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Cusco Travel Guide | Peru

Updated: Apr 24

In this article, you will find everything you need to know about Cusco!

Cusco is a special city, like no other place in Peru. Once there you can really feel how old this place is. It was there before Incas, during Incas, after the Spanish took over, and these days. So in Cusco, you can find some Inca ruins and at the same time many colonial buildings. Also impressive churches and beautiful squares across the city.

Cusco is also the main exit point to Machu Picchu, so many travelers pass by Cusco every day. I highly recommend you to spend some time in Cusco itself as it is a beautiful city to be in and a great place where to learn more about Peru and Inca culture.

If you do decide to spend a few days in Cusco then I have some amazing recommendations for you below!

  1. How to get to Cusco

  2. Best Food Places in Cusco

  3. Things to do in Cusco

  4. June - the month of Celebration

  5. Day Trips from Cusco

Here is this Cusco Travel Guide in a video format:

How to get to Cusco

Cusco actually has its own airport, but only for internal flights. So if you want to find the quickest and most convenient way how to get to Cusco, you might want to consider flying to Lima, the capital of Peru and from there take a flight to Cusco.

If you are more on budget and long bus rides do not bother you then there is a bus from every big city in Peru, like Lima and Arequipa. Also from La Paz in Bolivia. The bus ride from any of these big cities will take from 9 to 14 hours, but usually, those are night buses with very big comfortable chairs that fold back almost like beds so as long as you pass out on the way you will just sleep the whole ride and the ride won't be too bad. Also this way you save on one night in a hotel.

Once in Cusco make sure you stay around the historical center because then you will be near to everything within walking distance. Also, all the tour agencies are around there so will be easier to organize your trips from Cusco.

Best Food Places in Cusco

Here are some of the best-rated restaurants in Cusco:

  • Hanz Craft Beer & Restaurant - Amazing place where to try some local bears, loads of food options, also vegetarian-friendly and good views to the main square!

  • Yaku Restaurant - Amazing place offering different local dishes with some good happy hour offers. Vegetarian friendly.

  • Organika - One of the best-rated restaurants regarding service! Also some excellent local dishes with a fusion touch. Vegetarian friendly.

Because Cusco is such a tourist destination in Peru, the prices are also higher for tours and food than in other cities. As I was staying in Cusco for 2 weeks I had to find some cheap alternatives, so make sure to check out my top cheap eats in Cusco.

A very special place I want to highlight is Plaza Vista Cusco. This restaurant/cafe is quite hard to spot just like that on your way, so you need to know the exact location as it is on a tiny street on your way to San Cristobal Church. This place has the best view of Cusco city and the main square Plaza de Armas. They also offer a good 'menu of the day' deal! The address: Kiskapata120, Cusco, Peru.

Things to do in Cusco

Firstly, you need to check out the main square Plaza de Armas. It is a lively square featuring the main Cusco Cathedral and Church of the Society of Jesus. Also, the whole square is surrounded by many restaurants and cafes with little balconies allowing you to enjoy the main square buzz from the distance.

Cusco is full of other squares featuring some important landmarks, like:

  • Regocijo Square (also called Kusipata Square) featuring a beautiful fountain and a Museum of Contemporary Art

  • San Francisco Square and Church

  • San Pedro Square and Church whereas also the famous San Pedro Market can be found

  • San Cristobal Square and Church

To get amazing views of the whole city and even surrounding areas you have to make your way up to the Cristo Blanco viewpoint. There are two ways how to get up - the long way and the shortcut.

The popular long way starts from the main square. You take the road up to San Cristobal church, pass it, and once you see the entrance to the Saqsaywaman site, enter it and then make your way up on the right side after crossing the bridge. Of course, if you want you can visit the site on your way up. It will cost 70 Soles ( 18 EUR / 15 GBP / 19 USD). This is another thing to visit in Cusco, but I am not mentioning it really as a separate thing because I think there are many other amazing Inca sites to visit outside Cusco for the same or even less price!

So the other way is a shortcut through the San Blas area. Once you find the first stairs, it is just up. More stairs after more stairs. In the end, you will reach the main road and from there just left and you will see the statue.

Here I have marked both ways:

First Way - Long Way

You can simply put into Google Navigation 'Plaza de Armas to Cristo Blanco' and it will give you this option.

Or you can go up the way I have marked (red arrows). This will allow you to visit San Cristobal church and square on your way and have a sneak peek into the Saqsaywaman site for free. And it is a bit shorter than going all the way around.

Second Way - Short Way

This is the way I did and I am not sure if it is much shorter. Definitely a harder way because it is a lot of steps up. But if you want a straightforward road (stairs) up and a bit of fitness then this is the way for you. All you have to do is find the beginning of the stairs in the San Blas area and then just straight up!

The exact coordinates for the beginning of the stairs you can put in Google Maps are: 260 C. Tandapata, Cusco.

So either on your way to Cristo Blanco or on a separate day you have to check out the San Blas area. It is basically a little cute neighborhood within Cusco but once you are there you will understand why it is like a separate section of the city. The streets are very narrow and full of little boutique restaurants and cafes. The place has its own church - San Blas Church and a beautiful fountain. Also in San Blas, you will find most of the best cheap eats in Cusco.

Cusco in general is amazing for shopping. You will find many amazing little shops selling handmade ponchos and hats for your ultimate Peru look! But if you want a very local experience then you have to visit San Pedro Market. It is the main public market selling... everything! Clothing, accessories, food, medicine, souvenirs and you can even eat there!

While you will be wandering around the Cusco Old Town, you will notice several Inca sites. They won't be as big as the ones outside Cusco because during Spanish times a lot of Inca buildings were destroyed but thankfully archeologists have been able to revive some of them. You will find several Inca walls remaining in the city and also some sites that were used for farming.

The most interesting one I find is the Santo Domingo church which is actually built on the Inca temple Coricancha (Temple of the Sun).

Cusco also has some interesting museums teaching about the Inca times and culture. The most popular museums are:

  • Museo Quechua - History museum of Quechua culture

  • Museo Inka - Inca Archaeology museum

  • Museo de Arte Precolombino - Art museum of art before colonial times

And also you can find some fun museums here like chocolate, pisco and coffee museums. There are several commercial ones in the historical center just like in all other Peru cities.

June - the month of Celebration

If you want to come to Cusco when it is the liveliest, then definitely plan your trip in June as the whole of June is one big celebration in Cusco. This is purely a Cusco thing, not in Peru in general. Every day something is happening at the main square and other squares as well. The most festive day is the 24th of June when they celebrate the longest day and the shortest night.

Also, June is a good month to visit Cusco and Peru in general because it is the dry season month alongside July and August. So you are supposedly guaranteed almost no rain and sunny clear skies all the time.

I traveled to Cusco during June and I had amazing weather in Cusco all 2 weeks but, my luck. exactly the days when I was traveling to Machu Picchu it was cloudy and rainy so I didn't get a very clear view of Machu Picchu. So you just need to be ready for everything at the end. The dry season doesn't mean perfect weather is guaranteed.

Day Trips from Cusco

I think the best part about Cusco is the fact that there are so many amazing things to see and visit around the city. Starting from Machu Picchu and ending with Rainbow Mountains.

I think apart from the amazing 4-day trekking trip to Machu Picchu, my second favorite has to be the Rainbow Mountains. Absolutely incredible place.

After visiting Sacred Valley I learned so much about Peru and Inca history. It was a very interesting trip visiting many historical sites.

But more about all the amazing day trips you can do around Cusco read here: Best Day Trips from Cusco.

Also here is a video of all the day trips I did from Cusco:

Planning a trip to Machu Picchu? These two videos and articles might help you plan this trip better:


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