Cusco, also known as Cuzco or Qosq’o in Quechua is the foremost city of the Inca Empire. The continent’s oldest continuously inhabited city serves as the gateway to one of the seven wonders of the world Machu Picchu. Narrow cobblestone streets are flanked by tour agencies selling everything from coca leaves to trekking equipments and massage hawkers trying to convince people in unalike ways.
Stay in Cusco for a month or two yet you would leave it with a feeling of there is much more to see. The emblematic Plaza De Armas (The Main Square) dominates the historic center of the city.
Cusco is served by Alejandro Velasco Astete International Airport (CUZ) which is connected to major Peruvian cities Lima, Arequipa, Juliaca and Puerto Maldonado and Bogota and Lapaz on International routes which are served by Amaszonas and Peruvian Airlines to and from La Paz and Avianca in and out of Bogota with a stopover in Lima.
The airport is quite small which makes it easier and quicker to walk out of the terminal upon arrival. Its located 5 kilometers away from the Centro Historico (Historic Center) which is the prime attraction and home to many hostels and restaurants.
Cusco is well linked by bus with major Peruvian cities and Lapaz and Copacabana in Bolivia. Most of these busses terminate at the main bus station Terminal Terrstre which is located 2.4 kilometers away from Centro Historico.
Cruz Del Sur, busses usually terminate in their own bus terminal which is located approximately 700 meters away from the main bus station. The bus station is accessible by foot and taxi (S/.6) or collectivo (S/.0.80)(which could be flagged down on the road).
Peru Hop a renowned hop on hop off bus service covering the whole south of Peru have their own bus station however they do provide a drop off to the hostel from the bus station.
Click here to see on ways to get to the Centro Historico.
Cusco’s beauty could be absorbed the most when explored by foot through streets with history in every turn. Taxis can be found everywhere, a ride within the city would not cost more than S/.4. The cheapest option is Urban colectivos in which you could get a ride for S/. 0.80
What To See:
Plaza De Armas
The main square of Cusco fascinates with a fountain in the center of the square with the statue of Pachacuti,the ninth ruler of the Kingdom of Cusco (“Sapa Inca”) and later the Emperor of the Inca Empire pointing towards the Cristo Blanco (Statue of Christ).
The square swarms with hucksters trying to sell handicrafts and shoeshiners.
Plaza De Armas plays an important role historically. It covers part of the area that was once the Haukaypata – The Great Inca Square also known as “Square of the warrior”. In the Inca era this plaza has been the scene of several important events, such as the death of Túpac Amaru II, considered the first leader of struggle.
The plaza is surrounded by Iglesia de la Compañía de Jesús and Cusco Cathedral. Iglesia de la Compañía de Jesús’s construction was initiated by the Jesuits in 1576. It is considered one of the best examples of colonial baroque style in the Americas. Cusco Cathedral, Built in 1560 and taking nearly 100 years to complete, this UNESCO’s world heritage site was granted Minor Basilica status, and became the official seat of the diocese.
Mercado San Pedro:
The most visited market in the city, Mercado San Pedro is located indoors and includes many different food stalls and vendors. The market opens at 0630 in the morning and sprawls till 1730. The cheapest eateries in town are located at the extreme end of the market where Menu for lunch is sold for S/.5. Try their fresh fruit smoothies which are sold from S/.3 per liter. Mercado San Pedro is one of the places in Cusco to witness the local’s ways of living. As the Cusqeñans say, “A trip to Cusco is not complete without a trip to the San Pedro Market”
San Blas Neighborhood:
San Blas is located just four blocks from the Main Square (Plaza De Armas). It is considered home to musicians, filmmakers and tradespeople who show their various manifestations of art and imagery, jewelry, pottery and wood carving and stone. One of the prominent churches in Cusco, Catholic church of San Blas which was built-in the ancient Inca neighborhood “T’oqokachi” in the year of 1563 is located in San Blas. Visit the San Blas Market (Mercado San Blas), its smaller as well as less crowded than San Pedro Market.
Qorikancha Site Museum:
Qorikancha, Quri Kancha or Koricancha means “courtyard of gold” in Quechua. Originally named as Inti Kancha or Inti Wasi, this was the most important temple during the 15th century in the Inca Empire, dedicated primarily to Inti, the Sun God. The complex of the temple was a glittering palace.
Cristo Blanco is a statue of Jesus Christ overlooking the city of Cusco. This was built by a group of Christian Palestinians that were seeking refuge in Cusco in 1945. It was a symbol of their gratitude toward the city, and was their parting gift when they finally returned to their home country.
Peru is a producer and exporter of the cacao beans. The chocolate museum in Cusco invites visitors to try different varieties of chocolates and liquors made of chocolates. They also teach the process of making chocolate.
Also known as, Baratillo Market or ‘the smugglers market’, Saturday Market is a large and bustling market held every Saturday. You can find everything from mobile chargers to footwear and antiques. The market is not as touristic as its frequented by locals.
Monumento Inca Pachacutec:
Pachacutec was the ninth Sapa Inca of the Kingdom of Cusco which he transformed into the Inca Empire. It is believed that he began an era of conquest that, within three generations, expanded the Inca dominion from the valley of Cusco to nearly the whole of western South America. Most archaeologists now believe that the famous Inca site of Machu Picchu was built as an estate for Pachacuti.The Monument rises above Cusco, on a large roundabout on Avenida del Sol. The interior museum gives visitors a great insight Inca history. The huge stone structure mimics the ancient Inca quarries. At the top there is a window with panoramic amplitude, Inca style.
Entrance Fees: S/.2 . Open from 0900-1900
Where To Eat:
Mercado San Pedro:
The bustling market of Cusco City has one of the cheapest eateries in. The food stalls located in the extreme end of the market offers lunch from S/.5 and is open everyday from 0630 HRS to 1730 HRS.
Mercado San Blas:
At Mercado San Blas, you can be sure to be spoiled with variety of inexpensive options to choose from. Though its open only for breakfast and lunch you are certain to find a good meal deal here.
They serve homemade pizza with a set menu of Garlic Bread, Personal size pizza and a choice of beverage. Prices start from S/.10
One of the finest cafe in Cusco, JC’s have an eclectic choice of menu for breakfast, lunch and dinner.
Calle Tecsecocha 429, Cusco. Open from 2100-0600
A uni style club with a good mix of top 40 and local tunes. A promoter on the street often gives a free drink pass which is valid for a Cuba Libre. Drinks are moderately priced.
The Temple Club:
Calle Tecsecocha, 282, Cusco. Open from 2100-0600
The Temple Club is known for their eclectic mix. Like Chango, you would find promoters inviting you for a drink. Usually they too offer a Cuba Libre for free. You have an option of buying subsequent drinks which are moderately priced.
109 Portal de Panes 3rd Floor, Cusco. Open from 2100-0600
Mamma Africa is the classic backpackers’ hangout. It is one of the most popular nightclubs in Cusco. They play music ranging from salsa to samba and latest Latin hits to techno music. Drinks are not cheaper but are moderately priced.
Where To Stay:
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The hostel is housed in a renovated 300 years old mansion in the historic center. Perfect place to relax and rejuvenate. Dorms are priced from USD 8 per night.
It’s a 200-year-old house modified to a party hostel. Staffs do their best to offer you the Magic of Cusco fusionend with Kokopelli’s Energy. Dorms are priced from USD 10.42 a night.
The Walkon Inn:
Located uphill a few blocks away from Plaza De Armas, the hostel offers an excellent view of Cusco. Dorms can be booked from USD 5.95 per night.
Pirwa Garcilaso Hostel:
This party hostel is located 10-15 minutes walk away from the main square. They have dorms priced from USD 6.80 for a night.