Cusco or Cuzco (both graphical symbols are acceptable according to the RAE, Real Academy of the Spanish language) is the main destination that you can get to know on your trips through Peru. Learn more about it in this section.
History of Cusco
The legend tells that Cusco was founded by 2 ancestral patriarchs, who, due to the design of the deity Sun, emerged from the Titicaca lake with the mission of putting in order the Andean men’s life. They would be the beginning of the vast Incan Empire, which as time goes by would reach its maximum glory consolidating as a powerful State. In 1911 the American explorer Hiram Bingham would refind the incan citadel to the world’s eyes with the discovery of Machu Picchu. From that day the growth of Cusco has been exponential, turning to be one of the most visited worldwide tourist destinations and favourite place for national and foreign tourists to “discover” the beauty of the Machu Picchu citadel on its travel to Cusco.
-The high season goes from June to August. In that period all the prices you will find will be more expensive than in any other period of the year, because the climate becomes very nice, with a shinny sun of warm temperatures, just perfect for the people who want to get to know the best version of Cusco and the vicinity.
-If you go to Machu Picchu, organize very well your time; we recommend to stay 3 days in Cusco to get to know most of the tourist attractions. Consider also key details as the availability of tickets to enter to Machu Picchu (you can see that on the web Properu); accomodation is important too specially if you go on the high season, since hotels are full if you don’t book in advance. Think of the transportation because the bus, airplane and train tickets end or double the prices during the high season.
-Take your raincoat for the strong rains during the rain season (from October to March) and warm clothing fro the night, that are usually very cold.
-When you get to Cusco the altitude can make you feel bad with the frightening “soroche”, an illness that causes travel sickness, nauseas and headache. You can avoid it or reduce the effects taking pills, sweets and drinks based on coca leaf. Chew this plant is also an excellent medicine!
How to get around Cusco
-You will find moto-taxis (a common and cheap option in Peru), colectivos (a shared taxi between several people) and taxis. Those transportation services will be cheap, since the distances in Cusco are very close and the rates are not expensive. You may also find tours in Cusco close to the Plaza de Armas from 10 soles.
-There are buses that leave from Cusco to Ollantaytambo, place where you take the train to Machu Picchu. You can buy tickets return trip.
-Being Cusco a so much popular destination, there can be a certain unreliability on the transportation services that you reserve; that’s why it’s better to travel in tranportations of authorised companies. If you require any information or service in particular, go to the agencies and tourist authorised guides (www.agoturcusco.com) or government agencies as Dircetur and the Policía de Turismo (telf.: 0051-01-249654).
What you will find in Cusco
Archaeological wonders: It’s impossible that Machu Picchu is not in your travel plans. You can also visit the Sacred Valley route: Pukapukara, Tambomachay, Pisaq, Ollantaytambo, Chincheros, among others.
Homestay tourism: You can stay some days in a local family, participating of their daily activities and knowing more of their habits and lifestyle. You may also make some tours by horse.
Unbelievable landscapes: If nature calls you, you have endless possibilities to live outdoors adventures on the 4 lagoons, the Qarañahui caves, the inca bridge Qeswachaca, Mauk'allaqta and the thermal baths of Paruro.
Tradition, modernity and mysticism: Cusco is a mixture between the inca, the colonial and the modern styles. Its stone pavement streets, its churches and colonial palaces, the handicrafts of San Blas and the energy the environment has, will make of this tour an unforgettable experience. If you look for coming back the experience will be fun, with many more places to visit by yourself or with somebody, from rocks and bars to the most crowded discos, insured fun!
In Cusco city
Museo del Pisco
Location: 398, Santa Catalina Ancha/ museodelpisco.org
Hours: from 11:00 a.m. to 1:00 a.m.
Rates: 40 soles and up
You will taste the typical beverage of Peru, the Pisco, with a high variety of exotic versions. Nothing better than drinking a Pisco while listening to its story and tradition. The place will be welcoming and interesting to you, and in addition you can taste the delicious appetizers of high quality.
Location: Convento de Santo Domingo, close to the Plaza de Armas
Hours: Monday to Saturday from 8:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. and sundays from 2:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m.
Price: 10 soles
The Qorikancha museum is full of stories throughout the 5 rooms, where you will learn about the culture and life of the Cusco past. In those rooms there are incan and pre-incan pottery, colonial objects, sculptures, metallurgy, textiles, paintings and ancient musical instruments. To become a great Cusco and surroundings aware, don’t you loose the route to this museum when you stop in Cusco.
Location: 103, Cuesta Almirante street
Hours: Monday to Friday from 8:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. and Saturdays and holidays from 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.
Price: 5 soles for Peruvian people and 10 soles for foreigners
In this museum you will be part of the exhibition, participating in an active way while you learn the most important aspects of the Andean history. The main objects are pottery, textiles, sculptures, historical documents and musical instruments.
Cathedral of Cusco
Location: Plaza de Armas
Hours: everyday from 10:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m.
Price: 25 soles (50% discount for children and students)
It’s also known as Catedral Basílica de la Virgen de la Asunción, and is formed by 3 temples: the Basílica Catedral temple, the Triumph temple and the Sagrada Familia temple. It was built in 1539 on the remains of Suntur Wasi, palace of the Wiracocha inca. The architecture comes from the Renaissance and has 3 naves (room between the walls or columns) interior: epistle nave, gospel nave and central nave; you can access to them through the 3 doors of the front.
Barrio de San Blas
Location: not too far from the Plaza de Armas
This neighborhood is a recognized district of artists, since the most renowned artisans live there. On your stop in San Blas you won’t only find the most beautiful objects of local craftworks, but also you will be surrounded of the colour and colonial style of the houses and streets.
Mercado de San Blas
Location: Tandapata street, Plaza San Blas at 10 minutes by foot from the Plaza de Armas
Hours: from 9:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m.
The San Blas market is the paradise for any collector. We recommend you to go when it doesn’t rain, so you can find the shops opened. It’s preferable to go by foot since the streets are very tight, so you can appreciate better the local art (and you could also buy a beautiful souvenir).
Chocolate Museum of Cusco
Location: 210, Garcilaso street (2nd floor)
Hours: everyday from 10:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m.
Price: free entrance
At the Chocolate Museum you will have a relaxing moment, with the most delightful chocolate and a view over the Cusco square from a traditional balcony. You will also learn about the process of chocolate production, its history and better kept secrets. The sweetest part of Cusco is waiting for you!
The archaeological complex of Sacsayhuamán
Location: at 1 mi (2 km) from the city
Hours: Monday to Sunday from 7:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m.
Price: 130 soles (international tourists), 70 soles (national tourists) and the tourism ticket is valable for 16 different archaeological and touristic places.
This complex harbors 33 archaeological places. The most well-known of them is the Sacsayhuaman fortress, also popular for being the scene of the Inti Raymi (the Sun Festival), celebrated every year on June the 24th. Its construction is classified as colossal architecture, for having huge rocks on its walls that can reach 128 tonnes. It’s believed that the building had a religious function, although the Spanish and reporters described as fortress due to its configuration and architectural style.
The incan citadel of Machu Picchu
Location: at 20 mi (32 km) from Cusco city, between the mountains of Machu Picchu and Huayna Picchu
Ways to get there: by the inca trail path (by foot) or by train
Hours: from 6:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.
Price: from 128 soles (for foreigner tourists) to 64 soles (national tourists).
Machu Picchu is an architectural jewel that shows the talent and progress of the inca culture. Its legacy remains in each stone and monument placed in this citadel, formed by the Intihuatana, the Sun temple and the paths of the urban and agricultural areas. To enter to Machu Picchu can be difficult if you don’t book the entrance ticket in advance, as the number of visitors per day is restricted (the maximum allowed is 2500 people).
Archaeological Complex of Puka Pukara
Location: at 4 mi (7 km) from the city
Hours: everyday from 7:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m.
Price: 130 soles (international tourists), 70 soles (national tourists); the tourist ticket is valid for 16 different archaeological and touristic places.
It was a crossing point, where the inca and his company would rest on their way to Tambomachay. The fortified architecture, the aqueducts, paths and interior squares made of Puka Pukara the perfect place to rest. Its name comes from the red colour of the walls, as Puka Pukara means “red fortress”.
Every traveller can acquire the tourist ticket at 130 soles (foreigners) and 70 soles (Peruvian people). The ticket allows the entrance to 16 different archaeological sites, touristic places, museums and monuments.
You can get it in:
-Counter Central (103, Av. El Sol, Galerías Turísticas), Monday to Sunday from 8:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m.
-Tourist information office Dircetur (Mantas street), Monday to Saturday from 8:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m.
Inca Trail (trekking to Machu Picchu)
The inca Trail is a trekking to get to Machu Picchu through several interconnected routes. We recommend you to have a good physical condition, because the altitude and even the route demand a higher effort.
There are several ways to start the Inca Trail: from Aguas Calientes (the closest town to Machu Picchu), from the Hidroeléctrica to Aguas Calientes (for the people who prefer to save on the train ticket), or booking private tours that go through other towns throughout the route.
Price: free (by yourself), 300 to 600 american dollars for the guided tours that last between 2 and 4 days, and include food and other services.
Chuño cola: It’s a plate of inca origin prepared with meat soup, rice, sausage and “chuño” (freeze-dried potato).
Queso kapche: It’s a preparation with potatoes, milk, broad beans, egg, “ají” (spice pepper), animal fat, onion, garlic and cheese. When it goes with rice is a delight.
Pepián de cuy: It’s a plate made of fried guinea pig or rabit, seasoned with onion, peanuts and red pepper. In general is served with potatoes or rice.
Chicharrón con mote: the pig is fried on its own fat until is crunchy and gold-coloured. It’s served with “mote” (husked wheat).
Timpo: it’s a soup made of lamb head, cow meat, fat, cabbage, potatoes, chickpeas, rice, sweet potato, peach, pears and manioc.
And many other plates that will leave you gladly for eating more!
Restaurants in Cusco
Location: 120, Plaza San Blas
Hours: from 11:30 a.m. to 11:00 p.m.
Price: 40 soles and up
Located in the center of San Blas, Pachapapa is a typical restaurant of rustic style. You will eat outdoors in a pleasant environment, set up for the comfort of diners. The high variety of the Cusco gastronomy is concentrated on their menu. Don’t you miss the classical “pachamanca”!
Location: 135, Santa Catalina Angosta street, 2nd floor, Plaza de Armas
Hours: 8:00 a.m. to 10:30 p.m.
Price: from 23 soles to 70 soles
You will taste organic and excellent food of great quality for a healthy route in Cusco. The house specialty is steamed trout. Don’t you miss the delightful salads, which are prepared with the most fine ingredients of the Sacred Valley.
Location: 115, Portal de Panes, Plaza de Armas
Hours: from 11:00 a.m. to 11:00 p.m.
Price: 40 soles and up
Inka Grill stands out for having a great variety of typical dishes of Peruvian and international cooking. This restaurant has been the main promoter of the gastronomy from Cusco from 1998 until the current days and it’s still a reference that combines the cosmopolitan and traditional styles. Besides the typical food, the pizzas and pastas are also favourite plates of the diners. If you are vegetarian or you want to taste a 100% healthy dish, you will find some vegetarian plates that you can finish with sublime desserts. The chef recommends: bird and quinoa soup.
Location: 261, Plaza Regocijo, 2nd floor
Hours: everyday from 12:00 a.m. to 11:30 p.m.
Price: from 50 soles
Chicha is an innovative restaurant that was born with the help of Gastón Acurio chef. Its proposal includes plates from Cusco, Peru and from the world, separated in several categories (as marine, from the land, etc.). All the ingredients used are of high quality, reason that make them proud. Taste the chocolate souffle of Quillabamba that is served with “muña” (a medicinal plant from the Andes) ice-cream, a dessert that you won’t easily forget.
Location: 601, Cuesta Santa Ana
Phome number: (0051) 084-243705
Price: 20 to 100 soles
This hostel is ideal for small budgets. The atmosphere is very nice and traditional, as it is located in an old restored monument aged of 450 years old. Inside they organize many activities and they plan them. If you go by yourself you can make new friends to undertake a new adventure. If you go in group, you will enjoy it for sure!
Location: 218, Teqte street
Phone number: (5184) 232581
Price: 150 soles and up
The Hotel Casablanca is a hotel with modern and large rooms and is located near the main square. It offers double beds, private bathrooms, telephone, TV, and wifi.
Hotel Los Cisnes del Marsano
Location: 557, Av. Pardo
Phone number: (84) 224500
Price: 40 US dollars and up
This two star hotel is nice, welcoming and well-located. You'll have all the services you need, plus wi-fi, room service, private bathrooms, laundry service, currency exchange and transportation to and from the airport.
Hotel San Agustín El Dorado
Location: 395, Av. El Sol
Phone number: (084) 23 1001
Price: 300 to 2800 soles
The Hotel San Agustín El Dorado offers bilingual staff, internet and computers, laundry service, currency exchange and 24 hour a day taxi service, as well as a bar and a restaurant.
Carnival of Cusco
(February the 1st. to March 31st)
Events: parades, gastronomy, colorful environment and a happy atmosphere. Big discoveries and special moments. The most important part of the festival takes place in March, though the dates are not well-established. The main square becomes the center of celebration, mixture of colours, tradition, joy and Andean folklore.
(June 24th )
Cusco and the Incas have a special religious connection to the Sun from long time ago. Inti Raymi is the festival to honour the Sun and they dramatize ancient ceremonies where they venerated the king star. There is a religious ceremony that takes place in the Sacsayhuaman fortress, during the winter solstice. Nowadays the festival begins in Qoricancha, with a procession where tourists and curious can take part. A not to be missed event!
Have a Drink in Cusco
Location: 316, Calle Plateros
Ukuku's Bar has been recognized and has won many prizes for its high quality. It's a cultural center and a bohemian life reference of the city. It’s a place to visit! Almost every day there are shows at the bar: jazz, Andean music, salsa, rock and much more.
Mama Africa Club
Location: 109, Portal de Panes, 3rd floor
Hours: from 9:00 p.m. to 6:00 a.m.
Mama Africa is an international bar and nightclub with a local-chic and pleasant ambience. You'll be able to dance and drink good cocktails while you enjoy their live concerts.
Going out in Cusco
Location: 110, Calle Santa Catalina Angosta
Muki nightclub is one of the most visited places, and has been around for more than 40 years. You'll have a large dance floor with modern music and a bar with local and international drinks. The entertainment is insured at El Muki!
There are numerous cities from where you can travel by bus to Cusco: Chincha, Ica, Abancay, Juliaca, Puno, Nazca, Puerto Maldonado, Arequipa and Lima.
From Lima to Cusco there are 694 mi (1117km), that take about 21 hours to go through on the highway. The terestrial transportation companies that cover this route are Oltursa, Excluciva, Tepsa, Movil Tours, Wari Palomino and Civa, with prices that vary from 90 to 185 soles, depending on the chosen service.