Travel Guide


Planning a trip to Peru? This Cusco travel guide will give you the run down of everything you need to know! Cusco, once known as the capital of the Inca Empire, is the oldest continuously inhabited city in the America’s and an absolute must-see on your trip to Peru. Despite the common misconception that Cusco is solely the gateway to Machu Picchu, it is actually one of Peru’s most exciting destinations! In this Cusco travel guide we break down all the best food spots, places to stay, things to do, and more!


The gorgeous city is built within steep, rolling hills, allowing for breathtaking views from every area. Throughout the unique landscape you can expect narrow cobblestone streets, gorgeous spacious plazas, well-maintained Inca walls, and a mix of Spanish colonial and Inca architecture – which will all take your breath away. In addition to the city’s structure, it is also well known for it’s buzzing nightlife, unbelievable food scene, endless live music, extremely friendly locals, and wealth of historical sites. Between exploring the impressive ruins, eating our way through the city, bargaining with the locals, and shopping until we couldn’t zip our suitcases, we concluded one thing: Cusco is our favorite city in Peru and a must-not-miss!

Quick Tips


The official currency of Peru is the Sol (S/), which is a little over 4x the USD.


The best time to visit Peru is during the dry season between May and October.


Peru is in Standard Time Zone (GMT-5) or one hour behind New York City.

Getting There

Cusco is a quick one hour flight from Lima (so quick they don’t even offer a beverage service). When traveling from Lima we highly recommend getting to the airport at least two hours in advance, as traffic and security can be a nightmare. Always have your hotel call you a taxi for both safety purposes, and to get the best price. Remember, paying in soles is always the cheapest option! We also recommend hydrating very well before getting to the airport. Despite water only costing around 1-2 soles per water bottle in the city, the airports tend to sky rocket the prices. We have paid up to $29 soles per water bottle in a Peruvian airport… ouch.

What To Expect



Peru has the highest highs, the lowest lows, the driest dries, and the wettest rains of any destination we have ever been – literally all in one day! During daytime you can expect warm weather and strong sun rays. However, as soon as the sun sets or is covered by clouds the temperature drops significantly! Additionally, random rain showers are extremely common throughout the day.


Today, Cusco is a relatively safe city to visit. However, petty theft is still common, so always keep an eye on your belongings. Additionally, we do not recommend taking taxis after dark for safety purposes.


Heels are an absolute no if you want to remain upright! This is because of the slippery, uneven cobblestone streets throughout the city. Rather, we recommend comfortable, rubber-soled shoes with good traction. In terms of clothing, Cusco is a very casual place. Come prepared with comfortable athletic clothing, such as shorts, leggings, tanks or t-shirts, and a light rain jacket. And remember, night time gets very chilly, so make sure to pack some warm layers! And good news, if you forget appropriate clothes, everything can be purchased for no more than $5 around town!


Overall, Peru is very affordable in comparison to most of the developed world. For example, 100 soles is equivalent to $25, which should cover all food and transportation for 1-2 days. However, it is not uncommon for locals to skyrocket prices when they see gringos coming. If you don’t think a price is fair, keep looking around at other spots – you will likely find the same item for less (especially if shopping at San Pedro Market).

Where To Stay

Located in the heart of San Blas neighborhood, we were immediately impressed with this quaint, environmentally friendly bed & breakfast. The amenities were perfect, offering a 2 bed / private bathroom space for $160 per night. The rooms included heaters, extra blankets and pillows, a safe, complimentary toiletries, and even a hydration station with unlimited filtered water! Additionally, the staff was extremely accommodating, offering us endless recommendations, reservations, laundry services, Coca Leaf tea, and a delicious complementary breakfast.  The hotel truly went above and beyond and is one of our favorite aspects of our Cusco travel guide!

Things To Do




We highly recommend kicking off your Cusco vacation by exploring our favorite neighborhood in Cusco, San Blas! The neighborhood is bursting with cafes, restaurants, shopping, local vendors, and street art. The lively environment is the perfect place to have fun haggling with the local vendors, meeting fellow travelers, and experiencing a variety of new foods. In fact, most of our favorite restaurants, bars, and pre-dinner drink spots happen to be located in the San Blas neighborhood.


This bustling, lively, and spacious plaza is the best place to people watch, haggle with vendors, and witness incredible 360 views of Cusco. The plaza is also home to two gorgeous landmarks, the Cusco Cathedral and the Iglesia de la Compania de Jesus. Both churches have incredible history and are worth a visit.


First and foremost, a trip to Machu Picchu is a must! Check out our blog on all things Machu Picchu linked below. But don’t stop there, Cusco offers an endless variety of day trips! Two of our favorites include the Moray and Salt Mines Quad Bike Tour, as well as a Rainbow Mountain tour.


While exploring Cusco don’t miss a walk down Hatunrumiyoc street to visit the famous Twelve Angled Stone. The structure is an up-close example of the advanced rocksmanship skills of the ancient Inca society.


Cusco offers a wide variety of restaurants and bars to choose from (see our recs below). Keep in mind that the restaurants around the Plaza tend to be higher in price due to tourism. But even so, we still recommend grabbing drinks and lunch on a balcony or rooftop around the Plaza to catch some of the best views of the city! Some of our favorites spots include Limo, Hanz Craft Beer & Restaurant, Morena Peruvian Kitchen, and Inka Grill.


This massive, local market is located just minutes from the Plaza and is another must-not-miss while visiting Cusco! You can expect a giant warehouse-like structure with endless rows of food, souvenirs, smoothies, groceries, and more. It is the perfect place to get a glimpse of the day-to-day life in Cusco, while also finding souvenirs and trying new foods. We recommend heading to the market in the morning to ensure that the vendors are open. Plan to spend at least an hour or two exploring the market.


Once you have given your body a day or two to adjust to the altitude, it is time for your first adventure! Sacsayhuaman, which is located a quick 30 minute hike from town, is the perfect place to start. These ruins were once a large, ancient Incan complex that served as a temple to the sun. However, during the Spanish invasion, the Spaniards took a large sum of the fortress to use as building materials. Despite the Spanish capture, the remains of Sacsayhuaman still provide an incredible glimpse into Inca history and breathtaking views of Cusco.

Restaurants + Bars

Cusco has a proud mix of three cultures: Native, European, and African. As a result, the city offers a huge array of foods to try! We have included a handful of our favorite spots in our Cusco travel guide below: 

Uchu Steakhouse

With a cozy, cavernous ambience of low-lit adobe, dark tables and bright turquoise walls, this chic eatery offers delicious steak, chicken, fish & alpaca.


Limo offers Peruvian dishes with a Japanese twist! Enjoy the spicy tuna while taking in the beautifully decorated and elegant atmosphere.

Morena Kitchen

This modern and bright restaurant, nestled in the heart of Cusco, showcases the true cultural mosaic of Peruvian cuisine. They pride themselves on using only the freshest local ingredients. 

Hanz Craft Beer

Head here for craft beer, mulled wine and Pisco sours! And be sure to enjoy some appetizers as well, as the food is absolutely impeccable!

Avocado Toast & More

This simplistic and contemporary spot is full of fresh breakfast and lunch items, all of which include avocados! 

La Bodega 138

The perfect spot for a quick and casual meal, offering a wide selection of pizzas, pastas, soups, salads, and desserts. 

Additional Recommendations



Our Cusco travel guide would not be complete without discussing the altitude! Cusco is perched at an altitude of about 11,000 feet. With most of us living at or near sea level, this is a huge adjustment for our bodies and often leads to altitude sickness. Symptoms to look out for include headaches, shortness of breath, fatigue, tingling skin hands and feet, and nausea. It is vital to take steps to prevent altitude sickness, such as:

  • Drink Coca Leaf Tea
  • Bring a prescription of Diamox (Acetazolamide) fromyour PCP
  • Avoid drinking alcohol
  • Avoid taking medications that worsen altitude sickness: Xanax, Benadryl, asthma medications, among others
  • Listen to your body! If you feel symptoms of altitude sickness, head back to the hotel to take a nap 

Cusco is a fairly walkable city, just make sure to bring comfortable walking shoes with good traction! Additionally, Taxis are abundant and affordable, costing around 1 sol per ride. 


For additional travel health tips and tricks from our Nurse Practitioner, Kennie Schoenekase, head over to our Tips & Tricks page! 

Cuco is known as a place people go for two days but end up extending their trip – and we completely understand why! We are obsessed with this vibrant town and wish we could have stayed longer. We hope you have enjoyed our Cusco Travel Guide! Don’t miss our Machu Picchu travel guide and our Lima travel guide for even more information on Peru! And for even more worldwide comprehensive travel guides, head over and explore our Destinations page!

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