10 BEST THINGS TO DO IN CUSCO, PERU – THE ULTIMATE GUIDE

10 BEST THINGS TO DO IN CUSCO, PERU – THE ULTIMATE GUIDE

Cusco is one of my favourite cities in Peru and it’s the common starting point for many travellers 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 acclimatise to the high altitude and secondly to relax after my seven-day trek in the Andes with Killa Expeditions.

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 trip!

 

Wondering what Camera & Photography Gear I use while backpacking around the world? Click Here to view my gear list and essential travel items that I recommend for your next adventure!

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WHERE IS CUSCO & HOW TO GET THERE

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.

There are a couple of options of getting to Cusco which I have listed below:

By Plane: 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 SkyScanner to search and book all of my flights as they always have the cheapest rates.

Click Here to search all Lima to Cusco flights on SkyScanner.com

By Bus: Arriving in Cusco by bus is another great option of 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 travelling with them.

Click Here to visit the Peru Hop website for more information and to book your bus tickets online.

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 10 AWESOME THINGS TO DO IN CUSCO

#1 PLAZA DE ARMAS CUSCO

Plaza de Armas is the perfect place to begin any Cusco city tour. Located in the centre 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 is 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.

Find All ∼ Best Hotels in Cusco

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#2 SAN PEDRO MARKET

Next on this Cusco itinerary is the famous San Pedro Market, a must visit location to add on your list of things to do in Cusco. 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! From Plaza de Armas it is approximately a ten-minute walk to the San Pedro Market.

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 colourful 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 – What to do in Cusco

Colours everywhere at 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 a 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 as it’s one of the best things to do in Cusco Peru.

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!

Find All ∼ Flights to Cusco

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#4 SAQSAYWAMAN ANCIENT RUINS

Just five minutes walk from 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 8am 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

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#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 neighbourhood 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!

Search All ∼ Day Trips From Cusco

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#6 EAT STREET FOOD IN CUSCO

Eating street food in any third world country can be daunting but I assure you that it is 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!

Find All ∼ Best Hotels in Cusco

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#7 WALKING CITY TOUR CUSCO

Without 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 in Cusco. 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.

Find All ∼ Flights to Cusco

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#8 EXPERIENCE CUSCO’S NIGHTLIFE

Another one of the best things to do in Cusco is to enjoy a night out on 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!

Free ∼ $40 AirBnb Discount

Things to do in Cusco at night

Body shots at The Point Hostel – Cusco nightlife

#9 DAY TRIPS FROM CUSCO

As I mentioned earlier, Cusco is the main hub and starting point for people planning to visit Machu Picchu, Rainbow Mountain, Sacred Valley and numerous other Cusco day tours. 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!

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#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 and trekking around these mountain ranges in Peru is one of the best things to do in Cusco. 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.

Tip: If you decide to book a trek with Killa Expeditions, get in touch with me first via email or Instagram and I can get you a special discount to knock some $ off the total price!

Find All ∼ Flights to Cusco

WATCH MY PERU TREKKING VIDEO

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BEST PLACES TO STAY IN CUSCO

Cusco has hundreds of accommodation options to choose from, so I have narrowed it down to a few of my personal favourite places to stay in Cusco to fit the needs of budget backpackers and luxury travellers. 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 private bathroom. Oxygen-enriched rooms are also available for those who struggle with high altitudes.

Click Here to check availability and rates at JW Marriott El Convento Cusco

Mid Range: Tambo del Arriero Hotel Boutique

  • A charming colonial boutique hotel located in the Nueva Alta neighbourhood, a short walking distance to the San Pedro Market and Cusco’s main square. The rooms are spacious and cosy featuring a TV, iPhone docking station, free wifi, work desk, warm heating and some even boast a private jacuzzi.

Click Here to check availability and rates at Tambo del Arriero Hotel Boutique

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 ambience 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 cosy private rooms available at a very affordable price and breakfast is included.

Click Here to check availability and rates at Frankenstein Hostel

For all other accommodations in Cusco, Click Here to search on Booking.com

Airbnb Cusco: Another option is to stay in an Airbnb, which has some great deals in Cusco – Get your $40 Airbnb discount here!

Booking.com

CUSCO MAP

Want to travel full-time? ∼ Click Here To Learn How!

CUSCO, PERU – 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

Thanks for reading this article and if you have any questions at all about What To Do In Cusco,  please leave me a comment below and I will get back to you as soon as I can.

Happy Travels! ?

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2 Comments

  1. chris
    May 17, 2019 / 12:04 pm

    awesome post!

    • Jonny Melon
      Author
      May 17, 2019 / 12:37 pm

      Thanks very much Chris. Glad you like it!

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