EVERYTHING YOU NEED TO KNOW BEFORE VISITING CUSCO
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!
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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!
WHEN TO VISIT
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
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
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:
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.
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.
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
GETING AROUND TOWN
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.
ADDITIONAL HEALTH TIPS
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!