April 20, 2022
Cusco is at the top of the bucket list of many travellers, and for good reasons. Being the archaeological capital of the Americas, the city is one of the most magical places in the world. Its colourful culture, impressive architecture, delicious food, and fascinating history will create unforgettable memories.
You might want to visit the Sacred Valley and the famous Machu Picchu, but we will cover that in another blog. There are so many great things to do in Cusco that it deserves its own article!
Keep reading if you want to learn everything you need to know to prepare for your vacation in Cusco!
How many days in Cusco
Well, of course, this question will depend on the time you have and your budget. But one thing is certain is that you should take it slow and keep a day to get acclimatised to the altitude, so you don’t get sick your entire trip. Cusco itself is not that high, around 3400 m above the sea level, but it’s enough for you to experience some symptoms like shortness of breath, dizziness, stomachaches, or headaches. If you have a pre-existing condition like asthma, for example, make sure that you check with your doctor before travelling. But do not worry, the symptoms usually disappear after a few hours/days, and you can always visit a pharmacy to buy Sorojchi Pills or try drinking some coca tea.
That being said, there are so many exciting things to do in Cusco and the sacred valley that you should at least spend five days exploring the region. Obviously, you can decide to spend less time there, but you will have to choose between so many incredible things, and you might end up disappointed.
How to get to Cusco
Your adventure in Peru will start in Lima, where most international flights arrive simply because the airport in Cusco is small and is not designed to handle larger aircraft. However, this will change with the construction of the new airport located in Chinchero that will replace the old, outdated Alejandro Velasco Astete airport.
From Lima, you have different options to travel to Cusco.
This is by far the easiest option. Daily flights take only an hour and will get you in Cusco before 12 am, letting you some free time exploring the city and getting used to the altitude. Different airlines are doing this route, and you can find a ticket for less than $30 depending on the services. You can choose between Latam, Sky Airline, Viva Air Peruvian Airlines or Star Peru.
If you have more time on your hand and want to explore different parts of Peru, this can be a nice option for you. But you must be prepared to spend a long, LONG time on the bus.
The quickest way is to take a direct bus that will pass through Nazca and take around 18 to 21h. Or, if you prefer to stop in different cities, you can choose the option that will get you to Arequipa so you can explore the famous white city. This route takes around 24 to 27 hours.
Best time to visit
Due to its proximity to this equator, Peru has only two seasons, the wet and dry season, which tells you pretty much when you should or not visit Cusco and the Sacred Valley.
The rainy season is between October/ November and March. The very heavy rain can disrupt the transportation and causes landslides so we wouldn’t recommend travelling there during these months. Plus, the Inca Trail closes every year in February for maintenance and conservation work.
As you can expect, the dry season starts in April / May and finishes around October. However, the months of June, July and August are extremely busy, and all the accommodations are full, so that you will encounter a lot of travellers in the city and the different trails.
This is why we recommend travelling to Cusco and the Sacred Valley in April and May so you can enjoy the lush landscapes and magical places without the crowd of tourists.
Have a coffee in San blas
Also known as the artisan quarter, San Blas is a very pretty and picturesque neighbourhood where you can spend a few hours wandering the white streets. You will find plenty of cute boutiques, awesome coffee shops and delicious restaurants. Despite being in all the touristy guides, the bohemian area remains pretty quiet and keeps its laid back atmosphere. Don’t forget to bring your camera because San Blas is undoubtedly one of the most beautiful places in the city!
Admire the view of Plaza De Armas
Of course, you can’t go to Cusco without visiting the gorgeous and buzzing Plaza de Armas! It was built on the remains of Great Inca Square, and it’s today the beating heart of the city. There is always something happening there, so you can sit on a bench in the middle of the colourful gardens and enjoy the festivities.
But if you want a really cool view of the main square and the surrounding mountains, head off to the Church of the Company of Jesus, climb the rickety stairs and enjoy the landscape from the choir.
Buy some souvenirs at the artisan center
If you need some inspiration for what you can bring to your family, the artisan centre is the best place to start. From Tumi statues, alpaca clothes, llama pens to music instruments, you will find everything you can think of and much more. Keep in mind that it’s very common in Peru to bargain, so don’t buy the first thing that you see as there is a very good chance that you can find it cheaper at the next stand.
Admire incredible Inca work in Sacsayhuaman
The Incas are very famous for their impressive architecture, and Sacsayhuaman is no exception. The fortress is made of extremely well-shaped stones that each weigh around 300 tons; try to imagine how to move them. Most of the ruins have been removed, but you can still enjoy the remains of the religious site and the amazing view of Cusco.
Maybe this is not something you want to do on your first day, as the walk to get there can be quite demanding if you’re not acclimatised to the altitude. Or you can take a taxi which will be much more convenient.
Visit the Qoricancha Temple
Once one of the most important sacred temples for the Incas, Qoriancacha is today a very interesting place you can visit in Cusco. The museum's five rooms will tell you everything you need to learn about the Incas who lived in Cusco, and you will also have the chance to see super cool ancient clothes, contemporary art, and religious objects.
Even if you’re not into history, believe us, Qoricancha is a real work of art, and you will be amazed by its incredible architecture and beautiful gardens.
Get your dose of sugar at the Chocolate museum
If, like us, there is always a moment during the day when you’re craving something sweet, a visit to the Chocolate Museum is exactly what you need. From the harvest of the beans to the drying of the coca pods, you will learn everything about the chocolate-making process. But the most exciting thing to do at ChocoMuseo is to attend one of their workshops and learn how to make and savour your own chocolate.
If you’re short on time and can’t attend the workshop, you can still visit their boutique and have a delicious hot cholate with a huge slice of cake.
Eat some delicious food
On the same topic, Cusco is full of great restaurants where you can try Peruvian food. These are some of our favourite specialities that you absolutely need to try during your trip to Peru. The fried trout is served with rice, cassava manioc and salsa; the cuy al horno or roasted Guinea pig cooked with spice. But also, the famous ceviche that consists of fresh raw fish cured in citrus juice and Chicharron, which is fried pork usually accompanied by corn and fried potatoes.
Admire the view in one of the miradors
If you’re not too tired at the end of the day and are up for some exercise, you can admire the sunset from one of the miradors. The most famous is Plaza San Cristobal, where you will find some benches to relax and enjoy the breathtaking view of the city, but there is also the Cristo Blanco or the Mirador San Blas. If you prefer to sip a cold beer or a cocktail while you appreciate the view, head off to limbus resto-bar or 180 eco view bar.
Explore San Pedro Market
Your vacations in Cusco wouldn’t be complete without sampling food in San Pedro Market. Cusco’s most famous market is located just a few minutes walking from Plaza de Armas, and it’s an emblematic place where locals meet to buy fresh products from the region. You can spend hours strolling through the stands of handicrafts, clothes, vegetables, meat, flowers, bread, cheese etc. Just make sure that you keep an eye on your belongings as the market can get very crowded, and even with security guards watching, it’s better to be safe than sorry!
We hope that this article gave you an idea of how incredible Cusco is and why you should include it to your next trip to Peru! Get in touch if you want us to help you organise the adventure of your life. For more great things to do in Peru, have a look here.