Cusco is a small city located high in the Andes. It's full of rich history, old Spanish colonial buildings, narrow cobblestone streets, and also many tourists. The colorful textiles and stunning landscape make Cusco about as beautiful as it gets!
DO spend time wandering Plaza De Armas, the main square in Cusco. Here you’ll find many shops, restaurants, and likely a few baby alpaca. (Be forewarned: you’ll quickly be handed a baby alpaca to take a photo with and are expected to give their owner money in return.) If you’re ever lost in the city, know that most streets heading downhill will lead you to Plaza De Armas.
Definitely hike or take the train or to see Machu Picchu. For our trip to Machu Picchu, we were tight on time and went there and back from Cusco in one day. However, it’s highly recommended you take one extra day, stay in Aguas Calientes, and hike Huayna Picchu early morning before exploring the ruins of Machu Picchu and returning to Cusco. (Note: The bus ride up from Aguas Calientes to Machu Picchu is a bit scary as the roads are narrow along the cliff and the buses go quickly!) We’ve heard good things about Lorenzo Expeditions if you’re interested in doing a more adventurous approach to Machu Picchu. Of course, there is also the option of doing the full Inca Trail hike.
EAT breakfast at the San Pedro Market with many of the locals. The food, coffee, and fresh juices are incredible. You can enjoy pan huevos y aguacate (an egg/avocado breakfast sandwich) along with a creamy coffee for approx. $2 USD.
For an affordable lunch, try the lomo saltado sandwich at Pan Kracio.
DRINK refreshing Peruvian craft beers at Nuevo Mundo - one of the first craft breweries in Cusco. They have 40 craft beers on tap. The brewery is also a great spot to watch fútbol games!
STAY in the San Blas neighborhood of Cusco - it’s a young, bohemian area of the city with many coffee shops, a market, and is in close proximity to Plaza de Armas.
SHOP at the San Pedro Market where you can find traditional Incan arts/crafts and souvenirs. The handmade alpaca blankets/scarves/clothes are very popular here. You can also purchase all types of local food here.
CRUISE by foot to enjoy all the historic details of this city. The city is small enough to be able to walk to most local attractions without using a taxi or bus.
KNOW that “getting acclimated to the altitude” is a real thing here. The high altitude can be exhausting, cause headaches, and interrupt your travel plans for the first day or two. Luckily coca tea or candies seem to ease the pain/nausea quite a bit, and can be found all over the city.
Be cautioned that stray dogs are very common here. Most are friendly and just hoping for food, but it’s possible they’ll bark all morning/evening. And also be aware that in Cusco (and truly a lot of cities we visited in South America) it’s not uncommon to hear fireworks at any hour of the day, including in the middle of the night.
*Please note: All photos in this post were taken on an iPhone only.