27 Best Things To Do In Cusco, Peru in 2024 [By A Local]

George Alvarez
Written By:
George Alvarez
Last Updated:
January 1, 2024
Looking for the best things to do in Cusco, Peru? Whether you want to visit a local market or explore ancient temples, this city has a lot to offer!
best things to do in Cusco
This guide is written by George Alvarez, our resident Peru specialist! After traveling most of Central and South America, he settled in Lima and has made it his task to discover everything this breathtaking country has to offer and share his experiences. Learn more about George here.

As far as imperial cities go in South America, Cusco is hands-down one of the best you can visit. 

With remnants of an ancient culture, many mesmerizing sites as well as a charming local life, it makes for a truly superb cultural destination.

There’s a famous adage among those in the backpacking community, in that many who come to Cusco never end up leaving. And once you’re here, you’ll know exactly what all that fuss is about!

In this sizable guide to Cusco, we’ll explore everything you need to know to get the very most out of your trip here. 

This includes how to get to Cusco, the best things to do, where to stay, the best time to visit as well as some advice on budgeting!

This city is undoubtedly one of the best places to visit in Peru so let's take a look at why you should visit...

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Getting to Know Cusco

Why Visit Cusco?

Why visit Cusco

I think the question should be, why wouldn’t you want to visit Cusco?! 

Located within the stunning Sacred Valley, it’s one of the most varied and captivating cities to visit within Peru. 

Officially the oldest city of the Americas (over 3,000 years old), it was once the capital of the Inca Empire, a community who were known for their incredible customs and sprawling temples such as that of Machu Picchu.

Aside from the culture and landmarks within the city, Cusco is also a great base camp to use to explore the nearby region. 

There are many stunning national parks, lakes, Inca ruins as well as ancient towns and markets just waiting to be explored. 

Even when just taking the local colectivos around, your eyes will be glued to the windows as you witness the incredible landscapes of the Sacred Valley unfold before you.

How to get to Cusco

Getting to Cusco

From a geographical standpoint, getting to Cusco would be no easy feat! 

Located within the remote Andes mountains, it’s very far from the seaside capital of Lima.

Thankfully, though, we now live in an age where we can simply fly above most obstacles and terrains with ease. 

There are dozens of direct flights to Cusco from Lima daily, which can be as cheap as $40 for a one-way ticket. For the best deals, check out Skyscanner!

You can also fly from other Peruvian cities such as Pucallpa, however there are no direct flights to Cusco from outside Peru.

The other way to get to Cusco is by bus, which is much cheaper as you can find some great deals on Red Bus.

Some popular routes include from Arequipa, which takes 10 hours, as well as from Puno which is around 8 hours. Of course we can’t leave out the infamous bus ride from Lima, which takes an eye-watering 22 hours (oh the memories).

Some of these bus journeys can be done overnight which will save you valuable exploring time. Trust me, this is one of our top travel tips as you'll save money on accommodation too.

Although you can fly around the country easily enough, the buses are the best option if you're backpacking Peru on a budget! 

Getting around Cusco

Getting around Cusco

There are many ways of exploring and navigating Cusco. 

For the touristic sites, you can either hail a taxi or ride the hop-on hop-off bus to get around with ease. 

For the more adventurous (and budget-minded travelers), there are many local buses you can take, although the schedules will vary and you’ll also need to check where is best to get off.

When it comes to exploring further afield and within the Sacred Valley, you have two options. 

The first is going with tours, where you’ll have logistics handled for you which is a much better option for hiking trips into the more remote areas. 

The other is using the local Colectivos, which are shared minivans. These are much cheaper, and a better option for flexible travelers who want to explore nearby towns like Pisac and Ollantaytambo at their own pace.

Where to Stay in Cusco?

Where to stay in Cusco

It’s important to remember that Cusco is a big city, and as such has many districts and neighborhoods. 

The overall best area is in the heart of El Centro Histórico, and your aim is to stay near the Plaza de Armas. 

This is the most bustling area, close to many awesome restaurants, accommodation options and sites of interest.

Our top budget option is the Kokopelli Hostel. Having stayed here for over two weeks, it’s simply perfect with its lively atmosphere, and also for the incredible free breakfast included in the room rate!

If you’re aiming for a mid-range accommodation option, then we recommend staying at Posada Villa Mayor. It’s literally right on the Plaza de Armas, so you’ll be just footsteps from all the best restaurants and nightlife options.

For those who like a taste of luxury, then look no further than the Costa del Sol Wyndham in Cusco. Also next to the Plaza, here you’ll be staying in a colonial-style building which includes a breakfast buffet, as well as many Peruvian-style dishes to feast on.

If you're looking for a bargain, then check out our guide on how to get cheap hotel rooms...

27 Best Things to do in Cusco, Peru

1. Try Local Foods in the San Pedro Market

Food Stalls in San Pedro Market

What better way to kick off our list than by throwing yourself into Cusco’s most notorious food market? 

Nestled in the Andean mountains, Cusco still retains much of its ancient culture despite modernization and increasing levels of tourism. 

One of these cultural pillars is the food, and in the San Pedro Market, you’ll really be able to get acquainted with the local grub. 

Opened in 1925, it’s still the main market in town and here you’ll see the flurry of locals bargaining between stalls, which sell everything from fresh fruits and meats to flowers and handicrafts. 

There’s also a food court in the north and western corners, where you can sample many of Peru’s finest dishes including Papa a la Huancaína and Lomo Saltado. 

The San Pedro Market is located just 5 blocks west of the Plaza de Armas, with this giant food tent pretty hard to miss when close-by. 

Check out this awesome tour where you can try the very best foods of Cusco!

2. Explore Ausangate National Park

Spectacular landscape of Ausangate National Park

Peru is known for its extreme variety of incredible landscapes, and in the Cusco area we can find some pretty surreal mountains and sceneries. 

Ausangate National Park sits at a dizzying altitude of between 4,000-4,300m, and is known for its seven colored lakes that vary from bright red to deep blue and beyond! 

Before starting the trek, we recommend either drinking coca leaf tea or buying soroche pills which help to alleviate any potential symptoms of altitude sickness (we’ll cover this in more detail later). 

The trailhead begins next to a small bungalow, where you can eat a hot breakfast and buy any supplies beforehand. 

The route takes around 3/4 hours depending on fitness level, starting with a gradual ascent. 

As well as the lakes, you’ll see the picture-perfect backdrop of snow-capped mountains as well as wild llamas roaming around. 

You’ll need to take a tour here which can be easily organized within the Plaza de Armas, and in total the whole trip there and back will take around 10-12 hours.

Here's some more information on the Ausangate trek...

3. Bargain Hunting in the San Blas District

local products on sale in San Blas District

Let’s face it - picking up a souvenir on your travels to Cusco is serious business! 

Cusco is one of the most popular cities to visit in Peru, and therefore has the biggest range of goodies to take home with you. 

The San Blas district is one of the best places to go bargain hunting, with lots of open stalls and cozy shops lining its narrow, cobblestone streets. 

You’ll know you’re in the right area once you’ve passed the famous Twelve Angled Stone. 

Once you’re here, your toughest challenge will be to choose between the masses of handicrafts and trinkets displayed before your eyes. 

Some of the best things to buy here include Alpaca Gloves, Jumpers, Socks, Bags, Hats, Chakana Jewelry, or of course a cheeky bottle of Pisco Sour. 

Many of the shops will sell similar items (although still authentic from the valley), so you’ll need to really dive in to find something novel that others won’t have!

4. Machu Picchu

The famous Macchu Picchu

This legendary citadel forever perches on top of most South American Bucket Lists, and despite the enormous hype it receives, it still mesmerizes visitors regardless. 

In fact, it's one of best places to travel in the world so can't be missed!

Built on top of a mountain during the 15th century, it's believed that this iconic Incan symbol was created either as a sacred religious site, or as a defensive fortress. 

And when you arrive, you’ll probably agree that it could have served both purposes pretty well. 

It’s important to mention that Machu Picchu isn’t actually in Cusco, nor close for that matter. 

You’ll first need to head to the town of Aguas Calientes (either by tour or via the stunning Inca Trail) to rest up before visiting the former kingdom of the Incas. 

Heading by tour (such as this Machu Picchu day trip) is better for logistics and for those who can only dedicate the minimum time necessary for the visit. 

The Inca Trail is harder to book in advance, although this multi-day hike will blow your mind with some of the very best paisajes (scenery in Spanish) in the Sacred Valley.

If you're looking to visit Machu Picchu then you might find this guide helpful!

5. Stroll around the Plaza de Armas

Cusco's Plaza de Armas

If you type Cusco into Google, this will most likely be the main result that will show up. 

The heart of the Historic Center, the Plaza de Armas is one of the most important sites you can visit in the imperial city.

Walk here any time of the day and it’ll be bustling with both locals and tourists alike, and you’ll be able to get up close with famous sites such as the Cusco Cathedral as well as La Iglesia de la Compañía de Jesús

We recommend heading on a walking tour for the best overall experience!

Many of the buildings here are made out of adobe and as such have a really authentic feel, along with the cobblestone streets that isolate the main square by itself. 

There are a lot of restaurants both Peruvian and international perfectly placed here, so you’ll always be able to eat well in the area. 

It’s also a good place to book tours, and here you’ll find many agencies underneath the shaded terraces that offer competitive prices. 

The Plaza de Armas is a great reference point too, and you’ll see it used for directions for many other sights and activities in this list.

6. Indulge in the ChocoMuseo

chocolate and cocoa beans

It’s easy to get into the typical Cusco routine - region trips followed by endless exploring during your days off. 

The ChocoMuseo Tour is the perfect way to change things up, and also a good place to start for those still acclimatizing to the higher altitudes (be sure to relax the first day or two when arriving). 

As well as trying out the sweet stuff, you can also learn how to make it too! 

The ChocoMuseo offers workshops where you’ll be guided from chocolate bean to bar, and there’s also a restaurant-style meal option too. 

It’s also worth heading to the museum (free with the price of the tour) where you can learn more about the history and production processes. 

The ChocoMuseo is located close to the church in the San Blas barrio, just two blocks east from the Plaza de Armas. 

At the time of writing, it’s open all days of the week, from 9:30am until 8:00pm.

7. Explore Qorikancha

Translated directly from Quechua as “The Golden Temple” (Quechua being a native language still spoken throughout Peru today), this temple was considered one of the most important of all by the Incas. 

Featuring many rooms once shrined in solid gold and laden with incredibly designed stonework, Qorikancha’s main purpose was for stargazing. 

The Incan Empire loved to come here and observe the night skies, creating their very own constellations and reference points. 

The temple of Qorikancha lies just a few blocks south of the Plaza de Armas, and is actually in the same location as the Convent of Santo Domingo. 

It’s open (at this time of writing) from 8:30-17:30, Monday to Saturday. 

Whenever you do visit, we strongly recommend hiring a tour guide who can properly explain the use of each room.

8. Ollantaytambo

This village is located within The Sacred Valley, some 72km from Cusco. 

Built on the base of the Urubamba River, Ollantaytambo is best known for its massive ruins carved into the hillside. 

The ancient complex was founded in the 15th Century, and starts with a series of large terraces that ascend into the mountain (the amount of steps can be somewhat intimidating!). 

Once at the top you’ll be able to enter the Temple of the Sun, which is home to 6 giant stones which each weigh a hefty 50 tonnes apiece. 

You’ll also be able to head out onto the Balcón Pata, which has stunning views of the surrounding valley and snow-capped peaks. 

There are endless things to do in Ollantaytambo so make sure you pay this incredible place a visit! 

Ollantaytambo is also a popular place to stay outside of Cusco, with many using it as a starting point for the Inca Trail hike. 

Here it’s also easier to get transport to Aguas Calientes and some of the other major sites within The Sacred Valley. 

You can either take the bus or local colectivo from Cusco to Ollantaytambo, which takes around 1-2 hours. 

We recommend heading on this day tour from Cusco where all logistics will already be handled for you. 

9. Head up to Cristo Blanco

Of all of the sites located within Cusco, this one seems to be lesser visited which we think is a shame. 

During the evening you’ll see this large glowing cross from most points in Cusco, and it's very much worth the hike (or bus for those with tired legs) up to the monument. 

Also known as Pukamaqu, Cristo Blanco is believed to be the protector of Cusco, and is much smaller when compared to its big brother in Rio.

However at night it begins to illuminate, and from here you’ll have some really insane views over Cusco and the surrounding plains. 

You can either walk up from San Blas, which takes around 45 minutes (not to mention a few added stops - the hills and altitude will probably get you too!), or by taking a 15 minute cab ride. 

Alternatively, the Open Tourist Bus also heads up to the Cristo Blanco statue, and you can book your tickets in advance.

10. Walk through the Arco de Santa Clara

The beautiful Arco de Santa Clara

One of the main arches of Cusco, Santa Clara is pretty hard to miss even when walking aimlessly through the historic center’s amazing alleyways. 

Built in 1835, it served to commemorate the promising yet short-lived Peru-Bolivia Confederation, which only lasted for 3 years. 

Despite the somewhat underwhelming event, the arc is still one of the most beautiful pieces of architecture you can find in Cusco, and is perfect for photographers (and Insta snappers alike) trying to catch the ambience and feel of this imperial city. 

It’s located just off the Plaza San Francisco, 3 blocks west of the Plaza de Armas. 

We recommend coming here in the early morning, where traffic is less busy and you’ll be able to get some quality photos with the sunrise in the background.

11. Witness the stunning Moray Ruins

It’s pretty impressive just how many ancient ruins are located in Cusco and dotted around the Sacred Valley region. 

Whilst Machu Picchu steals all the thunder, there are some others that are just as unique and interesting.

Moray is one of these!

The Moray Ruins are set in the remote hills of the Sacred Valley, and are very strange, even as ruins go. 

With as many as 12 layers of perfect circles digging into the mountains, here you can see some of the best architectural creations of the Incan empire.

Each rising terrace is around 2-3 meters high, and they were designed in such a way that the Incas could manipulate water and temperature conditions to grow a variety of different crops. 

It’s believed that temperatures could range as much as 27°F from the top to bottom layers! 

Visiting Moray Ruins is best done as a tour, such as this ATV tour which includes all transport. 

12. Try out a Cooking Class

Peruvian cuisine is now one of the most popular around the world, and for good reason too. 

The extreme variety of lands and altitudes here have resulted in many different styles of cooking and dishes, and you simply must try these when in Cusco. 

This cooking class is a great way to sink your teeth into Peru’s culture, where you’ll have a guided tour of the very best foods, breads and cheeses of the San Pedro Market. 

After that you'll learn to cook three Peruvian staples, which you’ll find out on the day! 

At the end you’ll have a tasty meal prepared for you, which really is the highlight. 

From the classic Ceviche to the locals’ favorite of Papa a la Huancaína, your taste buds will never be the same afterwards. 

You’ll also be able to try the national drink of Pisco Sour, and get a quick demonstration on how it’s made.

13. Aguas Calientes

Awesome scenery in the town of Aguascalientes

This small town is set within the mountains of the Urubamba Province, and is known best as the base camp to explore Machu Picchu. 

However Aguas Calientes itself is a really beautiful town worthy of spending time in, especially with its more natural setting and range of interesting things to see and do. 

Here you can wander off on hikes into the lush nearby jungle, that impressively carves out between the super-sized mountains. 

You can also spend the day soaking in the hot thermals of Aguas Calientes, perfect for resting those tired legs after completing the Inca Trail.

There are tons of awesome things to do in Aguas Calientes so what are you waiting for?

To get here from Cusco, you’ll first need to take a local colectivo or bus to Ollantaytambo, and then onwards.

They’ll drop you off at the hidroeléctrica track, which marks the start of the trail to Machu Picchu. 

From here you can either hike along the legendary trail for 2 hours, or take the scenic train to Aguas Calientes.

14. Explore the Church Route

Cusco Cathedral along the Church Route

For those who love a fun challenge whilst traveling, then why not try and see the 6 main churches of Cusco’s historic center? 

This city is known for its incredible architecture, and easily ranks as one of the prettiest cities you can visit in Peru. 

As with any colonial city, Cusco’s churches are a very important landmark, and here they are dotted throughout the city.

First we start at the imposing Cusco Cathedral within the Plaza de Armas, which is the biggest and most well-known of the imperial city. 

From here we can then quickly see the Church of Triumph as well as the Church of the Company of Jesus, both within 2 minutes of our starting point. 

We then walk a couple of blocks west to La Merced Church, which is known for its large collection of paintings and statues. 

From here we continue east towards the San Francisco Church, another large cathedral which houses 7 large bells and many human remains under its quarters. 

Lastly we’ll stroll through the San Francisco Plaza to reach the Santa Clara Monastery, a smaller baroque church which was run by women and was a meeting point of both nuns and natives of the region.

15. Rainbow Mountain (Montaña de Siete Colores)

Intersting Rainbow Mountain near Cusco, Peru

Rainbow Mountain, or lesser known as Vinicunca (which is actually the real name of this site) is an extraordinary mountain which houses seven bright and contrasting colors. 

Varying from bright greens to blood reds, it’s easy to simply sit in awe at how something like this is even possible to create (and you’ll also need to sit for a while - at 5200m, you’ll need to catch your breath after the hike up!). 

Whilst the mountains were formed millions of years ago, the rainbow surface was created more recently as a result of the erosion of varying minerals into the upper-most layer. 

Ores such as limestone and sandstone were deposited, which has resulted in this fascinating mix of colors. 

The trek from the starting point takes around 3 hours to reach the top, with the high altitude demanding several breaks to catch your breath. 

You can easily go with a day tour, who will organize all logistics. They will also give you the option of a mule ride to the top for those who can’t handle the more difficult conditions.

16. Marvel at the Twelve Angled Stone

A close-up of the Twelve Angled Stone

Whilst the Incas were infamous for their impressive ancient fortresses and brutal ways of life, they were lesser known for another skill - stonemasonry. 

They were masters of this craft, building complexes that were way before their time. 

The Twelve Angled Stone is a great example of this, which is located in the San Blas district, just a couple of blocks east of the Plaza de Armas.

Weighing in at an impressive 6 tonnes, this giant stone was built over 700 years ago. 

What makes it so outstanding is just how finely the cut stones fit together, and without the use of any adhesive such as mortar to keep them in place. 

It’s commonly said (you’ll probably hear this often when there) that you can’t even fit a needle between these stones. 

Pretty impressive given the era this was created, and just looking at it really gives you a sense of appreciation for the Incas and what they were able to create with just their bare hands.

17. Learn about Inca history in the Museo de Arte Precolombino

Museo de Arte Precolombino in Cusco, Peru

Cusco is unique in that many of its ancient ruins are still well preserved, and give a good visual representation of what Incan life would have been like in the past. 

Despite this, looting and destruction have still unfortunately occurred, meaning some of its most hidden treasures will never be seen again. 

On a more positive note, many of the more recently unearthed artifacts are now safe and on display at the Museo de Arte Precolombino in the city center. 

Here you can stroll around and see a collection of over 450 relics and rare objects, all of which provide a more solid glimpse into the ancient world. 

Getting here is very easy, with the museum being just a 2 minute walk east of the Plaza de Armas.

18. Pisac

Ancient ruins in Pisac

This town is located within the Sacred Valley, and is one of the most popular areas to visit from Cusco.

Many tourists end up actually staying here longer than in the big city! 

Pisac really has a different flavor, and feels much more authentic and bohemian, even despite the tourism that has since evolved here. 

The best thing to see here is the archaeological ruins of Pisac, which are located between the wild mountains and offer some really surreal views. 

Whilst in town, you can also visit the market, which is argued to be the best in all of the Sacred Valley. It’s perfect for picking up a souvenir or two to bring back home. 

Pisac is located 28km away from Cusco, and takes just under an hour to arrive by either taxi or local colectivo. 

Alternatively, go with this Sacred Valley tour for a more intimate experience. 

Here's some more information on visiting Pisac...

19. Explore Q’enqo

 Q’enqo ruins near Cusco

Located roughly 6km north of Cusco we find the archaeological site of Q’enqo.

This particular set of ruins is one of the most mysterious in the Sacred Valley, with its real purpose and intention still unknown to this day! 

Translated as “Labyrinth in the Andes” from the native Quechua language, Q’enqo is full of statues and man-made caverns, as well as many subterranean complexes.

One of the most fascinating things to see here is the sacrificial stone slab, where it's believed ritual sacrifices (of both llamas and humans) were a common occurrence. 

To get to Q’enqo you can take a taxi which costs just 10 Soles, or if you want to save further you can take the bus from the Rosaspata stop for just 1 Sol. 

You’ll also need to pay for the entrance which is 70 Soles, however this is included in the “Cusco Tourist Ticket” which we mentioned before with Sacsayhuamán.

20. Head to your local InkaFarma to prepare  for Altitude

A cup of Coca Leaf Tea

It’s probably not too common that a travel guide involves a trip to the pharmacy, and we hope that it’s not otherwise needed! 

However here it earns its rightful place, and for good reason too. 

Cusco is located at an altitude of 3,399 meters, which is pretty tough business. Around this altitude the body tends to struggle to acclimatize to the more difficult conditions, with some individuals getting ill with Soroche (the local Peruvian word for altitude sickness). 

Symptoms can include headache, nausea, extreme tiredness among sickness and others, and trust us it’s really not fun business. 

Fear not though! Over the last thousands of years, the ancient locals had the same issue and have since developed Coca Leaf Tea, which helps alleviate symptoms by enhancing your body’s performance. 

You can easily buy this in any shop or pharmacy, and even some accommodations will provide this at breakfast for you. 

A good alternative is the Soroche Pill, a medication which is stronger and lasts slightly longer, which can be bought at any InkaFarma in Cusco.

21. Enjoy the nightlife in Calle Teqsicocha

nightlife in Cusco
Plaza de Armas starting to get busy!

When dusk hits, Cusco really comes alive. 

With travelers arriving back from day trips, and workers finishing ready to throw down, it all culminates in a pretty lively night scene. 

And the epicenter of it all is focused on Calle Teqsicocha, which is just a block north of the Plaza de Armas. 

There are all sorts of options here, including pisco bars and more modern dance and salsa clubs. 

We recommend starting out in La Chupiteria Bar, and also Blackbird which both have good ambience and a range of drinks to kick it all off with. 

Chango is one of the most popular nightclubs to end your memorable night in, however whether you actually remember anything at all is really up to you…

22. Sacsayhuamán

Incredible ruins of Sacsayhuamán

These ruins are one of the most spectacular and mysterious ones you can visit in Cusco. 

Set in the hills overlooking the imperial city, Sacsayhuamán is the largest and most notable work ever created by the Incas, yet still remains lesser known today than others such as Machu Picchu.

Expanding over 3000 hectares are several long defensive walls that use the typical Incan architectural style (be sure to bring your needle from the Twelve Angled Stone for some tests!). 

This site is also home to many shrines and sacred towers, and just the location itself is pretty fantastic surrounded by the rolling plains and mountains of the Sacred Valley. 

The admission is 70 Soles, which is paid when purchasing the Cusco Tourist Ticket in town. 

Make sure to keep this ticket on you, since it also includes entry to other popular sites including Q’enqo and Tambomachay. 

This fantastic private tour is a great option which includes the ticket where you’ll also visit many other Inca ruins along the way. 

You can take a 10 minute taxi to reach this site, or walk for roughly 45 minutes whilst breathing in the awesome views of the region.

23. Head on a Day Trip to Maras

Salt pools in Maras

Now it’s time to change up the scenery, perhaps to something you’ve probably never seen before in your life. 

Maras is a small town that is home to over one thousand salt pools carved into the hillside. 

These were actually created between A.D. 200-900 by the Chanapata, a group who roamed these lands far before the arrival of the Incas. 

With colors ranging from pink to dark brown, this site makes for a truly spectacular scenic shot. 

The actual salt found within the pools is also used as an additive to foods due to its healthy nutrients and vitality. 

Whilst it can be bought with ease in Cusco, buying the salts at Maras Salt Mines is just a fraction of the price! 

The salt pools are located within the town of Maras, which is around 30km from Cusco. 

To get here you’ll first need to take a bus or taxi to the village of Tarabamba, and then hike for a couple of kilometers to reach the site.

24. Try Cuy

A platter of fried cuy

Now it’s time to feast upon a, uh, slightly more unorthodox food choice. 

Of course we’re talking about Cuy (better known as Guinea Pig), which is a staple throughout the Andes in South America. 

We can already hear the synchronized gulps, yet if you’re open to trying new foods and taking a risk, you may find it’s actually tastier than you think (many in Peru eat it daily, and for good reason too). 

Usually in Cusco they serve it roasted, and you can opt to have just the meat instead of the whole thing (although that would be much less of an Instagram opportunity!). 

We recommend eating Cuy in DEVA - Cocina Andina, which is just two blocks south of the Plaza de Armas along Calle San Agustin. 

For those who truly want to go all in, then head back to our friends in the San Pedro Market, where they can prepare it ‘local style’ for you to eat right there and then.

25. Hike to Lake Humantay

Beautiful Lake Humanatay near Cusco

Peru is full of stunning alpine lakes, however this one definitely ranks amongst the most beautiful.

Lake Humantay sits up at an altitude of 4200m, within the postcard-perfect mountains of Salkantay. 

So not only will you see the crystal blue waters (or emerald green, depending on the cloud cover), you’ll also have the imposing snow-capped peaks towering above in the backdrop. 

The easiest way to get here is with a day tour such as this one, which takes a few hours from Cusco to cover the 120km distance. 

The hike will take around 2 hours, and is somewhat demanding. 

Thankfully, for those who are more independent, it’s possible to visit Humantay Lake on your own terms too. 

You’ll need to take two buses - the first to Mollepata from Cusco, and then onwards to the community town of Soraypampa. 

Due to the higher altitude, we only recommend going alone if you’ve already acclimatized and have the necessary experience.

26. Explore the Sacred Valley by Tour

A local tending to her wares in the Sacred Valley

One of the most diverse regions to visit in the country, the Sacred Valley is a big hit amongst travelers who come here. 

Not only does it have some surreal and insane landscapes, it’s also filled with Inca ruins (and some pretty wild ones too) as well as some other bizarre creations. 

We’ve already looked at some of these, including Maras, Ollantaytambo as well as the ruins of Moray.

However if strapped for time, or if you're feeling somewhat lazy, then this Sacred Valley tour will be perfect for you. 

As well as visiting all the above, you’ll also be able to head to the Chinchero Weaving Factory where you can buy some truly authentic sheep and llama garments, as well as dining at the ever-popular Tunupa Restaurant. 

This tour lasts around 12 hours, and is a great way to get a taste of this stunning region with all logistics already handled for you.

There are endless places to visit in Sacred Valley, so don't rush your time in this part of Peru if you can help it! 

27. Learn inside the Museo de la Coca

Museo de la Coca in Cusco

As already mentioned, Cusco sits at a pretty high altitude of 3,399m. 

Those born in the valleys and Andes will be used to the different air from very young, however for us tourists it’ll be much more difficult. 

Altitude sickness tends to be a big problem, where less oxygen in the air has undesirable effects on the body.

This is where the Coca Plant comes in, helping to alleviate the negative aspects of being up at high altitudes. 

The Coca Museum is a great place to learn about this highly versatile plant, with three different exhibition rooms explaining its importance in ancient times through to its modern day uses. 

This museum is located just behind the church in the San Blas neighborhood, and you’ll need around an hour for the visit.

If you're wondering what to do in Cusco and you've got some spare time then I'd definitely recommend coming here! 

Cusco Travel Tips & FAQ

When is a good time to visit Cusco?

Cusco is located within the Andes, and as such has its own micro-climate (this is similar with many destinations in Peru). 

It has both a dry and wet season, which we’ll explore below.

The overall best months to visit Cusco are April or September, which are considered the shoulder seasons. 

As well as having comfortable temperatures and little rain, they’re also slightly cheaper than other times of the year.

The dry season runs from April until September, and is the preferred time for a visit due to less rainy weather. 

On average there’s only between 0-1 inches of rainfall falling throughout these months, making it perfect for hiking. 

Average daily temperatures during this time of the year range from 47-51°F.

The wet season, which starts in October and lasts until March, is less popular however it has its own benefits.

Monthly precipitation increases to between 1.5-4.5 inches, which can sometimes cancel hiking trips as the routes become more unpredictable. 

Average temperatures increase to 52-54°F though which is slightly warmer, and prices are cheaper since it’s a less popular time to visit.

How long should you spend in Cusco?

We recommend spending one week in Cusco!

This will give you ample time to see the city, be able to hike to Machu Picchu and also see some of the best sites around the Sacred Valley. 

If you’re really on a strict time schedule, then this could be pushed to 5 days but no less than that. 

There’s so much to see around here, and remember that Machu Picchu requires a minimum of two days to explore. 

On the other hand, if time isn’t an issue, 2 weeks would be much more ideal to see everything and get a more intimate experience of Cusco. 

This would also give you plenty of time to complete the Inca Trek too, without feeling rushed or like every minute of everyday must be used exploring.

What is a good budget for Cusco?

It depends on what kind of traveler you are, and whether you want luxury or are happy on a classic backpacking shoestring. 

Below we’ll look at some budgets, which cover daily costs such as accommodation, food and some buses (these don’t include tours or any flights). 

For the ‘no thrills’ backpacker, you’ll be able to live well off $25 a day. 

Especially if staying at Kokopelli, you’ll have a cheap dorm bed with breakfast already included. 

You can eat well at some of the cheaper restaurants in town, making good use of the Menu Ejecutivo which is a local’s favorite. 

For those who want more comfort and prestige, your budget can range anywhere from $35-45 and upwards (the sky’s always the limit!). 

For this price range you can get a really good hotel near the Plaza de Armas, and enjoy some of the finest restaurants in this area as well as in San Blas.

Can you just book a tour for Cusco?

For many heading to Cusco, tours will be a frequent part of your daily routine here. 

As already seen above, there are many incredible sites to visit, however some are located within the remote mountains and it’s mandatory to go on a tour. 

If you prefer a more flexible schedule then you can book these individually, which is easy with the high number of operators in Cusco offering trips pretty much every day of the week. 

For the best experience, we recommend booking tours in advance like this San Pedro Market tour as spots can fill up pretty quickly.

For those on a stricter timeline, you can look at a multi-day tour with an agency who will take you to all the top sites in and around Cusco. 

We recommend this tour from G Adventures who are very knowledgeable, and also provide an experience which is both fun as well as time-efficient.

Where to go after Cusco?

After your trip to Cusco, most likely one of two things will happen. 

You’ll either have pretty heavy legs from all the hiking, or you won’t want to leave (we warned you at the start of this guide!). 

If you want to change things up or are thinking where to head next, we recommend heading to Puerto Maldonado. 

Located in the dense Amazon jungle, it’s one of the best places in the country to spot rare and exotic wildlife. 

Book a tour (such as 3-day Tambopata Jungle tour) where you’ll head deep into the jungle and be able to see wild Caiman, Capuchin Monkeys, Butterflies and even the elusive Jaguar if you’re lucky.

Here are some more Peru travel guides that may help you when it comes to planning your trip:

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Some images courtesy of Deposit Photos.
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