Cusco Complete Guide for travelers, (Updated 2022)

The ancient capital of the Inca Empire,  One of the most beautiful cities in Cusco, is the perfect starting point to visit Machu Picchu.

This summary is the best things to do while in Cusco, tours, day trips, safety. Where to stay, what to bring in your backpack, when to visit, how to get there.

Cusco is a city that will captivate you in the Peruvian Andes at an altitude of 3,400 meters above sea level.

Cusco still retains its majesty and the original spirit of the Incas, factors that can not overlook

When you take a walk through the streets of Cusco, you will have the feeling that the authenticity and heritage of the Inca civilization are long gone, but we recommend that you delve deeper and discover that there is more to it than just the streets.

Take your time and get away from the crowds. You will have a great time in Cusco.

Cusco does characterize by its narrow stone alleys, an abandoned square, or when looking for food at the local market; you will suddenly understand the city’s rhythm.

Take the time to appreciate how genuine the city is despite its tourist reputation.

The people of Cusco live a simple and traditional life, which is what we like best here.

The combination of local life, the indigenous people, the opportunities to take lots of street photos, the beautiful scenery, the main tourist attractions, the beautiful day trips, and the best things to do are why Cusco is the most important destination for travelers from all over the world.

Cusco is also the starting point for the Machu Picchu tour, making the Inca Trail and the Salkantay Trek.

To make your stay in Cusco a pleasant one, we have put together this travel guide on everything every first-time traveler should know before visiting Cusco.

This guide includes tips on how many days to stay in Cusco. When is the best time to visit the city? Which hostel or hotel to choose. Also, What to pack, and list some of the best things to see and do in the city.

How many days should I stay in the city of Cusco?

Cusco is a city where every traveler ends up at least once during their entire trip in Peru, and it is challenging to say the right length of stay.

Suppose the motivation to visit Cusco is to reach Machu Picchu. In that case, we recommend staying at least two days to acclimatize (although Machu Picchu is at a lower altitude than Cusco, it is possible to suffer from altitude sickness); in these days, you can also visit the Sacred Valley.

In Cusco, you can stay one day and then travel slowly through the Sacred Valley and sleep in a small village along the way – this is also an option.

From our personal experience, we believe that the longer you can stay in Cusco, the better.

Although many travelers tend to stay more days in Cusco, it shows how rich the city is in sightseeing, architecture, and activities.

In Cusco, you have many things to do and see within the city limits and primarily outside of it; an excellent experiential option is to stay several weeks.

If you have the flexibility of days, you may like to do the one or multi-day Cusco tours (read on to see all these wonders you can experience), and you should get the optimal number of days for you.

Get to know a little bit of Cusco’s History.

The Cusco area was inhabited by farmers and shepherds more than 3000 years ago, but we know very little about this period.

Between 900 – and 1200 A.D., the Killke people occupied the place (pre-Inca people). They built the Inca fortress of Sacsayhuaman, but we call it an Inca ruin since the Incas later rebuilt it.

Many myths surround the arrival of the Inca people, but we know that this era began around 1200 AD.

The Inca Empire, in general, never developed written language, but it was an exceptional builder and farmer. The Incas used a unique quipu system.

In 04 centuries, the Inca Empire prospered, but it all ended when the Spanish arrived in 1533 and easily defeated the Incas, who knew neither weapons nor modern tactics.

The few survivors died of the diseases that the Spanish brought from Europe.

The Spaniards destroyed historic buildings in Cusco and built their own over the remains. However, earthquakes destroyed much of the Inca buildings. Although the Spanish buildings were damaged, it is impressive that the Inca structures withstood.

Cusco was recognized as a unique architectural and cultural site during modern history and did include in the UNESCO list.

What to do while in Cusco

Although it may seem that many activities do not found within the city of Cusco, you should dedicate at least one day to have time to explore the narrow streets of the town and discover the indigenous heart that still beats strong.

The Historical Center should focus if you don’t have that much time.

If you dedicate more time to it, you will have more possibilities to walk around and discover lesser-known places.

We have selected the best things to do in Cusco and tips on day trips from the city.

The Main Square of Cusco

The large square is an architectural and cultural center of the city with a vast green park and a bronze statue of the most famous Inca ruler, Pachacutec.

On one side, you can see the cathedral of Cusco, a symbol of the Spaniard’s conquest.

You will find several buildings surrounding the court in this square, including shops, restaurants, ice cream parlors, and many travel agencies—an excellent place to spend an afternoon sharing with the local people.

We are sure you will find a lot in Cusco’s main square to take it all in during your stay.

Cusco’s Plaza de Armas is a great starting point to explore other more or less famous places of interest.

The fortress of Qoricancha

When the Spaniards arrived in Peru, they tried to overthrow the Inca Empire, and one way to do so was to destroy its architecture. This history happened in Cusco and the north of Peru, such as Chan Chan, one of the most important cities.

The Qoricancha was the most crucial construction of Cusco, known as the Temple of the Sun; it did say that the roof did cover with gold. The Spaniards melted down the gold and built their church of Santo Domingo over the remains.

Who can write the name of this enclosure in different ways, both as “Coricancha” and “Qoricancha” (also often written Koricancha or Qoricancha) and the church of Santo Domingo? is one building, there are two separate entrances.

The entrance fee to this tourist site is S/.15 (USD 5.00), while access to the Church of Santo Domingo is S/.10. ($ 3.00 USD)

Even if you are satisfied with seeing this Inca site from the outside, this stop on your Cusco itinerary is worth it.

There is a garden near this place, so you can sit there and contemplate the history. We have always liked to think about what it would have been like if the Spaniards had not arrived.

The San Pedro Market

This market still maintains its charm, and we consider it one of the cheapest things to do in Cusco. Besides traditional vendors, it is a market where you can find many tourists looking to take a souvenir back to their respective countries.

The San Pedro Market is truly unique, as it still has its soul (and its smell), despite its popularity and the size of the city.

Whether you want to buy fresh meat, fruits or vegetables, if you wish to purchase an Alpaca wool sweater as a souvenir, or want to grab a quick bite to eat, you can find it all at the Mercado de San Pedro.

The place to be if you like to prepare your food; here you can find everything from vegetables to rare spices.

You will also be surprised that you can buy perfectly ripe watermelons or tasty grapes in Cusco. And lots and lots of fruit.

The traditional neighborhood of San Blas

From the Plaza de Armas, you can find steep cobblestone streets that lead to the Plaza de San Blas, also known as the artisans’ quarter for its craft stores, cafes, and galleries.

It’s fun to stroll around San Blas, as who can find many hidden gems here.

Some of Cusco’s best coffee shops do locate in San Blas, so you can start your morning here every day and find your favorite spot.

San Blas is also interesting for its architecture, so take a camera in hand and start exploring its narrow streets. Also, you can find good hotels and hostels in this very neighborhood.

The good news is that San Blas is easily accessible from the Centro Historico.

The enigmatic twelve-angle stone

In the Hatunrumiyoc street of Cusco, where the famous twelve angles stone does locate, this is the most outstanding example of how the Incas were experts in working with stones.

Very close to the Plaza de Armas, so you can get there very quickly by asking the locals.

The street does flank by a stone wall where you can admire the rigor of the Inca builders.

It does know that the Incas could cut huge stones that fit together with precision and without mortar.

These structures and walls even survived numerous strong earthquakes, contrasting many Spanish and modern buildings.

The cathedrals and churches of Cusco

Cusco is one of the cities where you will find many cathedrals and small churches, so take the time to discover one or two outside the city’s historic center.

There are dozens of churches and cathedrals within walking distance, and you will undoubtedly find several on your way back to your hotel.

The most famous is the Cathedral of Cusco, in the Plaza de Armas, but other gems such as the Church of San Francisco or San Cristobal are also worth a quick visit.

These churches and cathedrals are usually built in European architectural style on the foundations of ancient Inca churches, giving the city a unique look.

Local museums in Cusco

To get to know Cusco, you have to know what the “Boleto Turístico” is. This ticket has many variations and includes entrance fees to some of the city’s main attractions and the area.

The partial ticket includes the leading museums of Cusco (and the integral access, of course, also includes them).

Not all attractive museums are included in this ticket, so you will have to pay for most of the entrance fees separately.

If you want to see the Chocolate Museum, the Textile Museum, or the Coca Museum, make sure you have cash.

Visiting the museums is an excellent way to learn more about Cusco’s history and the events that define the lives of local people to this day.

The Inca Fortress of Sacsayhuaman

UNESCO lists this Inca site near the city of Cusco – you can reach it from the center of the town through a stone staircase, it should not take more than 45 minutes, although you can also go by public transport.

The Incas rebuilt Sacsayhuaman, so it is considered one of the best examples of the building skills of the Inca civilization.

This Inca site is simply a must-see. You will have the opportunity to admire what remains; the views are out of this world.

If you have more time, you can take public transport from Cusco and explore more ruins nearby, such as Qenqo, Puca Pucara, and Tambomachay.

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