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Visit the Plaza de Armas in Cusco on your Peru tour

Top 10 Must-Do Activities in and Around Cusco

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10 Best Things to Do in and Around Cusco, Peru

Cusco, a city nestled high in the Peruvian Andes, is a cultural marvel and the gateway to the Inca Empire and the world-renowned Machu Picchu. This historical city offers a tapestry of rich history, vibrant culture, and breathtaking landscapes, making it a must-visit for travelers of all interests. Whether you're a history enthusiast, an adventure seeker, a food lover, or a family looking for an enriching vacation, Cusco has something exceptional to offer. Let's explore the top attractions and activities that make Cusco a truly unique destination.

Machu Picchu

Amazing
Amazing



Machu Picchu, the ancient Incan citadel perched high in the Andes, is an awe-inspiring UNESCO World Heritage site. This majestic archaeological wonder exudes a mystical charm, surrounded by misty peaks and intriguing ruins that continue to captivate visitors from around the world. Exploring the terraces, temples, and residential areas of Machu Picchu is an experience that transcends time and leaves an indelible mark on all who visit.

Who it appeals to: History buffs, adventure seekers, and nature lovers will find Machu Picchu to be a once-in-a-lifetime destination. Families with older children can also embark on this captivating adventure, provided they are prepared for the physical demands.
Insider Tips: Consider visiting early in the morning to witness the sunrise over the ancient ruins, and engage with knowledgeable guides to uncover the mysteries and secrets of Machu Picchu.
Practicalities: Machu Picchu requires advance booking, and visitor numbers are limited each day to preserve the site. It's advisable to arrive early to avoid crowds, and comfortable walking shoes and plenty of drinking water are essential for exploring this vast site.

Sacsayhuaman

Beth enjoying the fantastic Inca ruins at Sacsayhuaman
Beth enjoying the fantastic Inca ruins at Sacsayhuaman


Sacsayhuaman
, an ancient Inca fortress located on the outskirts of Cusco, is a testament to the incredible engineering and architectural prowess of the Incan civilization. The massive stone walls, some of which weigh over 300 tons, form a remarkable ceremonial complex with expansive views of the surrounding landscape.

Who it appeals to: History enthusiasts, architecture aficionados, and visitors with an interest in ancient civilizations will be fascinated by the impressive ruins of Sacsayhuaman. This attraction also offers excellent panoramic photo opportunities and is suitable for families and older travelers.
Insider Tips: Visit during the Inti Raymi festival in June for an unforgettable reenactment of the Incan sun ceremony, and be sure to explore the site with a knowledgeable guide to gain deeper insights into its historical significance.
Practicalities: Sacsayhuaman is easily accessible from Cusco and can be reached by taxi or as part of a guided tour. The site is at a high elevation, so it's essential to acclimate to the altitude before visiting.

Cusco Cathedral

Preparing for the parade at Plaza de Armas
Preparing for the parade at Plaza de Armas


The Cusco Cathedral, located on the main square, Plaza de Armas, is a stunning example of colonial architecture and an emblem of the city's rich religious heritage. The cathedral houses an extraordinary collection of colonial art, including paintings, sculptures, and intricate woodwork.

Who it appeals to: Art and history enthusiasts, architecture aficionados, and visitors with a penchant for religious heritage will appreciate the cultural significance and artistic marvels within the Cusco Cathedral. Families with older children can explore this historical site together.
Insider Tips: Take a guided tour of the cathedral to gain in-depth knowledge about its history and art, and don't miss the opportunity to climb the narrow stairs to the vantage points for stunning views of the Plaza de Armas.
Practicalities: The cathedral is open for visitors during specific hours, and there is an entrance fee to explore its interior. It's advisable to dress modestly and respectfully when visiting religious sites in Cusco, and photography may be restricted in certain areas.

Qorikancha

Santo Domingo/Qorikancha, Cusco
Santo Domingo/Qorikancha, Cusco


Qorikancha, also spelled Coricancha, was the most important Inca temple dedicated to the worship of the Sun God. After the conquest of Peru, the Spanish built the Church of Santo Domingo on the site, creating a fascinating juxtaposition of Incan and colonial architecture.

Who it appeals to: History buffs, culture enthusiasts, and visitors interested in the blend of Incan and Spanish colonial history will be fascinated by the architectural and cultural significance of Qorikancha. This attraction is also suitable for families and older travelers interested in ancient sites.
Insider Tips: Spend time admiring the intricate stonework and the remnants of Incan walls within the church, and visit the on-site museum to gain a deeper understanding of the site's historical evolution.
Practicalities: Qorikancha is located in central Cusco and can be easily reached on foot. Visitors should allocate sufficient time to explore both the church and the archaeological remnants of the original Inca temple.

Pisac

While exploring the Sacred Valley you may visit the ruins at Pisac during your tour of Peru
While exploring the Sacred Valley you may visit the ruins at Pisac during your tour of Peru


The archaeological complex of Pisac, located in the Sacred Valley of the Incas, encompasses an extensive Incan site with impressive agricultural terraces, ceremonial centers, and intricately constructed stone buildings. The site offers panoramic views of the surrounding valley and is renowned for its vibrant traditional market.

Who it appeals to: History enthusiasts, outdoor adventurers, and visitors interested in the Incan agricultural and architectural achievements will find Pisac to be an enriching and visually captivating destination. Families can explore the expansive site together, combining historical insights with a visit to the market.
Insider Tips: Consider visiting on market days (Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Sundays) to experience the lively and colorful indigenous market, and explore the terraces and residential areas at a leisurely pace to appreciate the site's grandeur.
Practicalities: Pisac is located approximately 20 miles from Cusco and can be reached by taxi, tour bus, or as part of a guided Sacred Valley tour. It's advisable to allocate half a day for the excursion, including time to explore both the archaeological site and the market.

Moray



High in the Andean mountains, the circular terraces of Moray showcase the Incas' innovative agricultural techniques and experimental farming practices. The concentric terraces, resembling an ancient amphitheater, served as an agricultural laboratory to cultivate a variety of crops at different altitudes.

Who it appeals to: Agricultural enthusiasts, history buffs, and visitors with an interest in ancient technology and innovation will be intrigued by the remarkable engineering and agricultural experimentation represented by the Moray terraces. Families and older travelers can appreciate the stunning landscape and historical significance of the site.
Insider Tips: Take time to descend into the terraces for a closer look at the intricate stonework and the microclimates created by the varying levels, and hire a knowledgeable guide to understand the site's agricultural and cultural importance.
Practicalities: Moray is located approximately 31 miles from Cusco and can be reached by organized tours, private transportation, or as part of a Sacred Valley exploration. It's advisable to combine the visit with nearby Maras salt mines for a comprehensive experience.

San Pedro Market

The San Pedro Market in Cusco is a vibrant hub of local culture, where the colors, aromas, and energy of the city come to life. This bustling market is a treasure trove of Peruvian handicrafts, fresh produce, local cuisine, and a fascinating place to observe daily life in Cusco.

Who it appeals to: Food enthusiasts, culture seekers, and visitors looking for an authentic Peruvian experience will relish the sensory delights of the San Pedro Market. Families with children can explore the market's diverse offerings, including artisanal crafts and delectable local treats.
Insider Tips: Engage with the friendly vendors, sample exotic fruits, and savor a traditional meal at one of the market's food stalls for an immersive cultural experience. Bargaining is acceptable when purchasing souvenirs and handicrafts.
Practicalities: The market is open every day, but it's best to visit in the morning to experience it at its liveliest. Be mindful of your belongings in crowded areas, and only purchase food from trusted and hygienic vendors.

Rainbow Mountain

Rainbow Mountain hike in Peru
Rainbow Mountain hike in Peru


Vinicunca, more commonly known as Rainbow Mountain, is a natural wonder situated in the Andes and renowned for its breathtaking multicolored geological formations. The vibrant stripes of mineral deposits create a visually stunning and surreal landscape that is a trekker's paradise.

Who it appeals to: Adventure seekers, nature lovers, and photography enthusiasts will be drawn to the unparalleled beauty of Rainbow Mountain. While the high altitude and challenging terrain make it suitable for physically fit travelers, it's not recommended for those with severe altitude sensitivity or mobility issues.
Insider Tips: Start the trek early in the morning to witness the mountain's vibrant colors at their most vivid, and remember to pace yourself due to the high altitude. Consider hiring a local guide to ensure a safe and enriching experience.
Practicalities: The trek to Rainbow Mountain typically takes a full day, and it's essential to acclimate to the high altitude in Cusco before attempting the hike. Dressing in layers, packing sufficient water and snacks, and maintaining a slow and steady pace are crucial for a successful excursion.

ChocoMuseo

For those with a sweet tooth and an interest in the cultural heritage of cacao, the ChocoMuseo in Cusco offers a delightful and educational experience. Visitors can learn about the history of cacao, participate in chocolate-making workshops, and savor a range of delectable chocolate creations.

Who it appeals to: Food enthusiasts, families with children, and visitors interested in culinary traditions and the art of chocolate making will find the ChocoMuseo to be an engaging and indulgent experience. The museum's interactive workshops cater to both adults and children.
Insider Tips: Engage in a chocolate-making workshop to craft your own sweet treats, and don't miss the opportunity to sample traditional Peruvian hot chocolate or a chocolate-based beverage at the museum's café.
Practicalities: The ChocoMuseo is conveniently located near the main square in Cusco and is easily accessible on foot. Workshops may require advance booking, and visitors should allocate a few hours to fully enjoy the experience.

Cusco Planetarium

The Cusco Planetarium offers a unique opportunity to delve into the fascinating world of Andean astronomy and cosmology. Visitors can participate in immersive stargazing sessions, gain insights into ancient Incan celestial knowledge, and appreciate the region's stunning night sky.

Who it appeals to: Astronomy enthusiasts, families with children, and travelers interested in indigenous knowledge and astronomical history will be enthralled by the celestial narratives and stargazing experiences offered at the Cusco Planetarium. The interactive sessions cater to all ages.
Insider Tips: Attend an evening session for a chance to observe constellations and celestial phenomena through high-quality telescopes, and engage with the knowledgeable hosts to deepen your understanding of Andean cosmology.
Practicalities: The Cusco Planetarium is located a short distance from central Cusco, and transportation can be arranged easily. Visitors should plan to attend an evening session and allocate a few hours for the experience, which usually includes multimedia presentations and stargazing.

Practical Advice for Altitude Sickness, Accommodations, and Transportation

When traveling to Cusco, it's essential to consider practical aspects that can significantly impact your overall experience. Altitude sickness, also known as soroche, is a common concern due to Cusco's high elevation. To minimize the effects of altitude sickness, it's crucial to allow time for acclimatization upon arrival, stay hydrated, and avoid strenuous activities in the first few days.

As for accommodations, Cusco offers a wide range of options to suit various preferences and budgets. From boutique hotels with colonial charm to modern and comfortable hostels, there's something for every traveler. Luxury hotels provide an elevated level of comfort and amenities, while budget accommodations offer affordable and convenient stays.
Transportation within Cusco and its surrounding attractions is readily available through taxis, public buses, and organized tours. It's advisable to negotiate taxi fares in advance or utilize reputable taxi services to ensure fair pricing. Navigating the city on foot can also be a delightful way to explore its narrow streets and hidden gems, especially within the old town.

Plan Your Trip with Adventure Life

Visiting Cusco is a journey that encompasses ancient wonders, captivating landscapes, and a vibrant tapestry of culture and history. Whether you're drawn to the enigmatic allure of Machu Picchu, the architectural marvels of ancient Incan sites, or the sensory delights of local markets, Cusco has the power to enchant and inspire travelers from all walks of life. By embracing the practical advice, insider tips, and tailored recommendations, you can craft a truly unforgettable experience in this captivating Peruvian city.

Embark on a transformative journey to Cusco with Adventure Life, where expert trip planners can assist you in curating the perfect itinerary and customizing your experience to make it your own. With local guides who speak English and boast in-depth knowledge of the region, Adventure Life ensures a seamless, once-in-a-lifetime travel experience on the ground. Start planning your adventure by contacting Adventure Life today.

Take a victory picture from the top of Huayna Picchu on your Peru tour
Take a victory picture from the top of Huayna Picchu on your Peru tour

 

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