Cusco (3,400m) is without a doubt the most beautiful town in Peru and quite possibly South America. Cusco, the Sacred Valley and Machu Picchu together constitute Peru’s principle places to visit.
Cusco is the gateway to the world-famous Inca citadel of Machu Picchu where crisp mountain air and clear Andean sky provide the perfect backdrop to the city’s cobbled streets
Cusco was considered the navel of the earth and the capital of the Inca empire – an empire that at its peak spanned north to Colombia, south to Chile and Argentina, and west across the Andes to the Amazon basin. The Incas were outstanding stonemasons and town planners which can still be noted today admiring the walls that serve as foundations to colonial buildings. Cusco is not only culturally fascinating and beautiful to look at, but also easily walkable on foot.
Things to do
Walk around Cusco's cobbled streets, including the Plaza de Armas and Qorikancha (Sun Temple)
Delve into the city's colonial past by visiting a monastery with a specialist in art history
Learn to make Peru's most popular dishes with a hands-on cooking class
Sample journeys to Cusco
We work hand-in-hand with you to craft a truly tailor-made Cusco travel experience
With some of the finest colonial architecture in the continent, and the remains of the Inca’s expert building techniques, coupled with a most attractive location, Cusco is worthy of a top ranking as one of South America’s foremost cultural attractions.
Cusco offers the visitor a myriad of sightseeing, eating and shopping possibilities. It is a magnet for backpackers, new age tourists and well-heeled travelers from all over the world, thus giving Cusco a rather cosmopolitan atmosphere. Its provincial and distinctly Andean character prevails and enhances the city’s charm.
Things to do in Cusco
At Aracari we have been providing tailormade tours for two decades, fostering local connections to provide a unique angle on private tours of Cusco. This video below demonstrates some of what we offer on private tours to Cusco.
Walking tours in Cusco
Cusco is home to a wonderful selection of stunning places of interest, many of which can be visited on foot, concentrated in the cobbled, historic city centre. General sites of interest include: the Cathedral, Qorikancha (Sun Temple), Sacsayhuaman, Tambomachay, Q’enko, Puca Pucara, La Compania Jesuit Church, La Merced Convent, San Francisco Convent, Inka Museum, Pre-Columbian Art Museum and the Centre for Traditional Textiles.
Where to eat
A hands-on cooking class with a professional chef or sampling food tour by day or night is a great way to explore the vast variety of ingredients found in Cusco. There is a lively restaurant scene where you can find anything from stone-baked pizzas, juicy burgers and sushi, to more local delicacies like ‘cuy’ (guinea pig); we recommend trying the latter at Pachapapa restaurant in the San Blas district. Other top restaurants include La Cicciolina and MAP Café in the Pre-Colombian Art Museum, which rustles up gourment cuisine. Chocolate-lovers should stop off in the Choco Museo for free sampling!
Shopping in Cusco
Cusco offers a wide range of shops where you can pick up high quality textiles and crafts. The Center for Traditional Textiles has a shop and small on-site museum to explain the importance of traditional textiles in Peru – you can normally see women weaving on their looms at the center’s shop.
When to go
We recommend traveling to Cusco during the drier season – May to October is ideal. Travel from November to March can sometimes include heavy downpours.We recommend you allocate at least a full day to visit Cusco, and to visit after exploring the Sacred Valley and Machu Picchu which are at lower altitude. Most of the key sites of interest are easily walkbale, but spectacular ruins like Sacsayhuaman or lesser-visited sites are usually more convenient with a car.
This city is the greatest and the finest ever seen in this country or anywhere in the Indies… We can assure your Majesty that it is so beautiful and has such fine buildings that it would be remarkable even in Spain.
Cusco offers world-class five-star hotels alongside affordable accommodations with something for all budgets and tastes. Most properties are located in the very heart of the historic city center, meaning they are often historic and beautiful buildings. We test out all the properties we recommend to our share first-hand insight on the best hotels in Cusco. These are some of our favorite places to stay.