Travel Advice

The 11 essential things to do in Cusco.

Last update : 25/02/2024 11:23

Cuzco, nestled in the Peruvian Andes, unveils its millennia-old history through cobblestone streets and Inca walls. Once the capital of the Inca Empire, the city is a treasure trove of architectural wonders, seamlessly blending Spanish influences with indigenous heritage.

Embarking from Cuzco, the journey to the mystical citadel of Machu Picchu promises an epic adventure through the majestic Andean mountains. The imposing fortifications of Sacsayhuamán, perched nearby, offer a breathtaking panorama of the city and its history.

Vibrant markets like San Pedro reveal the lively soul of Cuzco, where local artisans, fresh produce stalls, and traditional textiles create a symphony of colors and flavors. The city, at high altitude, demands a gentle acclimatization but rewards visitors with stunning views of the surrounding mountains.

Fusing Inca traditions with Catholic celebrations, Cuzco comes alive during vibrant festivals, where traditional dances, colorful processions, and elaborate costumes transport visitors to a world of rituals and celebrations.

Local gastronomy entices palates with authentic dishes such as lomo saltado and alpaca delicacies, providing a memorable culinary experience in welcoming restaurants.

Artisan workshops preserve ancestral techniques, offering visitors the opportunity to acquire unique pieces that showcase Cuzco's craftsmanship.

As night falls, Cuzco reveals another facet of its magic, with illuminated streets, lively bars, and an enchanting atmosphere inviting immersion into the local nightlife.

Cuzco, blending a prestigious past with modern life, transports visitors on a sensory journey where history, culture, and nature harmoniously intertwine.

1 - The Place d’Armes

The Place d’Armes


The Plaza de Armas in Cuzco, a historic gem in Peru, offers a captivating experience for travelers. Surrounded by elegant colonial buildings and dominated by the majestic Cuzco Cathedral, it paints a living picture of Incan and Spanish history.

The vibrant atmosphere of the square lends itself to cultural celebrations, hosting festivals and parades where ancient traditions mingle with modern life. The colorful stalls of the surrounding craft markets reveal local artistic skill, inviting visitors to unearth unique souvenirs.

The backdrop of mountains adds a majestic dimension, creating a striking contrast between urbanity and nature. Cafés and restaurants provide an ideal space to relax, savor Peruvian cuisine, and observe the constant flow of people. The Plaza de Armas serves as a muse for artistic souls, inspiring creativity through its architectural details and enchanting ambiance.

Scattered benches and quiet corners encourage contemplation, making this place the gateway to an adventure steeped in Peruvian history and culture.

2 - The San Blas district

The San Blas district

The neighborhood of San Blas in Cuzco embodies the essence of a cultural and artistic adventure, attracting travelers eager for authentic discoveries. Its cobblestone, winding streets create a charming labyrinth, inviting exploration. The adobe facades of houses, with their colorful doors, reveal the artisanal and traditional character of the neighborhood.

The central square of San Blas vibrates with creative energy, surrounded by small shops, art galleries, and cafes where travelers can mingle with the local artistic community. The Church of San Blas, a Baroque treasure, provides an artistic sanctuary with its impressive architecture and detailed altars.

Panoramic views from the heights of the neighborhood captivate travelers, offering striking vistas of Cuzco's rooftops and the majestic surrounding mountains. Encounters with local artisans in their workshops provide an authentic immersion into traditional craftsmanship, ranging from tapestries to wood sculptures.

San Blas is not limited to visual exploration; it also evokes a gastronomic feast with its quaint restaurants serving local and international cuisine. The relaxed atmosphere invites lingering, savoring, and connecting with the soul of the neighborhood.

The cultural dimension of San Blas is also revealed through artistic events and festivals that color the streets with creativity and celebration. These privileged moments offer travelers an authentic immersion into local life.

In summary, the neighborhood of San Blas is an invitation to an immersive exploration, where every alley, every encounter, and every panorama contribute to a travel experience rich in culture, art, and authenticity.

3 - The Temple of Qoricancha

The Temple of Qoricancha

The Temple of Qoricancha in Cuzco offers travelers a captivating experience blending history, spirituality, and exceptional architecture. Formerly dedicated to the sun god Inti, this incredible site combines Incan ingenuity with Spanish colonial influence.

The walls of Qoricancha tell a millennium-old story through meticulously carved Incan symbols, providing a window into the deep spirituality of this civilization. The spiritual atmosphere persists, creating an intimate connection between visitors and ancient history.

Surrounded by peaceful gardens, the temple also offers moments of tranquility, allowing travelers to relax and meditate in this place imbued with serenity. Visitors can envision the solar and ritual celebrations that once animated these grounds.

The adjacent museum enriches the experience by displaying Incan artifacts, ritual objects, and artistic treasures, offering a deeper dive into the daily life of the Incas.

The terraces of Qoricancha reward explorers with panoramic views of Cuzco, creating magical moments at sunrise or sunset. These perspectives provide a visual connection with the surrounding natural splendor.

Intermittent cultural events, such as ceremonies or festivals, add a contemporary touch to this historical experience, immersing visitors in the current life of Qoricancha.

The lingering spiritual aura in this millennia-old temple transcends time, inviting travelers to feel the power of the sacred at the heart of the ancient Incan empire.

4 - The ruins of Cusco

The ruins of Cusco

Cuzco, the former capital of the Inca Empire, is home to impressive ruins that bear witness to the grandeur of this pre-Columbian civilization. Here are some of the most iconic ruins to explore in the Cuzco region:

  1. Sacsayhuamán: Pronounced "sexy woman," this imposing Inca fortress is famous for its massive, perfectly carved and fitted stone blocks. It also offers a panoramic view of the city of Cuzco.

  2. Q'enqo: A religious and ceremonial site, Q'enqo features underground passages, sacrificial altars, and fascinating rock carvings. It is a sacred place for the Incas.

  3. Puka Pukara: Meaning "Red Fort" in Quechua, Puka Pukara is an ancient military fortress that served to monitor the region's main roads.

  4. Tambomachay: Known as the "Inca Baths," Tambomachay is a site with fountains and canals that were likely used for rituals related to water and fertility.

  5. Ollantaytambo: Though located a bit further from Cuzco, Ollantaytambo is a major archaeological site with impressive terraces, a temple of the sun, and well-preserved Inca-era streets.

  6. Moray: Renowned for its circular terraces, Moray was likely an Inca experimental agricultural center where different crops were tested at various altitudes.

  7. Chinchero: A charming Andean village that houses Inca remnants, impressive stone walls, and a colonial church built on the foundations of an ancient Inca palace.

  8. Choquequirao: Often referred to as the "second Machu Picchu," Choquequirao is a spectacular archaeological site situated on a mountainous plateau. Access can be challenging, but the reward is worth it.

  9. Pisac: Known for its impressive agricultural terraces, Pisac also offers a vibrant artisan market where you can purchase local products and crafts.

  10. Huayna Picchu: Although technically associated with Machu Picchu, Huayna Picchu features ruins and breathtaking views of the Inca citadel.

Each of these ruins provides a unique perspective on the history and culture of the Incas, allowing visitors to step back in time and explore the remnants of this extraordinary civilization.

5 - San Pedro Market

San Pedro Market

The San Pedro Market, nestled in the heart of Cuzco, is a sensory immersion into the daily life and cultural richness of Peru. This lively market offers a captivating palette of colors and flavors, with stalls overflowing with exotic fruits, fragrant spices, and traditional crafts.

The welcoming vendors enthusiastically share their knowledge of local products, creating a hospitable atmosphere for travelers. he flower stalls add a touch of beauty to this bustling scene, reflecting Andean culture and its deep connections with nature. Local product stands provide a glimpse into Peruvian culinary delights, from quinoa to artisanal cheeses.

The market's cafes are perfect relaxation havens to savor Peruvian coffee while observing the hustle and bustle around you.

The market, with its lively atmosphere and dynamic exchanges, is a place of discovery where every corner unveils a part of Cuzco's cultural identity. Exploring its aisles, travelers can immerse themselves in local authenticity, making the San Pedro Market an unforgettable stop for those seeking culinary and cultural adventures.

6 - The museums of Cusco

The museums of Cusco

Cuzco, the ancient capital of the Inca Empire, is home to captivating museums that showcase its rich history and cultural diversity. Here are some of the iconic museums in Cuzco:

  1. Inka Museum: Housing an extensive collection of Inca artifacts, ceramics, textiles, and ritual pieces, this museum provides a deep insight into Inca civilization.

  2. Pre-Columbian Art Museum: Highlighting pre-Inca and Inca art, this museum exhibits diverse artistic pieces, including pottery, jewelry, and sculptures.

  3. Regional Historical Museum: Located in the Archbishop's Palace, this museum showcases colonial art, paintings, sculptures, and historical documents related to Cuzco.

  4. Museum of Casa Concha: Focused on archaeology, this museum displays objects discovered during excavations at Machu Picchu, offering a fascinating context on the daily life of the Incas.

  5. Museum of Popular Arts: Featuring traditional art and crafts, this museum provides insights into artistic skills passed down through generations.

  6. Machu Picchu Museum: Situated in Aguas Calientes, this museum exhibits archaeological findings from Machu Picchu, enhancing the understanding of the history of this iconic citadel.

  7. Contemporary Art Museum: Showcasing works by contemporary Peruvian artists, this museum offers a modern perspective on cultural and artistic identity.

  8. Regional History Museum of Cuzco: Presenting exhibitions on pre-Columbian, colonial, and republican history of the region, this museum provides a comprehensive view of Cuzco's past.

  9. Coffee Museum: Explore the history of coffee in Peru, from cultivation to roasting methods, in this museum dedicated to the iconic beverage.

  10. Inka Garcilaso de la Vega Museum: Located in the birthplace of the Inca historian Garcilaso de la Vega, this museum exhibits objects related to Inca history and culture.

These museums offer a diverse exploration of Cuzco's history, art, archaeology, and culture, allowing visitors to delve into the various facets of this fascinating city.

7 - Las Salinas and Moray

Las Salinas and Moray

Las Salinas de Maras and Moray are two fascinating sites near Cuzco, Peru, offering unique experiences in terms of landscapes and history. Here is a brief description of each of these sites:

  1. Las Salinas de Maras:

    • Location: Situated in the Urubamba Valley, the Salinas de Maras are terraced salt pans that have existed since pre-Inca times.
    • Unique Appearance: These salt pans consist of thousands of terraced pools where salty water emerges naturally from the mountain. The water is channeled into these pools, and as it evaporates, it leaves behind salt that is harvested by local residents.
    • Traditional Culture: Salt harvesting in Maras is a traditional practice dating back hundreds of years. Local families often oversee the maintenance of specific pools.
  2. Moray:

    • Location: Moray is an archaeological site located in the Sacred Valley, near Maras. It is characterized by its impressive concentric circles arranged in terraces.
    • Agricultural Use: Moray was likely an Inca agricultural laboratory. The different terraces with concentric circles create microclimates, allowing the Incas to experiment with growing different plant varieties at varying altitudes.
    • Inca Engineering: The terraces of Moray showcase the ingenuity of the Incas in agriculture and irrigation. The site also offers spectacular views of the valley.

By visiting Las Salinas de Maras, you'll be amazed by the unique landscape of terraced salt pans and the continuation of a centuries-old tradition. Moray, on the other hand, will immerse you in the ingenious history of the Incas and provide impressive panoramic views. These two complementary sites offer a unique perspective on Inca engineering and daily life, providing a glimpse into the ancient Inca civilization.

8 - Climb to Rainbow Mountain (Vinicunca)

Climb to Rainbow Mountain (Vinicunca)

Rainbow Mountain, also known as Vinicunca, is an extraordinary natural site located in the Cusco region of Peru. Here is some information about this geological wonder:

  1. Location: Rainbow Mountain is situated in the Andes mountain range, approximately 100 kilometers southeast of the city of Cusco. It is part of the Vilcanota mountain range.

  2. Altitude: The peak of Rainbow Mountain reaches an impressive altitude of around 5,200 meters (17,060 feet) above sea level.

  3. Geological Formation: The unique coloring of the mountain is due to the presence of minerals such as sulfur, copper, and iron. Different layers of these minerals create a multicolored striped effect, hence the name "Rainbow."

  4. Hiking Trail: The ascent of Rainbow Mountain involves a hike of approximately 6 to 7 kilometers from the starting point, usually from the village of Pitumarca. The duration of the hike depends on individual fitness.

  5. Panoramic View: Once at the summit, visitors are rewarded with breathtaking panoramic views of the surrounding mountains and the valley below.

  6. Best Time to Visit: The dry season, from May to October, is generally considered the best time to visit Rainbow Mountain. During this period, the sky is often clear, providing clearer views.

  7. Weather Conditions: Weather at high altitudes can be unpredictable. It is advisable to prepare for various weather conditions, including cold, wind, and intense sunlight.

Rainbow Mountain offers a unique and unforgettable experience, combining natural beauty with fascinating geology, making it one of the most sought-after destinations in Peru.

9 - Discover the mythical site of Machu Picchu.

Discover the mythical site of Machu Picchu.

Machu Picchu, one of the architectural wonders of the world, is nestled in the rugged mountains of the Peruvian Andes. Perched at an impressive altitude, this incredible archaeological site offers breathtaking views of lush ridges and deep valleys.

This Incan gem, dating back to the 15th century, reveals itself with its awe-inspiring walls of perfectly fitted stones, showcasing the ingenuity and architectural mastery of its ancient inhabitants. The amphitheater-like agricultural terraces, mystical temples, and enigmatic structures tell a fascinating tale of the Incan civilization.

During your exploration, you will be captivated by the harmony between human architecture and the surrounding nature. The famous Intihuatana, or "hitching post of the sun," stands like a sundial, adding a mystical touch to the ensemble.

Machu Picchu offers an immersive experience, blending history, spirituality, and breathtaking panoramic views. A journey to this iconic site is a trek through time, transporting you into the mystery of the Incan empire while soaking in the natural majesty that surrounds it.

10 - The Sun Festival (Inti Raymi Festival)

The Sun Festival (Inti Raymi Festival)

The Inti Raymi Festival, celebrated in Peru, offers an immersive travel experience into the heart of the rich history and culture of the Inca civilization. As a travel theme, the Inti Raymi Festival provides a captivating exploration of this millennia-old celebration, blending ancestral traditions with modern festivities. Here are some key elements to incorporate into the travel theme of the Inti Raymi Festival:

  1. Discovering Historical Roots: Immerse yourself in Peru's ancient history by exploring the historical roots of the Inti Raymi Festival. Visit archaeological sites such as Sacsayhuaman, the main celebration site, to understand the significance of this festival in Inca civilization.

  2. Participation in the Main Ceremony: Plan your trip to coincide with June 24th, the winter solstice in the Southern Hemisphere, and attend the main ceremony of the Inti Raymi Festival at Sacsayhuaman. Experience the vibrant energy of the procession, traditional dances, and symbolic rituals.

  3. Meeting the Local Culture: Engage with the local population to learn more about the customs and traditions surrounding the Inti Raymi Festival. Participate in workshops, taste traditional cuisine, and interact with locals for an authentic cultural immersion.

The Inti Raymi Festival offers a unique travel experience, combining the splendor of ancient rituals with the warmth of contemporary Peruvian culture. This adventure allows travelers to delve deeply into the Inca heritage while immersing themselves in the festive energy of the celebration.

11 - Local cuisine Cusco

Local cuisine Cusco

The local cuisine of Cuzco, Peru, is renowned for its diversity, rich flavors, and skillful use of traditional ingredients. Here are some iconic dishes to explore during your stay in Cuzco:

  1. Trout Ceviche (Ceviche de Trucha): Despite Cuzco not being on the coast, freshwater trout is abundant. Trout ceviche is a delicious local version of this classic Peruvian dish, where the fish is marinated in lime juice, red onions, corn, and chili.

  2. Aji de Gallina: Shredded chicken served in a creamy sauce made with aji peppers (Peruvian yellow peppers), nuts, and cheese. It is often accompanied by rice and potatoes.

  3. Lomo Saltado: This dish fuses Peruvian and Chinese influences. It consists of sautéed beef strips with vegetables, onions, tomatoes, all seasoned with soy sauce and chili. Served with rice, it offers a burst of flavors.

  4. Rocoto Relleno: A typical spicy dish from Cuzco, it involves rocoto peppers stuffed with minced meat, eggs, and vegetables, then baked. It is flavorful but quite spicy.

  5. Papas a la Huancaína: Boiled potatoes served with a creamy and spicy sauce made with cheese, aji peppers, nuts, and milk. It is a popular appetizer to savor.

  6. Cuy al Horno (Baked Guinea Pig): Guinea pig (cuy) is a traditional meat in Peru. It is often baked and served with potatoes, offering a unique culinary experience.

  7. Choclo con Queso: A simple yet delicious snack comprising giant corn (choclo) served with fresh cheese. You'll often find it in local markets.

  8. Humitas: Corn dough parcels stuffed with meat, eggs, or cheese, then steamed in corn husks. A delightful option for a quick meal.

  9. Queso Helado: A refreshing dessert from Cuzco, queso helado is actually a milk-based ice cream flavored with cinnamon and vanilla. It's a beloved local sweet treat.

  10. Chicha Morada: A traditional beverage made from purple corn (chicha morada), fruits, and spices. It is refreshing and often consumed with meals.

Exploring the local cuisine of Cuzco provides a rich gastronomic experience, infused with the cultural and culinary diversity of the region.

Cuzco - Where to Stay?

In Cuzco, there are various neighborhoods and types of accommodations that can cater to different types of travelers. Here are some recommendations on where to stay in Cuzco based on your preferences:

  1. Historical Center (Plaza de Armas): This is the heart of Cuzco, surrounded by colonial buildings, churches, and restaurants. Staying here provides easy access to main attractions, local markets, and the lively nightlife. Ideal for those who want to be in the center of the action.

  2. San Blas: This bohemian neighborhood is situated slightly uphill from Plaza de Armas. Known for its cobblestone streets, art galleries, and artistic ambiance, it's perfect for those seeking a quieter atmosphere while still being close to the city center.

  3. Sacsayhuamán: If you prefer to be close to Inca ruins, Sacsayhuamán is an option. While farther from the city center, it offers panoramic views of Cuzco and easy access to archaeological sites.

  4. Santa Ana: This residential neighborhood is quiet and provides a more local experience. It's great for those who prefer a peaceful environment while still having easy access to the city center.

  5. San Pedro: Close to the San Pedro market, this neighborhood is ideal for food enthusiasts and those wanting to experience the daily life of locals. It also offers affordable accommodation options.

  6. Cusco Suburbio (Suburbs): If you prefer a more peaceful stay outside the city center, suburban neighborhoods often offer tranquil accommodations with easy access to public transportation.

When choosing accommodation, be sure to consider factors such as your budget, location preferences, and the amenities offered by the hotel or hostel. Due to Cuzco's high altitude, it may also be helpful to choose lodging that provides oxygen services in case of need.

Cuzco - How to get around?

In Cuzco, there are several means of transportation for getting around the city and its surroundings. Here are some options:

  1. Walking: The historic center of Cuzco, including the Plaza de Armas and surrounding neighborhoods, is easily navigable on foot. Walking allows you to immerse yourself in the local atmosphere, explore picturesque alleys, and appreciate colonial architecture.

  2. Taxis: Taxis are readily available in Cuzco and can be a convenient option for getting around, especially if you are in neighborhoods farther from the city center. Make sure to negotiate the fare before getting in or ask the driver to use the meter.

  3. Public Transportation: Cuzco has a network of minibuses and micros (small buses) that operate within the city and its outskirts. However, schedules can be irregular, and navigating them might be challenging if you don't speak Spanish. Locals can assist you in finding the right bus.

  4. Bike Rentals: For a more active exploration, you can rent a bike from some local shops. This can be an excellent option for visiting sites farther from the city center while enjoying the scenery.

  5. Travel Agencies: Many travel agencies in Cuzco offer excursions and guided tours to tourist sites such as Machu Picchu, the Sacred Valley, and other nearby destinations. These tours often include transportation to and from your accommodation.

  6. Car Rentals: If you prefer greater autonomy, some car rental agencies provide services in Cuzco. However, driving in the city can be chaotic, and it's important to consider the high altitude and road conditions.

  7. Horse-Drawn Carriages: For a picturesque experience, you might find horse-drawn carriages offering tours around the historic center. Ensure to agree on the fare in advance.

When moving around Cuzco, be mindful of the high altitude, which can make physical exertion more challenging. Take your time to acclimatize, stay hydrated, and relish the cultural richness of this fascinating city.

Cuzco - Best period

The best time to visit Cuzco, Peru, depends on your preferences for climate and activities. Cuzco is located at a high altitude, and the weather can vary significantly depending on the season. Here's an overview of the seasons in Cuzco:

  1. Dry Season (May to September): This is generally considered the best time to visit Cuzco. The months from May to September constitute the dry season, with sunny days and pleasant temperatures during the day. It's also the high tourist season, so you can expect more crowds.

  2. Rainy Season (November to March): These months are characterized by more frequent rainfall. While the rain can make the landscapes lush and beautiful, it can also make travel more challenging, especially in mountainous areas. However, temperatures generally remain mild.

  3. Shoulder Seasons (April and October): These months are transitional periods between the dry season and the rainy season. Weather conditions can vary, but April is often considered a good compromise with pleasant temperatures and still relatively low precipitation.

In summary, the ideal time to visit Cuzco in terms of climate is typically during the dry season from May to September. However, if you prefer to avoid tourist crowds, the shoulder seasons in April or October could be a good compromise. Make sure to check the specific weather conditions during your planned visit and plan accordingly, especially if you intend to visit nearby archaeological sites like Machu Picchu.

Last update : 25/02/2024 11:23

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