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The lovely Iglesia de la Compania in Cusco

Cusco Tours & Treks

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Adventures await you in the ancient capital of the Inca Empire of Cusco. Tours to Machu Picchu all include Cusco in their itineraries, and almost all fly into Cusco and use the ancient city as a base for exploring the Inca Empire. Meander down the Inca wall-lined streets of Cusco or head up the hill to Saksaywaman to the navel of the world, an Inca ceremonial center with massive Inca stone structures. Board the train to Machu Picchu starting in Cusco, or trek the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu. A short drive away is the Sacred Valley, with it's imposing Inca fortresses that still stand imposingly over the towns of Ollantaytambo, Pisac and Urubamba. Contact one of our Peru travel experts to help you design the perfect tour to Cusco, the Sacred Valley and Machu Picchu.

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Cusco - Center of the Inca Empire and of your trip to Machu Picchu

Gettng There and Away
Everyone visiting Machu Picchu passes through Cusco, and most arrive at Alejandro Velasco Astete International Airport (CUZ) via a flight from Lima (LIM). The only international flights to Cusco are from La Paz, Bolivia and Bogota, Colombia. 

Within your first few steps off the plane, you'll surely notice the altitude at 11,152 feet (3,399 meters). Walk slowly as to not lose your breath, take it easy with physical activity for the first few days and keep hydrated to minimize the impact of altitude.

From the airport, located just a few minutes drive from the historical city center, most will head directly to their hotel in Cusco or the Sacred Valley

 
Cusco Weather & Best Times to Travel to Cusco

Due to its altitude, Cusco tends to be quite cool, especially in the evenings and out of the sun. Bring a coat and a rain coat in certain months.

Average highs are quite consistent and pleasant all year round ranging from 63-66 °F (17-19 °C). From May-August the average low temperature dips below freezing at night, while the rest of the year, it averages 39°F (4°C).

May-August is also the dry season when there is very chance of rain. November-March is the rainy season with January being the wettest where almost daily showers can be expected. The Inca Trail is normally closed for part of February.

Cusco, and especially Machu Picchu, become packed with tourists during the high season from June through August, so our favorite times to visit are during the shoulder season months of April, May, September and October when you'll have good weather and excellent access to the treasures of Cusco and Machu Picchu.   
Preparing & Packing for the Inca Trail in Cusco

For those trekking the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu,  Cusco is your last chance to stock-up on camping gear and snacks and pack for the challenging 4-day hike to the lost Inca city of Machu Picchu. 

In most cases, you'll leave some of your luggage in Cusco, and pack the rest to give to the porter (arriero) who will lug your remaining luggage (with weight restrictions) up and down the mountains over 4 days. Anything that you'll need while you're hiking during the day should be packed in your day pack. 

In your day pack and on the trail don't forget:
  • Well worn-in, sturdy hiking boots and hiking socks
  • Waterproof/resistant outer shell or poncho
  • Multiple inner layers made of fast-drying (non-cotton) that can be removed or worn depending on ever-changing climate.
  • Sunglasses, a hat and sunscreen - the high-altitude sun is intense.
  • Trekking poles are optional but recommended 
  • Waterbottle, personal snacks, camera(s)
See our full Inca Trail packing list for a complete list of everything you'll need to pack for the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu.


 
Cusco's High Altitude - Avoiding Altitude Sickness  

The city of Cusco is at 11,152 feet (3,399 meters) and most visitors are impacted by varying degrees to altitude sickness, also know as accute mountain sickness (AMS), or "soroche", from the Inca's Quechua language, is the word used throughout the Andes. 

The common symptoms of altitude sickness according to the Mayo Clinic are:
Whole body: inability to exercise, fatigue, loss of appetite, or low oxygen in the body
Sleep: sleepiness or sleeping difficulty
Gastrointestinal: nausea or vomiting
Respiratory: rapid breathing or shortness of breath
Also common: fast heart rate, headache, insufficient urine production, or respiratory distress syndrome

Altitude sickness may affect anyone regardless of age or level of fitness. The best way to avoid altitude sickness is to gradually go higher altitudes and take into consideration previous experience at similar altitudes. The only guaranteed way to alleviate AMS is to go to a lower altitude, and luckily, on visits to Cusco, this is a relatively easy to organize your itinerary so that you gradually increase the altitude where you travel. 

If you get severe headaches, have vomiting or a wet cough, contact your tour leader or hotel concierge immediately as these are potentially dangerous symptoms.

 
How to limit the impacts of altitude when visiting Cusco

From the airport in Cusco, it's a good strategy to bypass your visit to Cusco's amazing city center to return after several days of gradual acclimatization such as the following: 
  • Sacred Valley at 9,100-9,700 feet (2,800-3,000 m)
  • Machu Picchu at 7,972 ft (2,430 m) before returning to
  • Cusco 11,152 feet (3,399 meters)
Other tactics for beating AMS are:‚Äč
  1. Rest - take it easy the first day and gradually increase your activity as you feel yourself gaining strength. 
  2. Hydration - sip from your water bottle all day.
  3. Coca Tea - is available at nearly all hotels and improves your sense of well being at altitude. That 70 year-old indigenous lady that passed you climbing up the mountain is chewing coca leaves, a significantly stronger formulation than tea.
  4. Oxygen - is available at some hotels and all clinics.

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