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Travel guide to Cusco
The best way to see Cusco!
Cusco - Perú
Nicole Maxdeo
April 9, 2024

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Cusco, the Inca city, visited daily by thousands of travelers from all over the world, is considered the most touristic city in Peru.

Many travelers plan their trips months in advance to visit the Machu Picchu world wonder, however, the city has much more to offer. To ensure you don’t miss out, here’s a summary:

Table of Contents

Where is Cusco?

Cusco is located in the Southern part of Peru, about 1130 km from the city of Lima. Nestled among the mountains of the Andes, situated between the departments of Arequipa, Puno, Madre de Dios, Apurímac, and Junín.

How to get to Cusco?

To reach the "navel of the world," Cusco, you can opt for the following options:

  • Plane: From Lima, where most passengers arrive, you can take a flight to Cusco. The flight takes approximately one hour and 20 minutes and can be done with airlines such as Latam, Sky airlines, and Jetsmart.
  • Bus: This is a long journey. Traveling from Lima to Cusco can take up to 24 hours. Generally, it is a cheaper option but will demand an extra day from your itinerary. To reach Cusco by bus, you can use various companies, the most recommended being: Flores, Cruz del Sur, or Oltursa.

Cusco's Climate

Cusco is a very dry region and has two distinct seasons during the year:

  • Rainy season: Starts from September and lasts until March.
    During this season, you can expect rain, sometimes heavy, so prepare yourself with rain ponchos and gear.
  • Dry season: From May until September. During this season, it is mostly sunny and perfect for outdoor activities, ensuring your tour is not affected.

Transportation in Cusco

To navigate the streets of Cusco, you can use:

  • Urban Transport: The cost is 1 sol and can take you through the city center and even the surrounding areas like Sacsayhuaman (here the cost can go up to 2 soles). Generally, this type of transportation is safe, and locals do not usually take advantage of foreigners.
  • Taxi: Be cautious here. Some taxi drivers may want to charge in dollars, but generally, the price in the city ranges from 6 soles to 20 soles. If you wish to go further, you may pay up to 40 soles depending on the area. Currently, there are mobile applications like Uber to request taxis, as well as telephone dispatch centers like 084-222222, which provide safe taxis.

The best tips are here, in your Travel guide to Cusco.

Change money in Cusco

In Cusco, you can easily change money in the main square and near avenues. There are many different places where tourists can exchange money for good rates. Our recommendation is to do it in Cusco and not Lima, since the rate in Lima could be lower.

Travel guide to Cusco: What Tours Can I Do?

To explore ALL of Cusco, you would need more than a month, however, here are some of the most touristy places in Cusco. Here's a summary:

  • City tour: Discover the archaeological sites in the city of Cusco. Visit the Cusco Cathedral, the Qoricancha, and its syncretism, Sacsayhuaman, the impressive ceremonial center, Qenqo, Puca Pucara, and Tambomachay, understanding their importance in Inca times and learning the best of history with a specialized team.
  • Sacred Valley: The Sacred Valley one-day tour has everything you need to get a first look at Cusco: History, tradition, and color in the most picturesque and welcoming Cusco towns: Pisac, Ollantaytambo, Urubamba, Chinchero.
  • Machu Picchu: Starting early in the morning from Cusco, we will head to Ollantaytambo for about 1 hour and 30 minutes to the train station. Then we will board a train to Aguas Calientes, where our staff will meet and take you to the bus station so you can take the last transport to Machu Picchu. After our tour, we will have an optional lunch in Aguas Calientes and return to Cusco by train, ending this incredible day immersed in the wonders of Machu Picchu.
  • Rainbow Mountain: Be amazed by how its colors rest on a mountain that looks like a hand-painted picture among the mountains, and end this hike with a visit to the Red Valley path.
  • Humantay Lake: Don't miss the stunning Humantay Lake while exploring Cusco and its surroundings! This natural wonder, located at approximately 4200 meters above sea level, promises you'll enjoy the best of nature.

Travel guide to Cusco: Is Cusco Safe?

In general, yes. Cusco is considered a fairly peaceful city compared to large cities like Lima or Arequipa. In Cusco, tourists can walk even at night in well-lit and safe places such as the city center and its surroundings. However, as in any country, there are always dangers to be aware of, so we recommend:

  • Not carrying too much cash.
  • Being careful with cell phones when transporting.
  • Not leaving anything forgotten in restaurants or hotels.

What Places Can I Explore on Foot in Cusco?

  • The 12-angled stone: This is a stone located on HatunRumiyoc Street, right in the city center. This stone, as the name suggests, has 12 angles and is a favorite spot for walking tourists. Here you'll find an Inca you can take photos with.
  • 7 little lambs: Famous street on Instagram. It's a street with stairs and its walls and decorations are very picturesque, making it a favorite spot for photos. It is located on the way down to Sapantiana.
  • Sapantiana: It is a colonial hydraulic architecture built over the P'ujru river, at the end of Choquechaca street in the city center. This place, in the form of a stone arch, is very nice for taking photos.
  • San Blas: Artisan neighborhood. Here you can find souvenirs, restaurants, and bars to enjoy the afternoon.
  • La Paccha: A fountain located at the end of El Sol avenue in front of the Sonesta hotel. This structure has a passage through which you can walk "through" the waterfall.
  • Plaza de Armas: Cusco's Plaza de Armas, formerly known as Haukaypata, is tourists' favorite place to stroll day or night. Here you can find restaurants, bars, and shops.
  • San Pedro Market: This market, designed by the same architect as the Eiffel Tower, has everything for you: Food, handicrafts, and souvenirs. Many travelers visit this market when they do the walking tour; without a doubt, their favorite will always be fruit juice!

Travel guide to Cusco: Best tips

  • Walking and Exploration: A full-day tour involves extensive walking and exploring; wear comfortable shoes and a day-long adventure. Here is another tip: Do not use NEW sneakers, use the ones that make you feel comfortable.
  • Physical Challenge for hiking in Cusco: The hike to Humantay Lake or Rainbow Mountain involves a steep path and an early start. Prepare for a moderate physical challenge. You can train in your hometown with some small hikes or walks at least 2 days per week.
  • Physical Preparation: Some activities demand physical fitness; ensure you're adequately prepared for hikes, walks, and adventure activities. Nothing is impossible but it is important to keep practicing!
  • Altitude Concerns: Certain parts of the itinerary exceed altitudes where altitude sickness can be a risk. Take precautions and be aware of AMS symptoms; seeking medical advice beforehand, especially if you have pre-existing conditions, is recommended. Keep in mind the altitude changes, especially during treks and high-altitude stays; heed any guidance provided regarding altitude sickness. In case you feel it is really heavy, you can ask your doctor for some pills or just have coca tea, it always helps!
  • Health Precautions: Stay hydrated, especially in higher altitudes like Cusco, and be aware of the potential effects of altitude sickness. Carry any necessary medications (ask your primary care doctor), insect repellent, and a basic first-aid kit.
  • Peruvian dishes: Peru is famous for its diverse and tasteful cuisine. Don't miss trying dishes like ceviche (raw fish marinated in citrus juices), lomo saltado (stir-fried beef), and causa limeña (mashed potato dish). Sample local dishes at recommended restaurants or street food stalls under safe and hygienic conditions.
  • Altitude and Diet: In higher altitudes, you might find lighter meals for the first days such as chicken soup. Drink plenty of water to stay hydrated, especially in elevated areas.
  • Vegetarian/Vegan Options: While Peruvian cuisine heavily features meats and seafood, many places offer vegetarian and vegan dishes. Inform your guides or restaurants in advance about any dietary restrictions or food allergies, and they'll often accommodate your needs.
  • Handcrafts: Always keep some cash with you to buy some souvenirs you may want. They sometimes accept cards but cash is the most popular payment method.
  • Tipping Culture: Tipping norms in Peru for tour guides, drivers, and other service providers are not fixed. We always recommend giving a personal appreciation but it is not a must, it is up to you.
  • Language: Basic knowledge of Spanish might be helpful, but English is commonly spoken in tourist areas.
  • Connectivity: In cities like Lima and Cusco, you'll find good internet connectivity. However, in more remote areas, such as the mountains or while hiking, you have to be aware that we will not be connected to wifi or the internet. Expect limited or no internet access.
  • Passport & Visa: Ensure your passport is valid for at least six months beyond your planned departure date. Citizens of many countries, including the US, Canada, the UK, and most of Europe, do not need a visa for tourist visits to Peru for up to 90 days.
  • Travel Insurance: Consider travel insurance that covers medical emergencies, trip cancellations, and any high-altitude trekking activities. Is not mandatory for this trip but we EXTREMELY recommend having one.

Cusco is waiting for you, are you ready?

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