Cusco (3400 m.) stands at the head of the Sacred Valley of the Incas, this is the prime destination for the vast majority of Peru’s visitors. To see Cusco and the surrounding area properly you’ll need at least 5 days (see our recommended tour). This would allow you to visit the city, enjoy its nightlife, visit the towns, and the villages of Urubamba, known also as the “the sacred valley of the incas”.
How to get to Cusco?
The best way to reach Cusco is by plane (1h10 min). If you’re arriving from Lima you’ll probably do so. Taking a bus is also possible, but long and tiring (22 hrs. Of travel). On the contrary, you can see beautiful landscapes coming from the coastline to the highlands.
Companies that have regular flights Lima – Cusco are:
- Lan Peru (now Latam)
- Peruvian airlains
- Star Peru
Which company is the best and which one I should buy my tickets with? Find out more information related to flying in Peru in our Blog.
The center of Cusco is easy to explore on foot. However keep in mind that walking up at this altitude might leave you out of breath, so you’ll need to take your time upon your arrival, rest, not physical effort and hydration is our best advice for you!
If you feel tired and your hotel is not so close, you can easily take a cab, they’re everywhere and charge a small amount of Money. 5 soles (1.60 USD) is an average rate but of course, it depends on distance. Don’t hesitate to negotiate the rate with the driver, if you consider that it’s kind of expensive.
Main spots you can visit:
- San Blas District, also known as Tococachi in Inca times, this traditional neighborhood is a must see in Cusco city. San Blas is so popular by the large number of shops and galleries that sell local paintings, carvings and ceramics. It’s also a nice place to eat and have a drink, with lots of choice. Machu Picchu Explorer highly recommend you visit the Temple of San Blas, so popular because it houses one of the most famous pieces of wood carving in the Americas, a beautiful pulpit carved from a single cedar trunk.
- The famous stone of 12 angles, located in Hatun Rumiyoc street, halfway along its second block, on the right side going away from the Plaza.
- The temple of the Sun (Qoricancha), A fascinating sight in Cusco. Considered as the most important temple in Cusco, it was built to honor the god sun. According to many authors, all the stone walls were covered by gold and silver.
Weather in Cusco
In Cusco there are two well-defined seasons: the dry season from April to October, characterized by sunny days, cool nights and no rain (the ideal time to visit), and the rainy season from November to March, where rainfall is abundant (generally above 1,000 mm). Some general characteristics of Andean climates are dry air, the sunshine, which decreases in summer, and the temperature differences between sun and shade, night and day, morning and evening.
||T min (C°)
||T max (C°)
|Dry season (April - Ocober)
|Rainy season (Nov - March)
Note that during the dry season temperature changes dramatically. Very cold at nights and hot during the days. Consider taking with you warm clothes, especially in the early mornings and evenings.
Coming to Cusco is very safe in general. Airports, train stations and tourist sports are always patrolled by the police. However you should always be vigilant. Machu Picchu Explorer has prepared some advises so you can totally enjoy your stay:
- Look after your personal items all the time.
- Stay vigilant when you take cash from an ATM.
- Ask the Hotel to keep tour important items in a safe.
- Make several copies of your passport.
- Keep with you a list of phone numbers you might need (tour agency, hotel, police, etc.).
- Note Tourist Police number in Cuzco: 084-249665/221961.
What is the Boleto Turistico (BTC)?
This is a combined entry ticket to 16 of the main historical and cultural sites in and around Cuzco. This ticket costs about US$ 42.00 and it’s valid for 10 days. It allows entry to:
- Municipal Exposition of Contemporary art.
- The Casa Garcilaso.
- Museum of popular art.
- Museum of Qoricancha.
- Centro Qosqo de Arte Nativo (folkloric show).
- Pachacuteq Monument.
- Puka Pukara.
A 2 day-ticket (US$72.00) is also available and allows entry to Sacsayhuaman, Qenqo, Puka Pukara and tambomachay. Note that not individual tickets are available.
The BTC can be bought at Cosituc office (Av el Sol 103, Galerias turisticas de la municipalidad). We remind you that students with the ISIC card can buy their tickets at US$ 24.00. Also note that photography is not allowed in Churches and museums.
Festivals & Events
We have prepared a list with the most important events in Cuzco city that you might be interested in. Now you can organize your trip including the festival you would like to assist.
- February / March: Carnival in Cusco is a messy affair with water, flour and manure thrown in the streets. Be prepared and participate in this “battle”.
- March / April: Eastern in Cusco, and the procession of the Lord of the Earthquakes, a tradition starting from 16h00 outside the Cathedral.
- 2-3 May: The vigil of the Cross, this tradition takes place at the mountain tops with croddes on them. People pray and ask for blessing.
- Jun: The most important events in Cusco take place during June. Participate in the famous Corpus Christi, when all statues from Cuzco’s churches are paraded in the streets to the Cathedral. A nice time to taste local cuisine made from potatoes, maize, cheese and the famous Cuy (guinea pig). Don’t miss the spectacular lights and sound show in the main square, fireworks and surprises during that night. Normally the third week of June.
- 24 June: The Inti Raymi, the Inca festival of the winter solstice, which begins in the Qoricancha, the mains Square and finalizes in Sacayhuaman. A feast to honor the god Sun and also the begin of the Andean year. Customize your experience for the feast of Inti Raymi with Machu Picchu Explorer, book your experience here.
- August / September: The Huarachicoy, a festival at Sacsayhuaman, which shows how young boys grow to become adults. They participate in big effort activities to prove they’re ready to be adults.
- 8 Sep: Day of the Virgin, when there’s a colorful procession of masked dancers, from the church of Almudena to the Plaza San Francisco.
- 1, 2 November: Day of all Saints, locals honor their relatives passed away with traditional dances, tasty cuisine (especially pork) and great desserts.
- 24 December: Santuranticuy, the buying of Saints. Considered a huge celebration in Christmas, shopping with a big crafts market in the Main Square.
Many options are available, in this list we suggest you the best places where you can go shopping:
- Plaza San Blas: If you’re looking for Arts and Crafts, San Blas Plaza is the best place to find authentic works. A market is held on Saturdays.
- Centro Artesanal: Definitely the best value in handicrafts you can find. Open every day at the Av. El sol 603, next to the Paqcha.
- Kuna: High Alpaca quality clothing, located at the Plaza Regocijo 202.
- Books: go to the Casa Bartolome, Av Tullumayu 465. Peruvian history and Arqueology. You can also try SBS, Av El sol 781.
- Food & Natural Products: Cocla, Coca shop, find organic Café and Tea from the Cuzco region, Jr. Meson de la Estrella 1353.
Peruvian cuisine has become so popular in the last years, every region has a variety of dishes, thanks to the local crops they produce. In Cuzco you’ll taste different flavors, just go to the right directions!
- Chicha restaurant: Specialist of dishes of the region using recipes created by Gaston Acurio.
- Incanto: It serves pastas, grills meats, and great wine
- Inka Grill: Specialized in Novo Andina cuisne, they offer innovate dishes.
- Limo: Peruvian cuisine specialized in fish and seafood, good for special occasions.
- Map Café: Very good Peruvian Andean cuisine and international food.
There are some magnificent Inca Walls in the ruined ceremonial center of
Sacsayhuaman, on a hill on the northern part of Cusco. The Inca walls
are hugely impressive, weighting up to 130 tons are fitted together with
absolute perfection. Read More...
Churches and temples
The cathedral of Cuzco, built in the 17th century, forms a part of a three
church complex; the cathedral itself, Iglesia Jesus Maria and el Triunfo.
Just north of the Plaza, Calle Ataud, is one of Cusco’s most impressive
colonial houses. Inside there is a courtyard where local Quechua weavers
can be seen working. The weavings are for sale, kind of expensive but of
very good quality. This museum exhibits the development of culture in the
region, from Pre-Inca civilizations, Inca civilization itself, to the present days.
The museum has a good combination of textiles, ceramics, metalwork,
architecture, photographs, etc. Read More...