21 Greatest Issues to Do in Cusco, Peru

As soon as upon a time, Cusco was the capital metropolis of the Inca Empire. Lately, it’s extra just like the journey capital of South America.

That’s because of the town’s proximity to Machu Picchu — one of many Seven Wonders of the World and a significant bucket-list merchandise for travellers throughout the globe. 

When you can simply breeze by Cusco in your technique to the traditional metropolis of the Incas, this fascinating metropolis is nicely price a couple of days. For starters, you’ll have to acclimate to the excessive altitude earlier than heading off on that epic trek. 

There are a number of wonderful issues to do in Cusco to maintain you busy for a number of days. Earlier than heading to Machu Picchu, you possibly can go to some museums and different Inca ruins within the space to study extra concerning the historic civilization. 

Cusco can be filled with journey actions, together with mountain biking and whitewater rafting.

After a giant day of exploring, you possibly can return to the city to take pleasure in some mouthwatering Peruvian delicacies and a few fairly rowdy nightlife. Sounds good? Learn on for extra of the highest issues to do in Cusco. 

1. Discover the Plaza de Armas

Your exploration of Cusco ought to start within the Plaza de Armas.

As is the case in so many locations in Latin America, that is the historic centre of city. In Cusco, the principle sq. has a superbly manicured backyard, a central fountain, and a statue of the Incan ruler  Pachacuti. 

Talking of the Incas, this was as soon as the location of  Haukaypata — the Nice Inca Sq.. Whereas the Spanish conquistadors constructed over the unique sq. way back, you’ll nonetheless discover traces of the Incas round each nook in Cusco.

Stroll across the Plaza de Armas, and also you’ll rapidly discover the totally different layers of historical past which might be current right here. 

Across the Plaza de Armas, you’ll discover a number of the most necessary cultural and historic landmarks, such because the attractive Cusco Cathedral.

The plaza can be surrounded by stone arcades that the Spanish constructed, which at the moment are principally full of retailers and brokers catering to the large quantities of vacationers who go to Cusco. 

There are additionally loads of cafes and bars within the space, lots of which provide a wonderful view of the plaza.

The most effective issues to do in Cusco is just grabbing a window seat in one in every of these locations to take pleasure in a drink and watch the goings on under. I significantly loved the Cappucino Cusco Cafe, which you will discover on the map here

2. Take a Free Strolling Tour

Whereas it’s enjoyable to discover the Plaza de Armas by yourself, it’s significantly better with a educated native information and a gaggle of fellow travellers. That’s exactly what you get to do once you join a free strolling tour of Cusco.

Inkan Milky Way runs strolling excursions of the town daily at 10AM in each English and Spanish (teams are separated, not bilingual). In the event you miss the morning tour, you possibly can simply leap on the 1PM or 3:30 tour.

These free strolling excursions provide you with an incredible introduction to Cusco.

You’ll study quite a bit concerning the metropolis’s lengthy historical past, from the nice achievements of the Incas to their collapse and conquest by the hands of the Spanish. Alongside the way in which, you’ll have loads of possibilities to ask your information questions and get some suggestions for what to do after the tour. 

Excursions meet within the Plaza Regocijo in entrance of the Chocolate Museum (test the map here). Simply search for the guides sporting their brilliant yellow vests. Talking of the guides, they depend on your beneficiant suggestions for his or her earnings and to maintain these excursions operating. 

3. Go to the Stunning Church buildings

There are a number of lovely church buildings in Cusco which might be nicely price a go to. Probably the most notable is the Cusco Cathedral, which took practically a century to construct. It’s a combination of Gothic, Renaissance, and Baroque types, and is a completely attractive constructing.

things to see in cusco cathedral

As is the case in a lot of Latin America, the Spanish constructed a cathedral over an indigenous temple. Earlier than the conquest, this web site was residence to the palace of  Viracocha, one of the necessary deities for the Incas. 

Whereas the church is wonderful from the skin, you’ll must go in to essentially respect it.

Inside, you possibly can admire the frilly altars coated in gold leaf. The cathedral additionally holds an unlimited array of archaeological relics and colonial artwork.

Probably the most well-known piece is a reproduction of DaVinci’s “The Final Supper.” Look carefully and also you’ll see {that a} native specialty – guinea pig – seems on one of many plates. 

You may go to the Cusco Cathedral if you are going to buy the Spiritual Circuit ticket. These value 30 soles ($10) and in addition let you go to the Church of San Blas, the Church of San Cristobal, and the Museum of Spiritual Artwork.

Alternatively, you possibly can simply purchase a ticket for 25 soles ($8) to go to the cathedral by itself. As you possibly can see, it’s a superb deal to only get the combo ticket.

4. Start Your Machu Picchu Journey

Cusco is a superb metropolis by itself, however the principle purpose most individuals come right here is its proximity to Machu Picchu.

In the event you’re hoping to go to the traditional metropolis of the Incas – and I’m positive you might be – then you definitely’ll find yourself passing by city earlier than and after your journey there.

The most effective issues to do in Cusco is setting out in your Machu Picchu journey.

Each single journey agent and tour operator in Cusco might help you intend the journey of a lifetime to Machu Picchu. You may have a number of totally different choices for visiting one of many Seven Wonders of the World, relying in your pursuits and budgets. 

Machu Picchu trip

After a lot deliberation, we determined to do the Machu Picchu jungle trek.

This adventure-filled journey contains downhill mountain biking, rafting (climate pending), ziplining, and even a little bit of mountain climbing on the Inca Path. You may join a 4D/3N journey for lower than $300 per particular person. Contemplating all of the actions which might be coated on this journey, it’s a wonderful deal.

In the event you’d choose to do the basic Machu Picchu trek (4 nights, 5 days), you’ll wish to ebook that nicely prematurely. Be taught extra on this detailed post about trekking Machu Picchu

Solely a sure variety of individuals are allowed in daily, and that quantity is even much less for having the ability to hike up one of many two mountains inside. E-book early to keep away from disappointment!

5. Hike to Cristo Blanco

When you’ve gotten your Machu Picchu journey so as, it’s time to get again to exploring this superior Peruvian metropolis. One of many prime issues to do in Cusco is unquestionably mountain climbing as much as the Cristo Blanco statue. 

This massive statue of Jesus sits atop Pukamuqu mountain at a top of three,600 metres. Simply lookup from the Plaza de Armas, and also you’re positive to see the brilliant white statue off within the distance. 

When you can stand up to Cristo Blanco through tour bus or taxi, one of the best ways to understand these panoramic views is by incomes them the onerous approach! It’s a few 30-40 minute hike up from the centre of city. Simply make sure to deliver some sunscreen and loads of water with you.

A go to to the Cristo Blanco statue can simply be mixed with a visit to the following merchandise on our checklist.

6. Examine Out Inca Ruins

Earlier than you head to Machu Picchu, it’s price it to take a look at a number of the different Inca ruins that encompass Cusco. The closest possibility from city is Sacsayhuaman, which is situated atop the hill close to the Cristo Blanco statue.

what to do in cusco visit Sacsayhuaman

There are a couple of theories as to what operate Sacsayhuaman had. Due to its location excessive on a hill and its well-fortified partitions, it’s believed to have been a fortress. The big plaza right here additionally factors to it as soon as serving as a ceremonial centre. 

No matter operate it served, the ruins at Sacsayhuaman are fairly spectacular. It’s estimated that upwards of 20,000 males labored to extract the stones after which haul them up the hill. Additionally they minimize the boulders so meticulously that they have been capable of match them collectively with out mortar. 

Many locals jokingly discuss with this Inca citadel as “horny girl,” because it’s not that far off from the native pronunciation of the identify. It positive is an effective trick that can assist you keep in mind the identify! 

One drawback with visiting  Sacsayhuaman is which you could’t simply purchase a ticket to go to this one web site. It’s essential to both purchase the total vacationer ticket for 130 soles ($47) that provides you entrance to 16 totally different websites, or the partial ticket (circuit one) for 70 soles ($25) that means that you can go to three different ruins.

If it sounds difficult, that’s as a result of it’s. Learn extra concerning the varied choices here.

The ruins are open daily from 7AM-6PM. You’ll find the ruins of Sacsayhuaman and Cristo Blanco each on the map here.

7. Pattern the Native Delicacies

For sure, one of many prime issues to do in Cusco is sampling the native delicacies. In fact, you will discover Peruvian classics like ceviche and lomo saltado, however you’ll additionally wish to attempt some dishes which might be specialties of Cusco.

Peruvian cuisine

To begin your time off, be part of the queue of locals on the market to order up a piping scorching bowl of caldo de gallina, a scrumptious hen soup. One other native favorite is chicharrón – fried pork that’s normally served alongside potatoes and corn. 

Whereas strolling round Cusco, you’re positive to identify loads of alpacas. Not solely are these animals stored for his or her wool, however they’re additionally on the menu. In eating places round Cusco, you possibly can attempt alpaca steak and even alpaca burgers. 

Chances are you’ll consider guinea pigs as cute pets, however right here they’re a delicacy. Known as cuy in Spanish, they’ve been an necessary meals supply within the area for hundreds of years. It’s grilled up and served entire, with the pinnacle, tooth, legs, and all. 

8. Research Spanish

As a significant vacationer hub, Cusco could be very used to gringos with horrible Spanish. When you can positively get by with English and physique language right here, you’ll have a significantly better journey if you happen to decide up a little bit of español. 

There are numerous Spanish faculties in Cusco that may enable you get past merely “hola” and “gracias.” Regardless of your stage, you will discover a Spanish course that’s best for you in Cusco. 

Most colleges supply personal classes, group classes, and immersion packages the place you reside with a neighborhood household in a homestay. With so many superior issues to do in Cusco, this can be a good spot to hunker down for some time and enhance your Spanish. 

I didn’t truly take Spanish class whereas we have been in Cusco, however the people at Peru Hop have put collectively this beneficial information to the varied Spanish schools on the town. 

9. Museum Hopping

In the event you take pleasure in visiting museums once you journey, then you definitely’re in for an actual deal with in Cusco. The town is residence to tons of fantastic museums masking artwork, historical past, archaeology, and rather more. There’s even a museum devoted to the coca leaf right here!

Which museums you select to go to in Cusco is determined by your pursuits and whether or not or not you wish to purchase the vacationer ticket. That’s as a result of a number of the museums can solely be visited with the ticket.

It’s form of annoying, however that’s simply the way in which it’s in Cusco. Listed here are some you possibly can go to with out the issues of the vacationer ticket:

The Museum of Pre-Columbian Art is the one one in every of its variety in Peru. Right here you’ll discover a whole lot of artifacts that have been despatched to Cusco from the famend Larco Museum in Lima. Entrance is 20 soles ($7) for foreigners and so they’re open daily from 8AM to 10PM.  Get instructions by checking the map here

If you wish to study extra concerning the Incas, you’ll positively wish to take a look at the Museo Inka. It’s situated in a grand colonial mansion and has gold, pottery, jewellery, and even mummies.

It’s open from 8AM-6PM from Monday to Friday and 9-4 on Saturday. Entrance for foreigners is 10 soles ($3).

10. Go Mountain Biking

For the adrenaline junkies on the market, one of many prime issues to do in Cusco is heading out of the town on a mountain biking tour. With so many hills and such an abundance of gorgeous surroundings within the Sacred Valley, the choices for mountain biking are virtually limitless right here.

Many tour operators on the town run half or full-day excursions that embrace a little bit of mountain biking combined in with visits to a number of the surrounding Inca websites. A lot of the half-day excursions are fairly relaxed, whereas a number of the full-day outings function a little bit of uphill biking. 

As well as, it’s also possible to join multi-day mountain biking adventures that take you all the way in which to Machu Picchu. For superior riders, there are some fairly wonderful single monitor trails as nicely. 

Since Cusco is situated at such a excessive altitude, it’s beneficial that you simply take at the least 2-3 days to acclimate earlier than doing strenuous actions equivalent to mountain biking.

In fact, you’ll additionally wish to be sure you have good travel insurance earlier than rushing down a mountain in rural Peru!

11. San Pedro Market

The most effective place in Cusco to eat and store like a neighborhood is the San Pedro Market. Experiencing the sights, sounds, tastes, and smells of San Pedro is unquestionably among the best issues to do in Cusco.

things to do in cusco visit the market

This bustling market is residence to a wide selection of distributors promoting the whole lot from contemporary produce, to Peruvian consolation meals, to natural treatments, to souvenirs, and a lot extra. You’ll want to come hungry and take your time right here!

For just some bucks, you possibly can take pleasure in a fresh-squeezed juice and an inexpensive, tasty native lunch. In the event you’re seeking to deliver some souvenirs residence from Cusco as nicely, this can be a good spot to get your procuring achieved. 

The San Pedro Market is open daily. From Monday to Friday, the hours are 6AM-8PM. On Saturdays, it closes at 7 and on Sundays it shuts down round 6. You will get instructions to the market here

12. See the 12-Angled Stone

Coming in at #12 on our checklist of issues to do in Cusco is the 12-Angled Stone. Whereas taking a look at a rock might appear to be a boring factor to have on this checklist, it’s an necessary a part of the town’s historical past. 

This legendary stone was as soon as a part of an Inca palace and is alleged to carry up your entire construction. It’s truly categorized as a nationwide heritage object in Peru. 

The 12-angled stone reveals simply how superior the Incas have been when it got here to building and stonework. Go see this necessary historic relic and see for your self! It’s situated proper here close to the Museum of Spiritual Artwork. 

13. Day Journey to the Salt Ponds

Though there’s sufficient to see and do in Cusco to spend your complete journey on the town, there are such a lot of wonderful locations which might be only a day journey away. One stable alternative for a day journey is a go to to the unimaginable salt ponds of Maras. 

day trip maras salt flats cusco

Salt has been harvested from these lovely, terraced ponds for 1000’s of years. There’s an intricate community of channels that feed the ponds with salty water. As soon as full, the water is minimize off and the ponds are allowed to dry out. After they dry out, the salt will be harvested.

There are upwards of 5,000 salt ponds right here, each harvested by a neighborhood household. The larger the household, the larger the pond! To go to, you’ll have to pay a payment of 10 soles ($3) that goes to the local people. 

One of the best ways to get to the salt ponds is by signing up for a full-day tour of the Sacred Valley. These excursions normally make a number of stops, together with Moray – an Inca agricultural laboratory. You may see the situation of the salt ponds on the map here.

14. Store in San Blas

In the event you want a break from the busy centre of Cusco, take a brief stroll uphill to the realm referred to as San Blas. It is a laid-back space filled with nice cafes and artisan outlets, set round a scenic plaza.

view of cusco from san blas

In the event you’ve bought the non secular vacationer ticket, you possibly can take a look at the San Blas Church when you’re right here. Climb to the highest of the clocktower to take pleasure in some fairly superior views. 

One well-known store that’s price visiting is Arte Mendivil. It options the work of Hilario Mendivil, a neighborhood artist well-known for his non secular sculptures depicting individuals with very lengthy necks.

Any day of the week is nice for perusing the numerous artisan outlets right here, however Saturday is once you’ll discover a market happening proper within the plaza. 

You’ll find the Plaza San Blas on the map here. It’s a brief, however uphill, stroll from the principle sq. to get right here. It’s additionally an incredible a part of the town to remain in.

15. Be taught The best way to Make Chocolate

One of many tastiest issues to do in Cusco is studying how one can make chocolate. That’s exactly what you are able to do on the extremely popular Choco Museum right here. 

Of their 2-hour workshop, you’ll learn to go from bean to bar as you make chocolate proper from the cacao bean. The workshops go on daily at  8:30, 11:00, 1:30, 4 and 6:30. It prices $20 for youngsters and $25 for adults to affix a workshop.

Even if you happen to don’t join a workshop, it’s price visiting the Choco Museum simply to attempt some free samples and decide up a couple of bars of your favorite selection. We grabbed a number of earlier than our Machu Picchu trek and have been very blissful we did! 

The Choco Museum is open daily from 9AM-7PM and will be discovered on the map here.

16. Go Whitewater Rafting

In the event you want a little bit of journey in your journey to Cusco, you may want to join a whitewater rafting tour. Cusco is ideally located close to the Urubamba River, making it an incredible place for rafting.

Rafting situations differ relying on the time of 12 months and the rainfall. Usually talking, you’ll discover class II and III rapids a lot of the 12 months. Nevertheless, in the course of the wet season (December-March), these can attain class IV and even increased. 

As I discussed earlier, whitewater rafting is normally included within the Machu Picchu jungle trek.

Simply remember that it’s usually minimize from itineraries in the course of the wet season. We did our trek in March and the water ranges have been deemed unsafe at the moment, so we ended up having to skip out on the rafting. 

17. Drink Chicha and Play Sapo

In the event you like capturing a sport of pool and ingesting a beer at your native watering gap again residence, you’ll wish to attempt the Cusco equal — taking part in a sport of sapo whereas ingesting some chicha

To start with, let me clarify the sport.

There’s a desk with a number of holes on it and a bronze sapo (toad) connected. You stand a couple of metres away and chuck little cash on the desk, getting factors for making a shot within the holes relying on the issue.

Apparently, you get 5,000 factors if you will get the coin within the sapo’s mouth! 

Subsequent up, the drink. Chicha is a fermented corn beverage that has been consumed for the reason that time of the Incas. It’s positively an acquired style, however it’s not too sturdy or overbearing. 

Whenever you play sapo, you retain taking turns throwing your cash till they’re all gone. The scores are added up on the finish, and the loser buys chicha for all.

The enjoyable and video games proceed till everybody is good and buzzed. Ensure you give a sport of sapo and some glasses of chicha a attempt once you go to Cusco!

18. Expertise a Native Pageant

One of many prime issues to do in Cusco is experiencing a neighborhood competition. There are a number of totally different festivals in Cusco all year long, so chances are high excessive there will likely be one happening throughout your go to!

Semana Santa (Holy Week) is a vital time in Cusco and Latin America at massive.

There’s a really particular procession in Cusco on the Monday earlier than Easter devoted to the Lord of the Earthquakes – a picture of Jesus on the cross that’s believed to have saved the town from full destruction after a horrible earthquake. 

In June, you possibly can participate within the festivities round  Inti Raymi (Pageant of the Solar). This historic Inca competition is widely known on the winter solstice right here and honours Inti – the solar god and most revered deity for the Incas. 

For a extra detailed take a look at the festivals in Cusco, make sure to take a look at this guide.

Soccer is so enormous in Latin America that it’s principally a faith. When you’ve got the prospect, it’s best to positively catch a soccer sport whereas in Cusco. Even if you happen to’re not an enormous sports activities fan, it’s a enjoyable factor to expertise.

Cusco is residence to  Membership Sportivo Cienciano, which was based again in 1901 by students on the metropolis’s Nationwide Faculty of Science. The group obtained worldwide recognition after its gorgeous defeat of River Plate from Argentina within the 2003 finals of the Copa Sudamericana.

Cienciano performs their residence video games at  Estadio Garcilaso, which has a capability of 42,000.

A few of their largest rivals are literally different Cusco squads – Deportivo Garcilaso and  Actual Garcilaso. All three groups share the identical stadium, so there’s a superb probability there will likely be a house sport throughout your keep!

If you end up visiting Colombia, don’t miss a football match there as nicely — a lot enjoyable.

20. Get a Therapeutic massage

All that strolling on cobblestone streets and mountain climbing round historic ruins is certain to depart you a bit sore and exhausted. Cue the numerous therapeutic massage parlours in Cusco, who’re eagerly awaiting your corporation!

Simply take a stroll across the Plaza de Armas, and also you’re positive to be provided a therapeutic massage a number of occasions.

Whereas these makeshift spas aren’t going to win any awards, they’re fairly good and are fairly low cost. You will get an hour-long therapeutic massage for as little as 20 soles ($7), so porque no?

Particularly after you come from a protracted trek alongside the Inca Path to Machu Picchu, it’s onerous to beat a pleasant full-body therapeutic massage! One place that comes beneficial is Cusco Therapeutic Massage

21. Benefit from the Nightlife

Whereas a lot of the superior issues to do in Cusco happen throughout daytime hours, the nightlife right here is nothing to scoff at. With so many backpackers continuously passing by city, it ought to come as no shock that Cusco likes to occasion.

Stroll across the Plaza de Armas at night time, and also you’ll discover individuals passing out fliers for various bars and golf equipment.

There’s a brand new scorching spot each night time, and so they usually embrace free drinks to get you within the door. Many locations keep open as late as 3AM right here if you happen to don’t have an early morning deliberate.

things to do in Cusco, Peru

Since we needed to stand up early daily we have been in Cusco, we didn’t pattern that a lot of the nightlife.

A couple of locations I can personally advocate based mostly on our low-key nights out embrace Nuevo Mundo (glorious craft beer choice) and Paddy’s Irish Pub. For you occasion animals on the market who wish to tear up the dance flooring all night time, you would possibly wish to take a look at the close by El Muki. 

Now You Know What to Do in Cusco

As you possibly can see, Cusco has quite a bit to supply travellers. This checklist may simply be approach longer if I included all of the museums, ruins, journey excursions, and unimaginable eating places which might be on faucet right here. 

In the event you’re planning that bucket-list journey to Machu Picchu, I extremely advocate reserving your go to there for a number of days to discover Cusco. It was one in every of my favorite locations in South America, and I’m positive you’ll find it irresistible, too! 

Don’t miss our information to the best things to do in Lima, our highlights article from Ecuador and Peru, and our guide to trekking Machu Picchu.

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