10 Things to do in cusco
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10 Amazing Things To Do In Cusco

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If you are planning a trip to Perú, then you’ll totally love spending some time in Cusco before getting to Machu Picchu. The old capital of the Incas has lots of activities to offer, that’s why today we are looking at 10 things to do in Cusco

Few things you shuold know before you visit Cusco…

Cusco was the capital of the inca empire, also known as tawantisuyu but in 1534 Francisco Pizarro -spanish conqueror- took control of it.

Cusco was the capital of the inca empire, also known as tawantisuyu but in 1534 Francisco Pizarro -spanish conqueror- took control of it.

Since then, Cusco was a “market” city as it was located between Lima, the capital city of the Peruvian viceroyalty and the mining zone of Perú.

The city is located in the Andes mountains at 3.500 m.a.s.l. so we’d recommend you spending some time there to climatize yourself to altitude. This is specially beneficial if you are planning on doing the inca trail.

After mining and fishing, tourism is 3rd most developed industry of Perú and Cusco is the main touristic destination of the country as it is tourists’ headquarters for visiting  Machu Picchu.

Watch Exploring Together Cusco!

Want to have a glimpse of Cusco? In this video we are exploring some of the main destinations in Cusco while making some good friends along the road!


San Pedro Market in Cusco. Photo by Mariano Mantel

If you’d like to immediately immerse in the Peruvian culture, then you should directly go to the San Pedro Market. The perfect mix of Quechua culture with traditional “occidental” one. 

This is the place where you’ll see the old Quechua women carrying their big colorful sacks full of grain or another good that later on they will sell or consume. 

Besides, the market itself offers a wide variety of things to buy and to eat. A perfect place to have a nice ceviche for cheap prices, get to talk -or try- with a local and enjoy of a refreshing Inca Cola


View to Cusco Photo by:  Sue

Visiting the main square is kinda obvious as it is the main touristic destination on Cusco. But who does not visit the main touristic destination when exploring? So far, I have never heard of someone who has gone to Paris but hasn’t seen the Eiffel tower, right?

Things to do in Cusco, Iglesia Compañía de Jesús
Iglesia de la Compañía de Jesús

And let’s not be the exception, because you’ll not regret spending some good time simply walking around the main square. Besides, this should be your “exploring HQ” as from here you are at walking distances from most the main attractions of Cusco.

Also, you can visit the main 2 churches of the city:

  • Iglesia de la Compañía de Jesús (right)
  • Cusco Cathedral (Bottom)

With a more detailed facade and taller towers than the Cathedral, the Iglesia Compañía de Jesús is generally mistaken to be the Cathedral of Cusco. 

But the Iglesia de la Compañía de Jesús is no where near to the Cathedral’s importance.

Besides the obvious religious difference between a cathedral and a church,  the Cathedral was built on top of the Huiracocha Palace. Temple dedicated to the oldest Gods of the Incas, the creator.

Things to do in Cusco, Cusco Cathedral
The Cathedral of Cusco, photo by: Harvey Barrison


Things to do in Cusco, 12 angle stone
12 Angle Stone

Just a few blocks away from the main square of Cusco is the 12 angle stone. You might be wondering “what is the big deal about this? It is just a stone…”

This is marvellous green diorite stone is believed to weigh 6 tons and it is one of Perú’s most recognizable touristic attractions. You can see it in every Cusqueña beer!

The stone is the perfect demonstration of the Incas’ ability to perfectly fit together stones to create their structures. The assembly is so well done that according to experts, if you remove the stone the entire colonial structure placed on top would fall apart.

In the same wall you’ll see other stones that might even have 13-16 angles, but you will not find one that fits and is so well placed as the 12 angle stone.


San Blas Square. Photo by Benjamin Dumas

If you keep walking in the same street after visiting the 12 angle stone, you’ll notice a long narrow road that goes up the hill. Keep walking through this street and, if you don’t get altitude sickness, you’ll arrive to a lovely little square called San Blas.

Things to do in cusco, San Blas
Exploring the Inca Streets of Cusco

This little area is a great destination to spend 1-2 hours simply walking around as it is the bohemian neighborhood of Cusco.

While exploring this area, you’ll find some craftwork that you won’t see in the rest of the city. Besides, there are plenty of little coffee stores where you can sit down and relax while seeing an alpaca passing by.

By many people, this place is considered to be the best part of the city. Personally, it is hard to rank the attractions as I simply love all of Cusco but, surely, San Blas is in the very top.

I highly recommend going to the narrow streets that are behind the San Blas Square and simply get lost walking here and there. As it is higher than the rest of the city, you’ll enjoy some amazing views to the orange tiles and the hills that surround Cusco. Simply, a must go.



You’ve just traveled to Perú hoping to see some ruins like Machu Picchu or Ollantaytambo? Hold on! Just 4 kms away from Cusco is Sacsayhuaman, an old inca fortress that has some insane structures will be a great way to introduce yourself to the Incan culture

It is believed that only 40% of the original fortress remains. However, some stones used in the structures weight over 125 tons and were carried from 20kms away. When you come to realize these things and ask yourself, “how on earth did this people moved this stones?” is when you start respecting this culture. 

And this amazing facts happens all along the Incan empire structures, that’s why they were the biggest civilization in the America before the Spanish arrived

But I would also like to suggest you something that might be a bit controversial. To have access to the attractions around Cusco you’ll need  a pass that has multiple options that summarized would work like this:

  • BTCI Pass: Includes access to all 3 “touristic circuits” and you have 10 days to use it. $130 PEN = $ 37 USD
  • BTCP I Pass: Includes access to Sacsayhuaman, Quenqo, Puka Pukara and Tambomachay.  You can use it during 1 day. $ 70 PEN = $20 USD
Man looking at a grand ceremonial and burial site in Sacsayhuaman. Photo by Rita Willaert

So basically, if you want to use the most out of the ticket, you either go to the 4 attractions in a day, which is a lot and will cost you more, or you get the more expensive ticket and have more freedom to do the touristic attractions along the 10 days that lasts.

So where is the controversy? If for some reason you don’t have time to visit all of the attractions, or you have a tight budget, then I’d recommend you to skip Sacsayhuaman. 

The ruins are incredible, that’s for sure, but the ticket system is so designed-focused so you spend more money that I’d rather use it to go to Ollantaytambo instead of Sacsayhuaman.

Ruins of Sacsayhuaman, photo by Eric Miraglia


Cuy is considered one of the best dishes you can have in Cusco

Gonna be totally honest with this one. I didn’t like it.

And it isn’t because it is a guinea pig or something like that. It is simply because it is an expensive meal for what it is. On average, half a cuy would cost you somewhere between 30-40 PEN (9-12 USD), but for 20-25 PEN you can get a full meal with deserts!

So why is the Cuy in this list? The two main reasons are:
  • It’s a cuy, you’ll likely not eat it anywhere else
  • For Quechua people it actually is the best dish you can have. 
I once met a Quechua woman that had around 20-30 cuys in her kitchen and I asked her:

-“What is the best food you have” 

and looked at me and said:

Preparing Chicha with Adriana, a Quechua woman.

-“The cuy is the best for sure. Much better than chicken”

I saw the endless amount of cuys she had down her kitchen and asked her:

-“How often do you eat them?”

She smiled and said:

-“not too often, mostly for birthdays or special occasions”

And that’s when I realized that either you like or not, you simply have to try it. 

Ah… If I could add one more reason to why eat a cuy, is because you’ll sound like a badass motherf… when saying “I once had a Cuy while Exploring the Andes”


Having a corn while looking at the city of Cusco. Be sure the check the video!

Yes, food again! But this one I’d totally recommend it. What surprises me the most is that not too many people has written about it!

If you go to Cusco, you must eat a corn. It is probably the most Quechua thing you’ll ever do. It is like the Quechua snicker, really! You see Quechuans (not sure if that’s a word) eating it in the buses, with cheese, one by one or biting it.

What’s better, it is ridiculously cheap. One corn will cost you like 30-40 cents of a dollar so if you are a budget traveler, this will be your best friend.


The beautiful Sacred Valley in the Andes Mountains

Only 20 kilometers away from Cusco you have the Sacred Valley, an extremely important region for the Incas as it was suitable soil and weather for farming. 

Nowadays, The Sacred Valley is like a museum area that you should take the time to explore. 

Not all of the touristic destinations are a must go, but I do totally recommend visiting at least the top 4 in the following list.

Maras Salt mines
  • Ollantaytambo (must visit)
  • Pisac
  • Maras
  • Moray
  • Chinchero
  • Calca
  • Yucay

The Sacred Valley is a place where you should at least consider 2 days to explore and definetely, consider Ollantaytambo. 

Not only it has many attractions as the ones listed above, it is also a place where you’ll get great insights about how the Incas used to live.

Also, here are many touristic activities that you can do like exploring the Sacred Valley in quad bikes or (pro tip) going to a lovely pic-nic with carnaval painting


People buying and transporting goods at Baratillo Market

While San Pedro Market is a great to visit because you can go every day, during weekends you can visit the Baratillo market which is just a few blocks over San Pedro Market. This is probably one of the things I like the most during my last stay in Cusco

Way less focused in touristic products like souvenirs and craft-worked products, Baratillo is mostly a market of locals for locals.  

You’ll mostly Quechuas selling and buying fruits and vegetables, but seeing them interact with each other is real fun. Women wearing those high quechua hats, drinking “chicha” and kids running here and there. This place is where you should go if you want to take some good quality pictures.


Paddy’s Pub, the highest Irish pub in the World. Photo by Christopher Rose

Yeah, no joke. Partying in Cusco is fun. with more than 3.5+ million tourists a year, Cusco has some good night life where you can have fun meeting people from every where around the world.

The most important clubs are located in the main square -which either drunk or sober you should walk around by night as it a wonderful sight- and I do recommend going to Mama Africa. I went there back in 2009 and now in 2020, both times I had a great time

If you want to start your night at its best, then you should go Paddy’s Irish pub. Wait, wuuut? And Irish pub? Why can’t it be an Incan Pub?

That’s a good question, and to be honest, I don’t know. Unfortunately, I don’t think there is something like and Incan Pub haha. But the Irish do what the Incas don’t and me, as an explorer, I’m actually grateful for that because we can get a good beer almost everywhere in the world.

But Paddy’s is different to the rest of the Irish Pubs because it has the world record for being the highest Irish pub in the world. So yeah, if you start your night here, if you didn’t had luck by the end of it, at least you can say you had a beer in the highest Irish Pub of the World


Qorikancha temple. Photo by ben

The Incan equivalent to the Vatican is Qorikancha, the main temple of the Inca empire dedicated to Inti God (The Sun) which was destroyed by the Spanish in the 16th century and later used as the base for the Santo Domingo convent.

It is needless to say how important this temple was for the Incas but, maybe even more impressive, is that this temple/convent/building is the perfect demonstration of what happens when 2 civilizations collide. 

In the interior you’ll find all the classic things that a convent has, a patio, a church, etc… but this is actually a bizarre experience where you’ll see Incan ruins and artistic ways of expressions all along the temple. 

It is believed that a huge part of the gold and fine stones extracted by the incas was used to decorate the temple’s walls and rooms.

Qorikancha = Golden Coutyard

Some of the religious activities that were supposed to be celebrated here were:

Some of the religious activities that were supposed to be celebrated here were:

  1. Astronomical observations to monitor celestial festivities
  2. Mummifications of the Incas (the inca kings)

Personally, one of my main rules when exploring a place is to never give up on walking around the city because you want to go to a touristic destination. Basically, if I’d have a day in Cusco I’ll probably use it to walk around the city, however, if there’s one touristic destination that I’d go, that’s probably Qorikancha.

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Golden Map of Qorikancha. Photo by: pkize

Qorikancha is the perfect representation of civilizations that once collided, imposing a religion over another has always been one of the most effective ways to colonize . Evangelization of a new God over the existing ones, the catholicism against the Incan paganism. Photo by: nicole wilkins

Religion is excellent stuff for keeping common people quiet.by Napoleon Bonaparte

Napoleon Bonaparte


It is a normal thing to plan your visit to Perú thinking on visiting Machu Picchu, but Perú also has so much more to offer and Cusco is the main example of this. The main 10 things we recommend doing in Cusco are:

  1. Visiting San Pedro Market
  2. Walk around the Main Square
  3. Admire the advance architecture with the 12 angles stone
  4. Get lost in the San Blas narrow streets
  5. Walk to Sacsayhuaman. Even if you don’t go in, the walk is totally worth.
  6. Eat a Cuy and absolutely get a Peruvian Corn
  7. Explore the Sacred Valley
  8. Visit the Baratillo Market
  9. Have fun in the highest Irish pub of the world
  10. Learn and reflect on the history of Qorikancha.

Cusco is a city like no other in this world, a real beauty in terms of architecture and history. We hope that you have enjoyed this article, and if so, consider sharing it with other explorers. 

Remember, keep exploring and save this Pin in you Travel Boards!

See you soon my dear explorer

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