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Cusco Tours & Treks

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Allison De Jong
Visit the Plaza de Armas in Cusco on your Peru tour
Llamas in Machu Picchu
Christian Vinces
Lima's San Martin square lit up in the evening
Sacred Valley
Erin Correia
Moray aggricultural terraces in Sacred Valley
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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 Travel Guide

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

Must-Visit Sites in Cusco, Peru

Nestled in the Andes Mountains, Cusco is brimming with history and cultural treasures. Make sure to explore the following sites.
  • San Blas: Explore this bohemian neighborhood with narrow alleys, vibrant galleries, and artisan workshops.
  • Red Valley: Discover the hidden gem offering awe-inspiring landscapes and breathtaking views of the Andes Mountains.
  • San Pedro Market: Immerse yourself in the bustling hub of colors, flavors, and aromas, experiencing the vibrant local life.
  • San Cristobal Viewpoint: Capture a panoramic view of Cusco and its majestic surroundings from this hilltop vantage point.
  • Ancient Inca Walls: Stroll through the streets adorned with remnants of ancient Inca walls, reflecting a rich and complex history.
  • Sacsayhuaman: Visit the captivating Inca ruins, an architectural marvel overlooking the city, evoking the glory of the past.
  • Qorikancha: Explore the enigmatic Inca temple, showcasing the fascinating blend of Inca and Spanish influences.
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.   
How to Minimize Altitude Impact When Visiting Cusco

Gradual Acclimatization: Upon arriving at Cusco Airport, consider bypassing the city center temporarily and returning after a couple of days of gradual acclimatization.

Suggested Itinerary:
  1. Visit Sacred Valley at 9,100-9,700 feet (2,800-3,000 m) upon arrival.
  2. Explore Machu Picchu at 7,972 ft (2,430 m).
  3. Return to Cusco at 11,152 feet (3,399 meters) to delve into its fascinating history.
Other Tactics for Combating AMS:
  • Rest: Take it easy on your first day and gradually increase activity as you feel stronger.
  • Hydration: Actively hydrate the day before and sip water throughout the day.
  • Coca Tea: Available in most hotels, it enhances your well-being at altitude. Locals often chew coca leaves, which have a stronger formulation than tea.
  • Coffee: Enjoy your morning or afternoon coffee for its vasodilating benefits.
  • Sugar: Keep sugary treats or chocolate handy to nibble on if you feel drowsy or sleepy.
  • Oxygen: Walk slowly, breathe deeply, and maintain a low heart rate. If needed, oxygen tanks are usually available at hotels and clinics.
Cusco's High Altitude: Understanding and Avoiding Altitude Sickness

Situated at an impressive elevation of 3,399 meters (11,152 feet), the captivating city of Cusco awaits visitors with its rich history and awe-inspiring landscapes. However, the higher altitudes can pose a challenge for some, as they may experience altitude sickness, also known as acute mountain sickness (AMS) or "soroche" in the Inca's Quechua language, a term resonating throughout the Andes.

Symptoms of altitude sickness, as outlined by the Mayo Clinic, encompass a range of discomforts such as fatigue, loss of appetite, sleepiness, nausea or vomiting, shortness of breath, rapid heart rate, or headache. 

It is crucial to acknowledge that altitude sickness can affect anyone, irrespective of age or physical fitness. However, there are proactive steps to minimize its impact. Gradual acclimatization is a key strategy, involving a slow ascent to higher altitudes, considering previous experiences at similar elevations. Crafted itineraries for Cusco allow for a smooth progression in altitude, making acclimatization feasible.

In addition to gradual ascent, there are other preventive measures that are easier to implement. Prior to traveling to higher altitudes, ensure to hydrate adequately by consuming two or more liters of water the day or a couple of days before departure. To avoid discomfort at higher altitudes, especially during the initial days, refrain from heavy meals, particularly red meat, which takes longer to digest. Instead, keep chocolate or sugary treats on hand, as they can help combat sleepiness or drowsiness caused by altitude.

For coffee enthusiasts, indulging in coffee at the destination can prove beneficial, as it acts as a vasodilator, promoting better oxygen flow. While on location, adopt a leisurely pace and walk slowly, preventing your heart rate from accelerating.  Embrace the idea that you are on vacation, and there is no need to rush. By adhering to these measures, you can fully enjoy the wonders of Cusco and its surroundings, while minimizing the potential impact of altitude sickness.
Exploring the Enigmatic Machu Picchu from Cusco

Embarking on a Machu Picchu tour from Cusco is an extraordinary journey that allows you to step back in time and immerse yourself in the enigmatic world of the Incas. This awe-inspiring archaeological wonder, perched high in the Andes Mountains of Peru, beckons adventurers and history enthusiasts alike to witness its captivating beauty and cultural significance.

Before visiting Machu Picchu, take the opportunity to explore the charming city of Cusco. As the ancient capital of the Inca Empire, Cusco is steeped in history and boasts a wealth of archaeological sites, colonial architecture, and vibrant culture. Wander through its cobblestone streets, visit the impressive Sacsayhuaman fortress, and discover the fascinating blend of Inca and Spanish influences.

Upon reaching Machu Picchu, prepare to be spellbound by its architectural brilliance and spiritual ambiance. Marvel at the precise stonework of the terraces and structures, a testament to the Inca's engineering prowess. The Temple of the Sun, Intihuatana, and Room of the Three Windows are just a few of the remarkable features that whisper tales of a civilization lost to time.
How to Visit the Rainbow Mountain in Peru

Rainbow Mountain, also known as Vinicunca Mountain, is a natural wonder nestled in the Peruvian Andes, renowned for its breathtaking display of vibrant colors. This geological marvel, formed by mineral deposits, showcases a surreal and awe-inspiring landscape that captivates visitors from around the world.

To experience the enchanting Rainbow Mountain, there are two main options: the Rainbow Mountain Tour or the Rainbow Mountain Hike. The tour provides a convenient way to reach the base of the mountain and enjoy the stunning views without extensive hiking. On the other hand, the Rainbow Mountain Hike offers a rewarding adventure, taking hikers through picturesque valleys and high-altitude landscapes before reaching the magnificent peak.

For those seeking a more accessible experience, Palccoyo Rainbow Mountain is an excellent alternative. This lesser-known gem boasts equally stunning colors and is ideal for visitors with limited time or physical constraints.

Interesting Facts:
  • The colors of Rainbow Mountain are a result of various mineral deposits, including iron oxide, copper, and sulfur, creating a dazzling palette.
  • The mountain's vibrant hues were concealed beneath ice and snow until recently, making it a hidden gem that has gained popularity in recent years.
  • The indigenous communities in the region revere Rainbow Mountain as a sacred place, holding it in high cultural significance.
Trekking the Legendary Inca Trail 

One of the most popular ways to experience Machu Picchu is through the Inca Trail tour, which you can choose to embark on before or after visiting Cusco. This iconic trek takes you on a path once traversed by the ancient Incas, leading to the grand entrance of the "Lost City." The Inca Trail trek is renowned for its breathtaking landscapes, encompassing lush forests, rugged mountain passes, and fascinating Inca ruins along the way.

Before or after embarking on the Inca Trail trek, immerse yourself in the vibrant city of Cusco. Marvel at the magnificent Inca stone walls, visit the intriguing Qorikancha Temple, and explore the bohemian San Blas neighborhood with its charming artisan workshops.

As you begin your trek, traverse the undulating landscapes, witness the testament of Inca ingenuity, and forge memories that will last a lifetime. The Inca Trail offers not only physical challenges but also opportunities for profound spiritual connection with the ancient heritage of Peru. The trail's limited permits make it a sought-after experience, making early planning essential for securing your spot on this remarkable expedition.
Preparing & Packing for the Inca Trail in Cusco

Before embarking on the challenging hike to Machu Picchu via the Inca Trail, ensure you're well-equipped with the essentials. In Cusco, your last chance to stock up on camping gear and snacks, you'll leave some luggage behind and hand the rest to porters (arrieros) for transport with weight restrictions.

What to Pack in Your Day Pack:
  • Well-worn, sturdy hiking boots and socks
  • Waterproof/resistant outer shell or poncho
  • Multiple fast-drying (non-cotton) inner layers for changing climates
  • Sunglasses, hat, and sunscreen for high-altitude sun
  • Optional but recommended: Trekking poles
  • Water bottle, personal snacks, and camera(s)
For a comprehensive list of everything you'll need, check our full Inca Trail packing list. Get ready to embark on a once-in-a-lifetime adventure, uncovering the ancient wonders of Machu Picchu through the rugged Inca Trail.

Peru’s Most Popular Visitor Sites

Learn about some of Peru's most fascinating sites and include them in your trip when planning to visit the enchanting city of Cusco.
  • Lima: Experience the vibrant capital city of Peru, boasting a mix of historical landmarks, modern architecture, and a thriving culinary scene that reflects the country's diverse flavors and cultures.
  • Inca Trail: Embark on an iconic trek, following the footsteps of ancient Incas, leading to the majestic "Lost City" of Machu Picchu.
  • Sacred Valley: Discover the ancient Inca heartland, where stunning terraces, archaeological sites, and traditional villages await.
  • Colca Canyon: Stand in awe of one of the world's deepest canyons, where majestic condors soar and picturesque landscapes abound.
  • Lake Titicaca: Experience the magic of South America's largest lake, where traditional communities and floating islands preserve unique customs.
  • Arequipa: Explore the "White City," characterized by colonial architecture, including the Santa Catalina Monastery, and flanked by the Misti Volcano.
  • Rainbow Mountain (Vinicunca): Trek to the awe-inspiring Rainbow Mountain, known for its vibrant, multi-hued stripes caused by mineral deposits, offering a surreal and breathtaking sight in the Peruvian Andes.
  • Nazca Lines: Marvel at the enigmatic geoglyphs etched into the desert floor, their purpose and origins still shrouded in mystery.
  • Maras Moray: Witness the enigmatic agricultural terraces of Moray and the striking salt pans of Maras, testaments to Inca ingenuity.
  • Amazon River: Set sail on an expedition cruise, exploring the Amazon River's tributaries, observing diverse wildlife, and connecting with local communities.
  • Manu National Park: Immerse yourself in the heart of the Amazon rainforest, a biodiverse paradise teeming with wildlife and untouched natural beauty.


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