45 Best Things to Do in Cusco Peru
Are you looking for an unforgettable adventure in Cusco, Peru?
Visit Cusco to explore the fascinating Inca ruins, experience the rich Andean culture, and embark on thrilling treks to Machu Picchu. On our recent trip, we fell in love with Cusco’s breathtaking landscapes, ancient history, and the warm hospitality of the locals.
In this guide, we will provide you with essential information and recommendations on things to do in Cusco Peru based on our first-hand experience.
Where is Cusco?
Cusco lies in southeastern Peru amid the Andes Mountains. Nestled in the Sacred Valley at an elevation of 3,399 meters, Cusco is an ideal base for exploring the wonders of the Andes and the legendary Machu Picchu.
Is Cusco Worth Visiting?
Yes, Cusco is definitely worth visiting! With its historical significance as the “navel of the world,” the city holds a fascinating past waiting to be discovered. Exploring the nearby ruins and ancient city is like traveling back in time to the mystical Andean civilization, providing a unique and enriching experience.
How Long to Spend in Cusco?
To make the most of your visit to Cusco, it’s recommended to spend a minimum of one week. This timeframe allows you to explore the city’s historic center, visit nearby archaeological sites, and soak in the local culture.
For those planning to hike to Machu Picchu, extending your stay to two weeks is advisable, as it allows time for acclimatization and preparation for the trek. The journey to the ancient citadel is a remarkable experience that shouldn’t be rushed.
If you truly want to immerse yourself in the local vibes, consider staying for a month or longer. This extended period allows you to participate in local festivals, interact with the warm-hearted locals, and discover hidden gems beyond the usual tourist spots.
Related: Top 3 Peru Travel Visa Options
How to get to Cusco?
By Air: For people short on time, traveling to Cusco by air is recommended. If you’re flying in from abroad, you can easily reach Alejandro Velasco Astete International Airport in Cusco from Lima, the capital of Peru, which serves as the primary international gateway. Additionally, flights from Arequipa offer convenient access to this historic city.
By Bus: For travelers on a budget and with a more flexible itinerary, traveling by bus is a popular and scenic choice, although prepare for a 22 hour journey. One of the most reputable and reliable bus companies for this route is Cruz del Sur. Departing from Lima’s main bus terminal, the comfortable and well-equipped buses make the long ride enjoyable.
By Train: For a luxurious experience, and if you are arriving from Arequipa or Lake Titicaca, traveling by train on PeruRail is a popular choice.
Getting around Cusco?
Once you arrive in Cusco, transportation within the city is relatively straightforward. From the bus station, a quick 10-minute taxi ride will take you to the city center, while the airport is approximately a 20-minute taxi ride away. Alternatively, you can explore the city on foot, taking in the sights at your own pace and enjoying the delightful mix of ancient and modern that Cusco has to offer.
Where to Stay in Cusco?
- Budget: Wild Rover Cusco – Perfect for solo travelers looking for a party atmosphere.
- Budget: Pariwana Hostel Cusco – Top-quality affordable accommodations with a chill vibe.
- Mid-Range: Selina Plaza de Armas Cusco – Ideal for digital nomads who need to work before and after their daily adventures.
- Luxury Option: Hotel Plaza de Armas Cusco – Conveniently located in Cusco’s Main Square, offering comfortable rooms and a buffet breakfast every morning.
Related: 10 Best Hostels in Cusco
Looking for Cusco’s Most Unique Place to Stay?
Skylodge Adventure Suites is an innovative lodge 90 minutes outside of Cusco offers hanging accommodations with stunning views of the Sacred Valley below, free zip-lining, a delicious breakfast, supper, and free bottle of wine.
Where to Eat in Cusco?
Cusco’s culinary scene is as rich and diverse as its history. Be sure to try the following restaurants while in Cusco:
- La Cusqueñita for chiriuchu, a festive Peruvian dish of potatoes, choclo, cheese, rocoto, cuy, charqui, fish roes, and seaweed.
- Chicha for world-class gourmet Peruvian food from the famous Peruvian chef Gaston Acurio.
- Local markets such as San Pedro Market to sample authentic Peruvian cuisine, including fresh fruits, local delicacies, and traditional dishes. Favorite dishes here include caldo de gallina, cuy, and anticucho.
- Green Point Vegan Restaurant for delicious plant-based delights.
Things to do in Cusco Peru
Purchase the “Cusco Tourist Ticket” to Gain Access to 16 historical sites
Maximize your time in Cusco and the Sacred Valley by purchasing the “Cusco Tourist Ticket,” also known as the Boleto Turistico. This comprehensive admission pass grants you access to some of the region’s most captivating attractions. The full ticket is valid for an impressive 10-day period, while the partial ticket allows exploration for two days. For just 130 soles ($36 USD), or 70 soles ($19 USD) for the partial ticket, you can unlock the wonders of Cusco and beyond.
With the Cusco Tourist Ticket, you can delve into the fascinating history of the region. Explore renowned Cusco ruins such as Saqsayhuamán, Q’enqo, Puka pukara, and Tambomachay. Discover the ancient secrets of the Sacred Valley at Pisac, Ollantaytambo, Chinchero, and Moray. Immerse yourself in the vibrant cultural scene by visiting Cusco’s museums and monuments, including the Contemporary Art Museum, Museo Historical Regional, Monumento Pachacuteq, Tipon, Museo de Quoricancha, Museo de Arte Popular, Centro Quosqo de Arte Nativo, and Pikillaqta.
Remember, this ticket is essential as there are no general admission tickets available at the entrances.
Hike up Palccoyo Rainbow Mountain
Hike up Palccoyo Rainbow Mountain, a breathtaking natural wonder located just 2 hours outside of Cusco near Cusipata. This 3.5-kilometer hike takes you through varied terrain, leading you to the vibrant landscapes of Rainbow Mountain. Along the way, be prepared to be mesmerized by panoramic views from several lookout points, offering sweeping vistas of the surrounding Andean beauty.
As you ascend to the summit at an elevation of 5,010 meters, you’ll be rewarded with an awe-inspiring sight: the colorful striations that give Rainbow Mountain its name. Marvel at the vivid hues caused by mineral deposits, creating a truly unique and unforgettable scene.
During your journey, keep an eye out for the local wildlife. Encounter alpacas, llamas, and vicuñas, adding an extra touch of charm to your experience. Given the elevation, we’d recommended to acclimatize in Cusco for a couple of days before undertaking this hike.
Plaza De Armas
Immerse yourself in the vibrant heart of Cusco by visiting Plaza de Armas, the city’s most renowned plaza. Steeped in history, this square was once the bustling center for both the Spanish conquistadors and the Inca empire. Today, it is a hub of activity for tourists, offering a plethora of restaurants and nightlife spots to explore.
Absorb the spectacular architecture that surrounds the plaza and enjoy the breathtaking views of the mountains encircling Cusco. Take time to wander through the Cusco Cathedral, a majestic structure that showcases the city’s rich religious heritage.
Plaza de Armas is also an ideal spot for people-watching, allowing you to soak in the ambiance while absorbing the fascinating history of Cusco. Indulge in the charm of this iconic square and discover why it remains a beloved gathering place for locals and visitors alike.
Related: Lima vs Cusco: Which City is Better?
Shop at the Traditional San Pedro Market
Indulge in a sensory feast at the Traditional San Pedro Market, Cusco’s largest marketplace and a gastronomic hub of Peru. Located just a short walk from Plaza de Armas, this bustling market is a food lover’s paradise. Sample local culinary delights like lomo saltado, estofado de pollo, lentejas o arroz con huevos, ceviche, and even cuy (guinea pig).
Inaugurated in the early 20th century, the market was established when merchants were relocated from both Plaza de Armas and Plaza de San Francisco. Today, it offers a vibrant and authentic shopping experience, showcasing a wide variety of fresh produce, spices, handicrafts, and more.
Immerse yourself in the lively atmosphere, interact with friendly vendors, and savor the flavors of traditional Peruvian cuisine. Whether you’re a food enthusiast or seeking unique souvenirs, a visit to the San Pedro Market is a must-do to truly experience the cultural richness of Cusco.
Eat the Peruvian Delicacy of Cuy
Don’t leave Cusco without trying the unique Peruvian delicacy of cuy, or guinea pig, which holds a special place in the country’s culinary heritage. While Cusco itself offers various dining options, the most renowned place to enjoy cuy is in the nearby town of Tipón, notably Cuyeria Mónica. Prepared with expertise, the cuy is stuffed with a flavorful Peruvian black mint filling and cooked to perfection in a clay oven. Served alongside potatoes and rocoto rellenos (stuffed peppers), this dish is a true gastronomic delight.
To reach Tipón, a 45-minute drive by bus or taxi from Cusco is recommended, although some adventurous souls opt to hike the approximately 4-hour journey to build up their appetite. If time is limited, you can also find delicious cuy dishes at the San Pedro Market or one of the many restaurants in Cusco itself.
Take an all-inclusive trip into the Amazon Rainforest
Go on an unforgettable adventure by taking an all-inclusive trip into the magnificent Amazon Rainforest, specifically Peru’s renowned Manu National Park. This immersive experience offers an abundance of activities to delight nature enthusiasts. Explore the lush jungle through invigorating hikes, captivating boat trips, and enchanting birdwatching tours. Immerse yourself in the vibrant ecosystem as you indulge in night safaris, swim in the pristine waters of the Manu River, and even participate in jaguar research tours.
Throughout your journey, a private guide fluent in both English and Spanish will accompany you, providing invaluable insights into the region’s biodiversity and culture. As night falls, retreat to eco-lodges nestled deep within the Amazon jungle, allowing you to embrace the natural beauty and tranquility of your surroundings.
Go on a Cusco City Tour
Join a Cusco City Tour to immerse yourself in the vibrant history and culture of this Andean capital. Explore the main city sites and delve into the rich heritage of Cusco and the Sacred Valley. Witness the awe-inspiring ancient temples, ruins, and sacred spaces that hold centuries of stories within their walls.
Highlights of the tour include visits to the magnificent Basilica Cathedral, the mystical Q’enqo temple, the fascinating Puca Pucara fortress, the awe-inspiring Sacsayhuamán, the serene Tambomachay, and the renowned Temple of Coricancha.
Enjoy the convenience of an organized tour with hotel pickup and transportation to all the sites, allowing you to maximize your time and fully immerse yourself in the experience. However, please note that the entrance fees for the attractions are typically not included in the tour package.
Hike the Inca Trail To Machu Picchu
The most popular and our favorite way to get to Machu Picchu is by the iconic Inca Trail hike, a world-renowned pilgrimage that leads you to the majestic Machu Picchu. Over a 4-day period, you’ll trace the footsteps of ancient civilizations and witness breathtaking vistas along the way.
Day 1 of the hike begins at KM 82, at the village of Piscacucho, where you’ll trek to the Ayapata or Wayllabamba campsite. As you traverse the trail on Day 2, you’ll encounter the ancient ruins of Warmiwañuska, conquer the challenging Dead Woman’s Pass, and cross the scenic Runqurakay Pass.
On Day 3, the journey continues through diverse ecological zones as you make your way to Phuyupatamarca and the remarkable archaeological site of Wiñaywayna. The final day brings a short hike to the Machu Picchu Sungate, where you’ll be rewarded with a captivating sunrise over Machu Picchu.
Throughout the hike, you’ll pass through enchanting cloud forests, discover ancient ruins, and be surrounded by majestic mountains. It’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to connect with nature and immerse yourself in Cusco’s rich history.
Capture the essence of this extraordinary pilgrimage, experience the sense of accomplishment as you reach Machu Picchu, and witness the magical sunrise that paints the ancient city with golden hues. The Inca Trail hike is an adventure that promises unforgettable memories and a deep connection to the awe-inspiring wonders of Cusco.
Explore the Ancient Ruins of Machu Picchu on a Full-Day Group Tour
Explore the ancient ruins of Machu Picchu on a full-day group tour, an ideal option for those who prefer not to hike the lengthy 4-day trek along the Inca trail. Discover the mythical allure of this world wonder and delve into its intriguing history with a knowledgeable local guide.
Uncover the hidden secrets concealed within Machu Picchu’s expansive grounds as you visit Qolqas, the Agricultural Zone, the Waterway, Temple of the Sun, Inka House, the Three Gates, Pisonay Square, and the Archaeological Reserve.
Marvel at the breathtaking landscapes of the Peruvian Andes as you travel to Machu Picchu by train. Immerse yourself in this extraordinary UNESCO World Heritage site, connecting with history and embracing the awe-inspiring beauty it beholds.
Hike the Salkantay Trek to Machu Picchu
Hike the Salkantay Trail, a multi-day trek through breathtaking mountain and jungle landscapes. This lesser-known route to Machu Picchu spans 4 to 5 days and offers a unique and scenic adventure.
As you trek, you’ll encounter glacier-fed lakes and picturesque snow-capped mountains, including the awe-inspiring Humantay Mountain. The trail rewards you with panoramic vistas that will leave you in awe.
Take a well-deserved break and relax in the rejuvenating Cocalmayo Hot Springs, surrounded by natural beauty. Then, complete your journey with a visit to Machu Picchu, one of the world’s seven wonders. The grand finale of this incredible hike allows you to explore the ancient ruins and immerse yourself in the historical and cultural significance of this extraordinary site.
Join a Peruvian Cooking Class
Indulge in a delightful Peruvian cooking class during your visit to Cusco. This vibrant city offers some of the best opportunities to learn the secrets of traditional Andean cuisine from skilled Peruvian chefs.
Begin your culinary adventure by exploring the local market, where you’ll handpick fresh and flavorful produce and meat for your cooking session. Immerse yourself in the rich culinary culture as you select the ingredients that will bring your dishes to life.
Under the guidance of a professional Peruvian chef, you’ll learn the techniques and recipes behind Andean specialties. From preparing mouthwatering ceviche to mastering the art of stuffed rocoto peppers, you’ll acquire valuable cooking skills and gain insights into Peruvian gastronomy.
The best part? After the class, you get to enjoy the delectable creations you’ve prepared. Sit down and enjoy the fruits of your labor, savoring the authentic flavors of Peruvian cuisine.
Drink Pisco Sour
Don’t leave Cusco without trying Peru’s national drink, the Pisco Sour. This renowned cocktail is beloved by locals and visitors alike, and it’s a must-try experience.
To enjoy a Pisco Sour, you can visit one of the vibrant bars in Cusco such as Republica Del Pisco, where skilled mixologists will craft this refreshing concoction for you. If you’re seeking a more immersive and educational experience, consider joining a Pisco Sour Tour. These tours provide insights into the history and distillation methods of Pisco, the key ingredient of the cocktail.
During the tour, you’ll also learn how to create a Pisco Sour cocktail yourself, mastering the art of combining the spirit with lime juice, sugar syrup, egg white, and Angostura bitters. Additionally, you’ll discover the proper techniques for drinking and enjoying the flavors of a Pisco Sour.
Hike to Humantay Lake
One of the best day trips from Cusco is hiking to the breathtaking Humantay Lake. After a scenic 4-hour drive to Soraypampa at an elevation of 3,850 meters, you’ll begin a 1.5-hour trek to reach the pristine Humantay Lake, situated at an elevation of 4,200 meters.
As you hike, be prepared to be mesmerized by the awe-inspiring views of the snow-capped Salkantay and Humantay Mountains. Once you arrive at the lake, take a moment to appreciate its serene beauty. If you’re feeling adventurous, take a refreshing plunge into the invigorating waters of the lake.
The stunning scenery and tranquil ambiance of Humantay Lake make it a remarkable destination. The experience of hiking to this natural wonder is reminiscent of our hike to Lake McArthur in the Rocky Mountains of Canada, where we encountered a wolverine on the trail a few years ago.
Visit the Sacred Valley
Visit the Sacred Valley as part of a day tour from Cusco. On this tour, you will see the Moray Archaeological ruins, Maras Salt Mines (Salineras de Maras), Pisac, and Ollantaytambo.
Wander around the Ancient Village of Ollantaytambo
Begin your Sacred Valley tour in the ancient village of Ollantaytambo. Wander through its picturesque streets and marvel at the ruins that overlook the village. The Ollantaytambo ruins is a popular destination as it is conveniently located near the main train station for those heading to the magnificent Machu Picchu.
Moray Archaeological Site
The next stop on your tour will be the Moray Archaeological Site, where the Inca people conducted agricultural experiments on circular terraces, manipulating lighting and temperature for different crops. Marvel at the ingenuity of their farming techniques.
Maras Salt Mines (Salineras de Maras)
Next, visit the Maras Salt Mines, a network of shallow salt pools in the valley. Witness the locals actively working in the mines, producing some of Peru’s most valuable salts.
Visit the town of Pisac in the Sacred Valley
Conclude your Sacred Valley Tour by exploring the town of Pisac ruins, known for its well-preserved Inca architecture. From its terraces, which are still used for farming today, enjoy breathtaking views of the Urubamba Valley. These ruins offer a glimpse into the grandeur of the Inca civilization on a smaller scale than Machu Picchu.
Get Lost in Cusco’s streets
Discover Cusco’s charm by getting lost in its vibrant streets. Wander through the narrow cobblestone paths and discover hidden gems at every turn. Marvel at the colonial architecture and colorful facades that adorn the buildings.
Engage with friendly locals and experience the lively atmosphere of the city. Indulge in delicious street food such as empanadas and anticuchos from the food vendors lining the streets. Let the winding alleys guide you to unexpected encounters and unique experiences, creating memories that will last a lifetime.
Qosqo Center of Native Art
The Qosqo Center of Native Art, also known as Centro Qosqo de Arte Nativo in Spanish, is Cusco’s premier venue for the performing arts. This vibrant theater showcases the rich cultural heritage of the region through captivating dance and music performances. Immerse yourself in the traditional rhythms and colorful costumes as talented local artists take the stage.
From traditional Andean folk dances to captivating storytelling through movement, the performances at the Qosqo Center will transport you to a world of cultural beauty and artistic expression. Don’t miss the opportunity to witness the dynamic energy and passion that flows through every performance, leaving you with a deeper appreciation for the indigenous arts and traditions of Cusco.
Wander the Artisan neighborhood of San Blas
Explore the charming neighborhood of San Blas, located away from the main tourist center of Cusco. This trendy and creative district offers a bohemian atmosphere that is perfect for wandering and soaking up the local culture. Discover a plethora of art shops showcasing unique handmade crafts and traditional artwork created by local artisans.
San Blas is also home to a variety of cozy cafes, boutique shops, and some of Cusco’s best restaurants, where you can indulge in delicious cuisine and experience the vibrant local food scene. Take your time strolling through the narrow, winding streets, immersing yourself in the artistic ambiance of this eclectic neighborhood.
Take Spanish Lessons at one of the many Cusco Spanish Schools
Cusco is one of the best places in South America to learn spanish with several great Spanish Schools to choose from. This city offers affordable options for learning Spanish, allowing you to enhance your language skills while exploring the local culture.
One recommended school is Qente Spanish School, where Czarina spent two weeks learning Spanish. The school boasts highly trained teachers who have extensive experience in teaching Spanish to foreigners. Additionally, Qente Spanish School provides the option of homestay accommodations, where you can stay with a local family and enjoy two meals a day. They also host free weekly activities like salsa dancing, cooking classes, and volleyball games.
This immersive experience allows you to practice your Spanish outside of the classroom and gain a deeper understanding of the local way of life.
Related: Survival Spanish 101
Learn about Machu Picchu and the Sacred Valley at the Inca Museum
Learn about the rich history of the Inca Empire by visiting the Inca Museum in the heart of Cusco. This educational destination offers a comprehensive overview of the Inca civilization, providing information in both Spanish and English.
With its extensive collection of Incan artifacts and exhibits, the museum covers various periods, from pre-Inca societies to the height of the Inca Empire and the Spanish conquest. One notable highlight is the display of mummified bodies, offering a glimpse into ancient burial practices.
Eat Choclo con Queso
Enjoy the delicious traditional Peruvian snack known as Choclo con queso. This delightful treat features large, tender corn kernels, known as choclo, served alongside a side of creamy cheese. The corn is typically boiled or grilled to perfection, allowing its natural sweetness to shine through.
Paired with a slice or cube of soft cheese, such as queso fresco, the combination creates a mouthwatering blend of flavors and textures. Choclo con queso is a popular street food in Peru and can be found in local markets, food stalls, or restaurants.
Admire the Twelve-Angled Stone
Take a moment to admire the Twelve-Angled Stone in Hatunrumiyoc, nestled within Cusco’s historic district. This extraordinary stone showcases twelve meticulously crafted angles that flawlessly integrate into the Inca wall. It stands as a testament to the ingenuity of the Incas, with its precise construction dating back over 700 years.
Designated as a National Heritage object, the Twelve-Angled Stone forms an integral part of the wall belonging to the Palace of the Archbishop. As you stand before this remarkable piece of history, you’ll appreciate the architectural brilliance and craftsmanship that has endured the test of time.
Need to Always Stay Connected?
Visit one of Cusco’s Chocolate Museums
Don’t miss the chance to visit one of Cusco’s chocolate museums, especially since Peru is a major producer of cacao. One highly recommended museum is the popular Choco Museum, where you can take a tour and learn all about cacao.
During the workshop, you’ll have the opportunity to taste pure cacao beans sourced from the jungles near Cusco and discover the process of making chocolate. The highlight, of course, is indulging in the delicious chocolate creations. It’s a fun and educational experience that allows you to appreciate the rich flavors and cultural significance of chocolate in Peru.
Go Rock Climbing in Pitumarca
If you’re a rock climber, the best spot near Cusco is in Pitumarca, located near Cusco. Once here, head to the Ch’acco Huayllascca Climbing Park for an exciting adventure. The park offers a variety of routes on vertical and overhanging limestone cliffs, catering to climbers of different skill levels.
From moderate grades pf 5.6 to more challenging routes up to 5.13d, there’s something for everyone. While the park currently has only a few developed areas, they showcase the incredible potential of the region. Additionally, you’ll find impressive boulders scattered near the town.
To reach Pitumarca, take a bus from Cusco, which will take approximately two hours. From there, you can either hike or take a mototaxi for about 7 kilometers to the climbing park.
Go Whitewater Rafting
Experience the excitement of whitewater rafting near the charming Andean town of Oropesa, known for its delicious homemade Chuta bread, and declared Peru’s National Capital of Bread.
Enjoy on a thrilling adventure as you navigate Class III and IV rapids along the Vilcanota River. Feel the rush of the water as you paddle through the challenging sections. To add to the excitement, some tours also include zipline rides through the breathtaking Andean landscapes. This combination of rafting and ziplining offers an unforgettable day of outdoor fun and adrenaline.
Eat the Streets of Cusco on a Food Tour
Join a food tour through the streets of Cusco to enjoy the city’s diverse culinary delights and street food culture. This organized tour allows you to sample both sweet and savory dishes that are beloved by locals and often overlooked by tourists.
Indulge in authentic Cusco street food delicacies such as anticuchos (beef hearts), chicharron, tamales, cuy (guinea pig), lomo saltado, and papa con huevo. Don’t forget to try the traditional treats like choclo con queso, and arroz con leche and mazamorra. And to warm your soul, sip on a cup of rich hot chocolate.
Spend the Evening Salsa Dancing at Makumbero
Makumbero is one of the top dance clubs in Cusco, offering a vibrant atmosphere and playing a mix of lively salsa and bachata music. It’s the perfect place to spend an evening salsa dancing and enjoying the rhythmic beats.
If you’re new to salsa, don’t worry! Sometimes there’s an instructor present at the bar, teaching new steps to those interested. Whether you’re a seasoned dancer or a beginner, Makumbero provides a fun and energetic environment for everyone to let loose, move their feet, and have a great time on the dance floor.
If you like salsa dancing, don’t miss Medellin Colombia, home to some of South America’s best salsa establishments.
Visit Qorikancha Temple (Sun Temple)
Located in Santo Domingo Plaza in Cusco, the Qorikancha Temple, also known as Coricancha, Qoricancha, or Koricancha, holds great significance as one of the most sacred temples of the Inca Empire. While much of the temple was destroyed by the Spanish during their conquest, the ruins still offer a glimpse into the grandeur of the Inca civilization.
The name “Qorikancha” combines the Quechua words “quri” meaning worked gold, and “kancha” meaning temple or place enclosed by walls. The site’s historical and cultural importance makes it a must-visit for those interested in learning about the rich Inca heritage and the impact of the Spanish colonization on indigenous traditions.
Experience Cusco Nightlife
Experience the vibrant nightlife of Cusco, a favorite party spot in Peru among backpackers. Explore a wide array of options to enjoy an exciting night out in the city. Dance the night away at popular clubs such as El Muki Discoteca, The Temple Club, or InkaTeam, where you can groove to the latest beats and mingle with fellow travelers and locals.
For a more upscale experience, visit Limbo RestoBar, where you can indulge in delicious local cuisine and sip on exquisite drinks. Whether you prefer lively dance floors or a sophisticated ambiance, Cusco offers something for everyone to enjoy a memorable night on the town.
Explore the Ancient Ruins of Sacsayhuaman, Q’engo, Tambomachay, and Puca Pucara
The Ancient Ruins of Sacsayhuaman near Cusco, Peru, are a testament to Inca architectural prowess. This UNESCO World Heritage site features enormous stone walls, meticulously crafted without mortar, showcasing Inca precision. The site’s grandeur is enhanced by massive stones, some weighing over 100 tons, seamlessly fitted together.
Sacsayhuaman’s strategic hilltop location offers panoramic views of Cusco, including the iconic Plaza de Armas. Accessible by bus, taxi, or a scenic 30-minute hike up Pumacurco, exploring these ruins provides a glimpse into Inca cultural heritage and advanced construction techniques, while underscoring the historical significance of the region.
Q’engo boasts intricate carvings and sacred altars, while at Tambomachay, you’ll find a series of water channels and fountains believed to have held ceremonial significance. Finally, Puca Pucara, known as the “Red Fortress,” presents ruins with military features and stunning views of the surrounding landscape. As you explore these sites, you’ll be transported back in time, in awe at the ingenuity and craftsmanship of the ancient Inca people.
Watch the Sunset at one of Cusco’s Viewpoints
Don’t miss the opportunity to witness the breathtaking sunset in Cusco. As the sun sets over the city, the golden light bathes the entire Sacred Valley, creating a mesmerizing spectacle.
For the best views, head to one of the city’s viewpoints such as Plaza San Cristobal, Mirador de San Blas, or from the iconic Cristo Blanco statue. From these vantage points, you’ll be treated to panoramic vistas and a front-row seat to the stunning display of colors as the sun dips below the horizon.
If you like breathtaking city views, check out our post on Sucre Bolivia which highlights amazing viewpoints and hikes in and near the city.
Stargaze at the Cusco Planetarium
For families and astronomy enthusiasts, a visit to the Cusco Planetarium is a must. Discover the wonders of the universe and delve into the fascinating world of Inca astronomy. The planetarium offers educational programs and interactive sessions where you can learn about the stars, constellations, and celestial objects.
Knowledgeable guides will take you on a journey through the cosmos, sharing insights about the Inca’s deep understanding of the night sky. Gaze at the stars through telescopes and witness the beauty of the Cusco night sky.
Tours can be booked online, which usually include roundtrip transportation from the Cusco Historical Center. to the Planetarium which is 15 minutes from downtown Cusco, adjacent to Saqsayhuaman and the Llaullipata Ecological Reserve.
Feed Alpacas at Awana Kancha Farm & Museum
Get up close and personal with adorable alpacas at Awana Kancha Farm & Museum. Located near Cusco, this farm offers a unique opportunity to feed and interact with these fluffy creatures. Learn about their fascinating lifestyle, wool production, and significance in Peruvian culture.
The friendly staff will guide you through the farm, introducing you to other traditional Andean animals like llamas, vicuñas, and guanacos. Discover the traditional textile techniques used by local artisans and witness the process of turning alpaca wool into beautiful garments.
Check out the Giant Rock Sculptures at Apukunaq Tianan
One newer attraction in Cusco not to be missed is the giant rock sculptures at Apukunaq Tianan, also known as the Abode of the Gods. Just a short 30 minute drive from Cusco’s Plaza de Armas, in the Senk’a community of the Poroy district, you’ll discover awe-inspiring sculptures reaching heights of 49 to 56 feet.
Created by artist Michael de Titan, these monumental artworks pay tribute to Andean culture, blending art with the surrounding natural landscape. Each sculpture represents different gods and figures from the Andean tradition, reminiscent of the ancient Incas. Explore this unique site and marvel at the fusion of art and nature, celebrating the rich heritage of the Andean people.
Visit the Ancient Ruins of Pikillaqta & Tipon
Take a trip to the ancient ruins of Pikillaqta and Tipon, located near Cusco. Pikillaqta, situated about 20km east of Cusco, is a fascinating Wari ruin. The Wari civilization thrived in the region before the Inca Empire. Explore the remains of this ancient settlement and learn about its historical significance.
Just nearby, you’ll find Tipon, a terraced Inca ruin complex primarily used for agricultural purposes. Marvel at the impressive terraces and irrigation systems that showcase the advanced engineering skills of the Incas.
Conquer the Choquequirao Trek
One of the best outdoor activities in the region is hiking to Choquequirao, a remarkable alternative to the Inca Trail. This challenging trek spans 64 kilometers over four days, leading you to awe-inspiring archaeological ruins comparable in size to Machu Picchu. Nestled high on the Quriwayrachina mountain at an elevation of 3,050 meters, Choquequirao offers a captivating journey into ancient history.
The hike begins in the town of Cachora, reachable by a six-hour bus ride from Cusco. Along the way, you’ll descend 1,500 meters into the stunning Apurimac Canyon, boasting diverse microclimates. From there, a strenuous ascent of 1,800 meters awaits you, leading to the magnificent ruins.
Due to the length and difficulty of the hike, it’s advisable to hire an experienced guide who can provide accommodations and meals throughout the journey. It’s also essential to have a high fitness level to tackle this multi-day expedition successfully.
Hike the 7 Lakes of Ausangate
Join an exciting one-day hiking adventure to explore the breathtaking beauty of the Seven Lakes of Ausangate. This guided tour offers an opportunity to witness the mesmerizing turquoise lakes and the majestic snow-capped mountains that surround them. As you traverse the scenic trails, you’ll encounter llamas and alpacas grazing in the picturesque landscapes.
Along the way, you’ll have the chance to visit indigenous villages, where local artisans sell their exquisite handmade textiles, allowing you to immerse yourself in the rich cultural heritage of the region.
If you decide to join a hiking tour, be prepared for a long day, starting with an early morning departure. However, the tour operators will provide you with breakfast and lunch to ensure you stay energized throughout the day.
If you are a hiking fanatic like us, Cocora Valley Colombia is another top spot to visit.
Enjoy a Traditional Inca Massage after a Long Day of Hiking
Enjoy a rejuvenating Traditional Inca Massage to unwind after a rewarding few days of hiking the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu. Cusco is dotted with affordable spas that offer this therapeutic experience.
The massage incorporates medicinal herbs to alleviate muscle soreness and promote overall relaxation. As the session concludes, a direct friction technique using the nettle plant is performed, invigorating your body and stimulating circulation.
Banner – for a higher end experience and the best spa in Cusco, head to Casa Cartagena. Options include therapy baths, body wraps, couple massages, and plunge pools
Mountain Bike through the Sacred Valley
Go on an exhilarating mountain biking adventure through the breathtaking scenery of the Sacred Valley. This full-day excursion allows you to explore the region’s distinctive landscapes and visit notable attractions along the way.
Marvel at captivating viewpoints, pedal through the impressive Moray Archaeological Site, discover the fascinating Maras Salt Mines, and soak in the beauty of Laguna de Huaypo. With your trusty mountain bike as your companion, you’ll have the opportunity to experience the valley’s natural wonders up close while enjoying the thrill of biking through its diverse terrain.
Paraglide over the Sacred Valley
If you’re visiting Cusco, one of the most thrilling and adventurous things to do is paragliding over the breathtaking Sacred Valley. You’ll soar above stunning landscapes and ancient Incan ruins, creating unforgettable memories.
There are various options to choose from, depending on your preferences and budget. For instance, basic packages will include 7 to 10 minutes of flying with a video included. If you want a longer flight and more maneuvers, you can go for a premium package, providing 10 to 16 minutes of flying, HD video, and plenty of photos. For those seeking a more personalized experience, pro packages offer 15 to 30 minutes of flying, private service, HD video, and photos.
Safety is a priority, and professional pilots will ensure you have a fantastic and secure experience. Don’t miss this incredible opportunity to see the Sacred Valley from a unique perspective while enjoying the thrill of paragliding!
If you end up in Colombia, we’d also recommend paragliding in the Chicamocha Valley near San Gil, Colombia’s Adventure Sport Capital.
Hike the Classic Lares Route
Discover the hidden wonders of Cusco with a 4-day Lares Trek to Machu Picchu via the rugged Lares trekking route. This off-the-beaten-path adventure offers breathtaking scenery, visits to traditional Andean communities, and majestic snow-covered peaks. Experience the rich culture of the region, visiting small Quechua mountain villages and the ancient Inca fortress at Ollantaytambo.
The trek reaches high-altitude passes, adding a touch of adventure to your journey. At Aguas Calientes, relax in natural hot springs, before exploring the legendary Machu Picchu with a guided tour and free time to wander and soak in the awe-inspiring beauty. As part of a tour, this all-inclusive experience features a professional bilingual guide, accommodations, meals, transfers, and more.
Relax in some Inca Hot Springs
Enter a state of ultimate relaxation by visiting the Inca hot springs nestled in the scenic Lares Valley. After completing a multi-day hike in the Sacred Valley, immersing yourself in these soothing thermal waters is the ideal way to unwind. Sourced from the majestic Andean mountains, the hot springs are enriched with mineral properties renowned for their healing benefits.
To make your visit more convenient, you can opt for a day tour that includes transportation and meals, ensuring easier access to the rejuvenating thermal baths. Let the warm waters envelop you as you soak away any fatigue from your adventure-filled journey. Bask in the tranquility of the surroundings and let the healing properties of the Inca hot springs revitalize your body and mind.
Hike the Cachiccata Trail (also known as the Inca Quarry Trek)
In Cusco, a fascinating adventure awaits with the Cachiccata Trail or Inca Quarry Trek to Machu Picchu. This 4-day trek offers a unique journey through less-crowded archaeological sites, including a visit to a rock quarry once used to supply stones for Inca structures and a cave with Incan mummies.
The trail leads to the renowned Sun Gate, marking the entrance to the Lost City of the Incas – Machu Picchu. During the trek, you’ll camp under the stars for two nights and stay in a comfortable hostel for one night. The experience comes complete with a knowledgeable guide, camping equipment, meals, and porters to carry your gear.
Learn the History of the Coca Plant at Museo de la Coca
Discover the intriguing history and multiple uses of the coca plant at the Museo de la Coca. While coca leaves are often associated with the negative aspects of cocaine production, they also have significant medicinal properties. In the Cusco region, where high elevations can cause altitude sickness, indigenous people and hikers chew coca leaves to prevent or alleviate these symptoms.
The museum sheds light on the traditional and cultural significance of coca, showcasing its diverse applications. Gain a deeper understanding of this plant’s role in the local culture and its value beyond illicit drug production.
If you’re planning to do some trekking yourself while in Cusco, be sure to pick up some leaves from the local market for less than $1 USD. Chewing on the coca leaves really work wonders for preventing and reducing altitude sickness. Alternatively, you can boil the leaves to make a tea.
If you enjoyed hiking in and around Cusco, be sure to read our post on Minca Colombia with information on La Ciudad Perdida trek, Colombia’s Lost City.
Shop for Alpaca Clothing
As alpacas are indigenous to the Andes Mountains, Cusco offers a wide array of alpaca souvenirs and cozy garments perfect for trekking or chilly weather. Discover the Centro de Textiles Tradicionales del Cusco, a non-profit organization dedicated to preserving the rich tradition of weaving in Peru. Here, you can delve into the history of Peruvian weaving and witness captivating daily demonstrations showcasing the intricate artistry behind these textiles.
With reasonable prices and a variety of options available, shopping for alpaca clothing in Cusco is a must for both tourists and outdoor enthusiasts. Find the perfect alpaca memento and support local artisans at the same time.
If you like this shopping for unique clothing, check out our post on La Guajira Colombia where you can read about the colorful mochila bags made by the indigenous Wayuu people of the region.
Get Your Tarot Read
A lot of people flock to Cusco for spiritual activities. Although I’ve never been a spiritual person myself I was keenly intrigued to try one of these activities. There were a couple of spiritual activities to pick from and among them are Wachuma or San Pedro ceremonies—their local take on Ayahuasca that is usually found in the Amazon—and tarot readings.
I opted for the less exciting tarot reading from a local shaman. It started with a hymn and found myself surrounded by cards I picked. Overall, I was blown away by the accuracy of her reading of on my situation. It made me dig deeper into my spiritual side and intuition.
We hope you enjoyed this post, feel free to leave a comment below with any questions or to share your experience in Cusco!