Peru is a wonderful country to visit with a lot to do. There are many cities to explore like Lima and Cusco. Cusco is one of the most popular destinations to visit in Peru which is why I wanted to share some of my favorite things to do in Cusco. If you plan on visiting Machu Picchu, then your probably already know that you should plan to stay in Cusco for the majority of your time.
I suggest you arrive two days early to adjust to the altitude in Cusco. Be sure to prepare yourself for hiking the Inca trail as well and learn about how to prepare and pack for the Inca Trail. There are so many things to do in Cusco, from food to hiking, to exploring the culture and so much more. If you are looking to spend more time in Peru, be sure to read this 2 weeks in Peru Itinerary.
Things to do in Cusco
How to get to Cusco
There are a few options for getting to Cusco which include flying directly to Cusco (the fastest route). Other options include flying, renting a car or taking a bus from Lima. Driving would consist of about 18 hours or so, so I’d suggest you arrive early if you plan to do that option. Well assuming you are flying into Cusco because you want to experience the beautiful 7 wonders of the world Machu Picchu, there is a lot of research that needs to be done.
RELATED: Machu Picchu the Easy Way
Where to Stay in Cusco
I suggest you find a hotel near the Plaza de Armas. It is central to most everything with the exception of the Mercado Central de San Pedro. Beware though, some hotels require you to hike uphill after each venture and in high altitudes, it can be quite exhausting to do. We stayed at La Casona de Rimacpampa which we found to be a great location, however, the beds can be a bit hard for those looking for more luxury. Breakfast was included in our stay which made it a perfect choice for us.
Hotels were very reasonable in price which is why we chose to stay in hotels rather than hostels. If traveling solo, I would have probably chosen a hostel, but since we shared with friends it makes the prices just as affordable as staying in a hostel. It honestly depends on your level of comfort and what you require.
Calle ese 343, Cusco, Peru
Now this place looks absolutely stunning, although it is a bit of a trek uphill to get here. The photos in this post are absolutely breathtaking with an Instagram worthy photo experience. Read this review on El Retablo.
If you are looking for other places on where to stay in Cusco, be sure to read the suggestions from “That Backpacker”.
How to Overcome Altitude Sickness in Cusco
Altitude Sickness Pills
Some would say to take altitude sickness pills, but it’s only recommended for people who really have a hard time dealing with altitude sickness. I would suggest you consult with a doctor if this is the route you would like to go, but from what I have heard the side effects are terrible with these kinds of medications.
The way the traditional people of Cusco handle altitude sickness is by sucking or as most people will say chewing Coca Leaves. You do not ingest the coca leaves, you simply chew on it to break parts of the membrane and suck on the nutrients from the leaves. Another way to use coca leaves is to make tea. Most hotels and places will have this available for their guests. Be sure to find it. I do have to warn that it shows up in drug tests and tests positive for cocaine. But do no fear, this will leave your body within 24 hours.
One of the major things about being at higher altitudes is feeling dehydrated. Be sure to drink plenty of water, especially after drinking beer, soda or wine. At higher altitudes, you will experience a lower drinking tolerance which can lead to being drunk quicker and dehydration. If you feel like a headache is coming on, drink plenty of water.
Pack Dramamine or Anti-Nausea Pills
There were some days that I felt nauseous and it may be from traveling or the fact that a friend of our got food poisoning. Having the Dramamine pills helped me when I felt nauseous at times. It’s one of my go-to travel medications for travel because I sometimes get motion sickness from being in the back of a bus or on a speedboat.
RELATED: The Santa Cruz Trek in Peru
Places to Eat in Cusco
Peru is known for being one of the top culinary destinations in the world. They pride in making excellent food with style, presentation, and taste. There are so many great places to eat in Cusco and even though they are high scale looking the prices are often found very reasonable for Westerners. Eating your way through Cusco is a popular past time and one of the most important things to do in Cusco.
Things to do in Cusco
Plaza de Armas is the most popular thing to do in Cusco
Plaza de Armas is the most popular square in Cusco. They have so many places to shop, eat, Cathedrals to explore and just a great outdoor plaza to sit, relax and drink coffee. There are a lot of vendors who do try to sell you things here, but it is a great starting point to check out some of the beautiful architecture in Cusco, Peru. This is a great starting point for things to do in Cusco. We started our day here almost every day and worked our way out and around the area. There are many great restaurants in the square as well.
Iglesia de la Compania de Jesus
Like many of the Cathedrals in Plaza de Armas, there is this church in a smaller plaza. It is just as beautiful as ever and worth a visit to the outside and surrounding areas.
Calle Plateros 334 B, Cusco – Peru
If you want something different than what is at the market for typical Cusco souvenirs, I highly suggest you visit the Pedazo de Arte. They are a cute little Japanese/Peruvian shop with small handcrafted items that are perfect for those who are minimalists. There are so many different pieces of handcrafted jewelry made by a local artisan. My favorite souvenirs were here making it a place I needed to add for the top things to do in Cusco.
Mercado Central de San Pedro
Now, you must know that Mercado Central de San Pedro is one of the most popular things to do in Cusco and has the most affordable souvenirs you can get. So if you plan on visiting Lima, be aware that the souvenirs in Lima are twice as expensive. You will get the best deals in Cusco and find more souvenirs here as well. The market is filled with lots of vendors with food, key chains, ponchos, sweaters, and so much more for your needs. You won’t see as much available outside of this market since most of the store will have higher-end made alpaca and llama clothing.
This Market is perfect for those handmade items and sweaters. Some of the items may be similar to those at San Pedro but most of these items are handmade and handcrafted.
San Cristobal is a beautiful church on the top of the hill in Cusco. It is a beautiful sight to see the entire town of Cusco and enjoy a breathtaking view. It is one of the best views in Cusco and worth visiting.
If you plan to take a small tour of the church inside, I suggest you purchase the CRA (Circuito Religioso Arzobispal) museum pass for S/ 30 ~ $9USD. The pass is good for the major cathedrals in Cusco such as the Catedral, Templo del Triunfo, Templo de la Sagrada Familia, Templo de San Blas, Templo de San Cristobal and the Museo Arzobispal. It is worth the price because the Catedral of Cusco alone cost S/ 24. The pass is also for good for a month of the date purchased which is perfect because you can use it later during the week. This was one of the most beautiful things to do in Cusco.
Chocolate workshop at Choco Museum was one of my favorite things to do in Cusco
The Choco Museum is worth a visit if you love anything chocolate. They have dark, white and milk chocolate. Many of them are infused with different things like fruits, spices and more. The stores are very popular to visit and there are tons of samples to try. One of the most popular samples to try is their amazing cocoa tea which is made from the shells of the cocoa beans.
The workshop itself is $24USD and lasts about 2 hours and is worth it to learn more about the process of cocoa and making chocolate. Now chocolate is a long and intensive process so you won’t be able to do everything from start to beginning but you will learn a lot. This was probably one of my favorite things to do in Cusco.
The Inka are the ones who were native to Peru. They were the ones who created the stunning Machu Picchu. The main language of the Inka’s is Quechua which is still popular among older people in Peru. Although, Spanish is more common many still speak Quechua at home since that was their first language. Spanish was required for schools in Peru.
Museo del Pisco
Pisco is a popular drink in Peru and is very famous here. There are many types of Pisco. At a high altitude, you may get drunk in a fast time frame. If you love to drink and want to try new flavors be sure to check out this museum.
Rainbow Mountain is another great place to visit on your trip. If you are able to handle the high altitude, you should add this to your list. We were unable to go because my friend had a bad case of food poisoning, but it was definitely on our list of things to do! Read about Rainbow Mountain Peru, The Ultimate Day Trip from Cusco.
You may also be interested in: Hiking Laguna Humantay
Be sure to download my FREE Cusco Printable in my Downloads Library!
Map of Cusco
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