Best Places to Visit in Cusco
Cusco is a city located in the southeastern region of Peru, nestled in the Andes Mountains. It was once the capital of the Inca Empire and is now a popular tourist destination known for its well-preserved colonial architecture, vibrant culture, and proximity to ancient Inca ruins, such as Machu Picchu.
The city is situated at an altitude of 3,399 meters (11,152 feet) above sea level and is surrounded by beautiful mountain scenery. The historic center of Cusco is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is home to many museums, galleries, and artisan markets.
Cusco is also a gateway to the Sacred Valley of the Incas, which is located at a lower altitude than the city and is home to many Inca ruins and traditional Andean villages. Visitors can also take the famous Inca Trail trek to Machu Picchu from Cusco, which takes 4 days and offers stunning views of the Andean landscape.
Overall, Cusco is a fascinating destination for travelers interested in history, culture, and adventure.
Why is Cusco so special?
Cusco is a special city for many reasons, including its rich history, vibrant culture, stunning architecture, and breathtaking scenery. Here are a few key factors that make Cusco such a unique and remarkable destination:
Historical significance: Cusco was the capital of the Inca Empire, one of the most powerful and sophisticated pre-Columbian civilizations in the Americas. As a result, the city is steeped in history and is home to many well-preserved Inca ruins and colonial-era architecture.
Cultural diversity: Cusco is a melting pot of different cultures, including indigenous Quechua communities and descendants of Spanish conquistadors. This blend of cultures is reflected in the city’s food, music, art, and festivals.
Stunning architecture: Cusco’s historic center is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is home to many impressive examples of colonial-era architecture, including churches, monasteries, and mansions built on top of Inca foundations.
Natural beauty: Cusco is located in the heart of the Andes Mountains, surrounded by breathtaking scenery and diverse ecosystems. Visitors can explore snow-capped peaks, lush valleys, and dense forests, all within easy reach of the city.
Gateway to Machu Picchu: Cusco is the starting point for many visitors to Machu Picchu, one of the most iconic and mysterious archaeological sites in the world. The trek to Machu Picchu takes visitors through stunning landscapes and offers a glimpse into the ancient world of the Incas.
Cusco is located at an elevation of 3,399 meters (11,152 feet) above sea level in the Andes Mountains. This high altitude can make it more challenging to breathe and can cause altitude sickness in some visitors who are not accustomed to being at high elevations. It is important to take the necessary precautions, such as drinking plenty of water, resting frequently, and avoiding alcohol and caffeine, in order to acclimatize to the altitude and avoid altitude sickness.
10 Best Places to Visit in Cusco
Find out what to do in Cusco with this guide to the best activities! From majestic hikes to exploring iconic sites. The Cusco City Center is a must-see for any trip to Peru. It’s here that you can immerse yourself in the ancient culture of this country. Discover the hidden gems of Cusco!
1)Pet a cute alpaca
If you have just arrived in Cusco, have your camera ready, every street you go down in the city you will bump into local ladies typically dressed with baby alpacas offering photos in exchange for a tip. Of course, you can’t miss their adorable alpaca lambs and baby alpacas.
Every day hundreds of photos of them posing with the baby alpacas are uploaded to social media. It is also highly recommended to visit the alpaca farm in Pisac, for this it is necessary to take a tour to Pisac from Cusco.
2) Cusco Museums
Cusco is home to a variety of museums that offer insights into the city’s rich history, culture, and art. Here are some of the most popular museums in Cusco:
Inca Museum (Museo Inka): Located in the heart of Cusco’s historic center, the Inca Museum showcases the history and culture of the Inca Empire. The museum features artifacts and exhibits related to Inca art, textiles, metallurgy, and architecture.
Pre-Columbian Art Museum (Museo de Arte Precolombino): This museum is housed in a beautifully restored colonial-era mansion and features a collection of pre-Columbian art from throughout the Americas. The exhibits showcase the artistic traditions and cultural diversity of the ancient peoples of the region.
Casa Concha Museum: This museum is located in a historic colonial-era mansion and features a collection of Inca artifacts that were excavated from Machu Picchu. The exhibits include ceramics, textiles, and other objects that provide insights into the daily life and culture of the Inca people.
Museum of Religious Art (Museo de Arte Religioso): This museum is housed in the beautiful Church of Santa Clara and features a collection of colonial-era religious art, including paintings, sculptures, and textiles.
Regional Historical Museum (Museo Historico Regional): This museum is located in a 16th-century colonial-era mansion and features exhibits related to the history and culture of the Cusco region, from pre-Columbian times to the present day.
3) Southern Skies Planetarium Experience
This is more dedicated to astronomy and history lovers. Afternoon free? on a night tour you can visit this amazing place or go on your own, learn about constellations and all about the stars from expert local guides who will show you literally everything about the galaxy from the city of Cusco.
4) San Blas District
San Blas is a historic neighborhood in Cusco, located just a few blocks from the main plaza. It is known for its narrow, winding streets, colonial-era architecture, and artistic community. Here are some of the highlights of San Blas:
San Blas Church: This 16th-century church is located in the heart of the neighborhood and features a beautiful colonial-era facade and ornate baroque interior.
Artisan Market: San Blas is home to a bustling artisan market where visitors can find a variety of handmade crafts, textiles, and souvenirs. The market is particularly known for its handmade ceramics and woodcarvings.
Plaza San Blas: This charming little plaza is surrounded by colonial-era buildings and is a great spot to relax and take in the atmosphere of the neighborhood.
Art Galleries: San Blas is home to a number of art galleries showcasing the work of local artists. Visitors can browse a variety of styles and media, from traditional Andean textiles to contemporary paintings and sculptures.
Restaurants and Cafes: San Blas has a thriving food and beverage scene, with a variety of restaurants, cafes, and bars offering everything from traditional Andean cuisine to international dishes and craft cocktails.
5) Qoricancha Temple in Cusco
Qoricancha (also known as Coricancha or Koricancha) is a historic Inca temple located in the heart of Cusco, Peru. The temple was one of the most important religious sites in the Inca Empire, dedicated to the worship of the Sun God “Inti”.
During the Inca era, the walls of Qoricancha were covered in sheets of gold and it was filled with precious artifacts, making it one of the most revered and sacred sites in the empire. However, after the Spanish conquest, the temple was largely destroyed and its gold and treasures were taken.
Today, visitors to Qoricancha can explore the ruins of the temple and see the impressive stonework that the Incas were famous for. The temple is also home to a number of important colonial-era religious paintings and sculptures, including works by artists such as Diego Quispe Tito and Marcos Zapata.
One of the most impressive features of Qoricancha is the perfectly fitted masonry of the Inca stonework, which still survives in many parts of the complex. Visitors can also see the remains of a large garden and the underground tunnels that were said to connect Qoricancha with other important Inca sites throughout Cusco.
6) Explore the Sacred Valley
If you are looking to explore Inca sites you can opt for the Sacred Valley tour from Cusco. The Sacred Valley is home to Inca ruins and offers the best local markets to buy souvenirs. Interact with local people and live a unique experience driving through the most beautiful landscapes with the best views of the Andean Mountain range in the distance.
7) San Pedro Market
A very typical local market located in the city of Cusco. Although the market is quite local or especially for locals, it became a tourist place for tourists. Here you will find the best souvenirs, alpaca clothing, vegetables, fresh fruits among many other things.
There are also rows of fruit bars, offering all kinds of fresh fruit juices. Here you can bargain for anything you want to buy and save a lot of money.
8) Visit the 12 angles stone
The stone is located in an ancient Inca street called hatunrumiyoc. It was part of the structure of an Inca palace, however at the present the wall constitutes one of the sides of the archbishop’s palace. Hatunruminyoc, according to scholars, means “The street of the big stone” in Quechua. It is one of the best maintained Inca walls in the whole region of Cusco, with colonial structures built on top of it which shows a perfect combination of cultures.
The precision of Inca stonemasonry is remarkable. This is because they set the stones with such precision that it was not necessary to use mortar to stick them together.
Definitely a must see, learn more here.
9) The Cristo Blanco
The Cristo Blanco or White Christ is a statue of Jesus located atop a hill above the city of Cusco.
If you want to see a beautiful view of the city of Cusco then hike to the Cristo Blanco from Cusco. The statue of the White Christ is one of the best viewpoints in the whole city which offers breathtaking views of the city of Cusco.
Save some energy, take a cab to the statue and walk back to the city.
10) Visit Inca ruins from Cusco on foot or by cab
Visit ancient and mysterious ruins outside Cusco, here are 4 Inca ruins that you can visit in 1 day on your own or on a tour from Cusco.
Sacsayhuaman ruins: Sacsayhuaman (also spelled Saqsaywaman), in Cusco, is a must-see ruin while exploring the city of Cusco.
You can walk to Sacsayhuaman directly from the Plaza de Armas from Cusco. Sacsayhuaman itself is an outstanding site with three fortified platforms built by the Incas. In addition, Sacsayhuaman is part of the UNESCO sites in the Cusco area, declared it a World Heritage site in 1983.
It is really impossible to imagine how these huge stones were moved and then fitted together so perfectly with basic tools. Discover more about this ancient site with a local guide or on your own or on the city tour.
Tambomachay: Tambomachay is an archaeological site associated with the Inca Kingdom, located near Cusco, Peru. The ruins of Tambomachay are an amazing site to see the aqueducts, carved stone structures made up of irrigation canals and waterfalls that come from nearby springs.
You can take a bus called “Cristo Blanco” (White Christ) which costs 2 soles per person. The entrance fee is included in the tourist ticket which costs 130 soles. The complex is quite small but very well worth it.
Kenko: Archaeologists suggest that it was an important ceremonial temple where sacrifices and mummifications were performed. There is also evidence that the site was used for astronomical observations for agricultural purposes.
Where to Stay in Cusco
We know how important it is to choose a good hotel in Cusco but also how overwhelming it is to choose a good hotel in Cusco.
Prices of hotels in Cusco vary, depending on categories, locations and services. Here we offer you a list of the best hotels in Cusco. We will start from the cheapest to 5 star hotels in Cusco.
- Hotel Rumi Punku
- Antigua Casona San Blas
- El Mercado
- Casa Andina Standard Cusco Plaza
- Belmond Palacio Nazarenas
- Belmond Hotel Monasterio
- Palacio del Inka
Best Day tours from Cusco
Cusco is a city full of history, culture, and natural beauty, and there are many tours available to help visitors explore all that it has to offer. Here are some of the best tours in Cusco:
Machu Picchu Tour: This tour takes visitors to the world-famous Inca citadel of Machu Picchu, located just a few hours from Cusco. The tour typically includes transportation to and from Machu Picchu, a guided tour of the site, and time to explore on your own.
Sacred Valley Tour: This tour takes visitors to some of the most beautiful and historically significant sites in the Sacred Valley, including the ruins of Pisac, Chinchero, Maras Salt Mines, Moray and Ollantaytambo, as well as traditional Andean markets and artisan workshops.
City Tour of Cusco: This tour takes visitors to some of the most important historical and cultural sites in Cusco, including the main plaza, the cathedral, and the Inca temple of Qoricancha.
Rainbow Mountain Tour: This tour takes visitors on a trek to the stunning Rainbow Mountain, known for its vibrant colors and dramatic scenery.
Humantay Lake Tour: Humantay Lake (Laguna Humantay) is a stunning turquoise lake located in the Peruvian Andes, about a 3-hour drive from the city of Cusco. The lake is situated at an altitude of 4,200 meters (13,780 feet) and is surrounded by snow-capped mountains, making for a breathtakingly beautiful landscape. Visitors are encouraged to do their research and book tours in advance to ensure availability.
Maras and Moray Tour: This tour takes visitors to the ancient Inca salt pans of Maras and the fascinating agricultural terraces of Moray.
Inca Trail Trek: For more adventurous visitors, the Inca Trail trek is a multi-day hike through the Andes that leads to Machu Picchu, passing by ancient ruins, mountain passes, and stunning natural scenery along the way.
These are just a few of the many tours available in Cusco, and there are options for every interest and budget.