to stick to well-lit areas.
Best Restaurants in Cusco
Cusco is known for its delicious cuisine, and there are many great restaurants to try. Some popular dishes include ceviche, lomo saltado, and pachamanca. Some highly recommended restaurants include Fallen Angel, Cicciolina, Chicha, and Limo.
Nightlife in Cusco
Cusco has a vibrant nightlife scene, with many bars and clubs to choose from. The Plaza de Armas is a popular spot for nightlife, with many places offering live music and dancing. Some recommended bars include Mushrooms, Norton Rat’s and the great parties of Fallen angel (check dates).
Festivals and Events in Cusco
Cusco is home to many festivals and events throughout the year, celebrating the city’s rich history and culture. Some popular events include Inti Raymi, the Cusco Film Festival, and the Festival of the Sun. Be sure to check the calendar before planning your trip to catch one of these amazing events.
Shopping in Cusco
Cusco is a shopper’s paradise, with many local markets and shops offering unique souvenirs and gifts. Some popular items to look for include alpaca wool products, silver jewelry, and Andean textiles. The San Pedro Market is a must-visit for any shopper.
Photography Tips for Cusco
Cusco is a photographer’s dream, with stunning scenery and amazing architecture. Some recommended photo spots include the Plaza de Armas, San Blas neighborhood, and Sacsayhuamán. It’s also important to be respectful of locals and ask for permission before taking their photo.
Cultural Etiquette in Cusco
Cusco has a rich culture, and it’s important to be respectful of local customs and traditions. Dress modestly when entering churches or religious sites, and be sure to ask for permission before taking photos of local people. It’s also customary to greet people with a friendly “Buenos días” or “Buenas tardes.”
Money and Currency Exchange in Cusco
The official currency of Peru is the Peruvian sol, and there are many ATMs and currency exchange offices throughout Cusco. It’s a good idea to carry some cash when exploring markets or shopping in smaller stores, as not all places accept credit cards.
Getting Around Cusco
Cusco is a walkable city, but it’s also easy to get around by taxi or public transportation. Taxis are generally safe, but be sure to negotiate the fare before getting in. The local buses, known as “combis,” are also an affordable option for getting around the city. Overall, Cusco is a beautiful and exciting destination, perfect for travelers of all interests and backgrounds. By following these tips, you’ll be able to enjoy all that this amazing city has to offer.