The 8 best activities in Cusco
Cusco is the most touristic region in Peru. Its most popular tourist attractions are: the 7 Colors Mountain, the Humantay lagoon, the Sacred Valley of the Incas (Pisac, Ollantaytambo, Moray, Chinchero), the Coricancha, the Cathedral, Sacsayhuamán and, of course, the Inca citadel of Machu Picchu. To get to the Inca citadel there are various options, of which the most adventurous is the Inca Trail. Learn about the 8 best activities to do on your trip to Cusco, Peru
Three only routes to visit Machu Picchu – There are three routes to visit Machu Picchu: a) the classic train route from Ollantaytambo, b) the alternative route through Hydroelectric and c) the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu. The fastest and safest is traveling by train. The most economical and little known is the hike from Hidroeléctrica to Aguas Calientes (2 hours) and the one that offers the best experience is the Inca Trail. This walking route lasts 4 days and 3 nights and covers 39 kilometers. The first view of Machu Picchu is the same one that the Incas had: through the Intipunku or Gate of the sun.
The classic Inca Trail to Machu Picchu
The Inca Trail is considered one of the best hiking routes on the planet. Which is the reason? Cross historic paths built by the Incas hundreds of years ago (the famous qhapac ñan) until you arrive at Machu Picchu through the Intipunku (Sun Gate), just as the Incas did. The walk lasts 4 days and 3 nights and is covered on average 39 kilometers on foot. The nights are all spent camping under the stars.
The Inca Trail to Machu Picchu can only be done by purchasing a tour with a tourism agency. The thing is that the roads are only accessible with a permit managed by the agency. It is not possible to do the route without a tour guide. The tours include everything: pick-up from Cusco, transportation, professional guide, entrance fees, permits, food and camping nights. The Inca Trail is open all year round except for February.
- How much does it cost?: 700 USD approximately (varies depending on the tourism agency you choose).
- More information: The tour must be booked with a tourism agency approximately 6 months in advance. The Inca Trail is in Cusco, Peru.
Landscapes of Cusco
Cusco offers some of the most beautiful landscapes in Peru. Its geography has snow-capped peaks, mountains, lagoons, rivers and, likewise, a large portion of the Amazon rainforest. There you can reach some of the most beautiful Andean landscapes where amazing scenery stands out such as: the 7 Colors Mountain, the Humantay lagoon or the Tres Cruces de Oro viewpoint in Paucartambo. The so-called ‘most beautiful sunrise in the world’ occurs there.
Of course, Machu Picchu also offers some of the best landscapes in Cusco. The Inca citadel is one of the most photographed places on the planet. Every year the Inca archaeological site receives about 1.5 million visitors. The classic photo is obtained in the Guardian House area. In addition, you can get beautiful photographs from the top of Huayna Picchu, Huchuy Picchu, Intipunku (Puerta del Sol) or from Machu Picchu mountain.
- How much does it cost?: The tour to the 7 Colors Mountain or the Humantay lagoon costs approximately $40.
- More information: The Tres Cruces de Oro viewpoint in Paucartambo is located approximately 4 hours from Cusco. Admission costs 3 dollars (10 Peruvian soles).
Community rural tourism in Cusco
Cusco has hundreds of Andean communities where very ancient cultural aspects such as Quechua, natural food, textile making techniques and more are maintained. There are many tourists who come to Cusco to learn about these traditions. Community tourism tours range from 1, 2, 3 days or more. The tourist stays in the home of a rural Cusco family. There he learns the customs, beliefs and practices of life in an Andean community.
The towns in Cusco where community rural tourism services are carried out the most are: Huilloc, Chinchero, Pitumarca, Pisac, Raqchi and Quehue. There, tourists will try the typical dishes of the Andean region such as potatoes, olluco, and corn. They can also dress like their hosts with ponchos and flip flops. They will also be able to carry out activities such as potato harvesting, spinning alpaca garments or using traditional Andean instruments.
- How much does it cost?: For 1-day tours from $99 per visitor (varies depending on the tourism agency you choose).
- More information: The town of Quehue is famous for families that host tourists for rural community tourism. In this town, there is also the famous Queswachaka Bridge.
Mystical tourism in Cusco
Cusco was the capital of the Inca empire. Everywhere there are temples and huacas where their main divinities were worshiped: the sun (Inti), the earth (Pachamama) and the mountains (Apus). In addition, there are very energetic sites such as: Sacsayhuamán, the Sacred Valley of the Incas, Choquequirao, the Temple of the Moon in Cusco and, of course, Machu Picchu. In all these tourist destinations you can practice so-called mystical tourism.
Mystical tourism is a practice in which the visitor becomes familiar with nature and seeks to recharge from the energy that surrounds him. The most common practices in Cusco are: the payment to the land ceremony, the ayahuasca ceremony, healing with natural medicine and even Inca marriage. These activities are carried out with a formal tourism agency and in the company of a shaman or teacher specialized in mystical ceremonies.
- How much does it cost?: The 1-day mystical tourism tour at the Temple of the Moon (Cusco) costs approximately $40.
- More information: The ayahuasca ceremony can be performed in ceremonies of 1, 2 or more days in Cusco. However, for many the best option is to do it in the Amazon jungle, where the medicinal plant is original.
Salkantay trek to Machu Picchu
The Salkantay trek to Machu Picchu is, after the Inca Trail, the best hiking route in Cusco. For some adventurers, it is even the best experience to reach the Inca citadel as it includes archaeological sites, incredible landscapes and amazing roads. It lasts 5 days with 4 nights of camping (1 night in tourist accommodation). Travel approximately 70 kilometers until you arrive at Machu Picchu passing through the town of Aguas Calientes.
The Salkantay trek is so called because it crosses the Salkantay mountain pass, at about 4,650 meters above sea level. On the route we also visit the Humantay lagoon, the thermal baths of Cocalmayo, the archaeological site of Llactapata and more. The hike is free for everyone, however, the best option is to choose a tourism agency that includes everything: pick-up from the hotel, transportation to the starting point of the hike, professional guide, entrance fees, food, camping equipment and more.
- How much does it cost?: The 5-day classic tour costs approximately $480 (varies depending on the tour agency you choose).
- More information: There is also a short version of the Salkantay trek that lasts 4 days. This route is the same, only it reduces the distance when using vehicular .
The Inca Jungle to Machu Picchu
The Inca Jungle to Machu Picchu is a tourist route that includes the practice of adventure sports such as cycling, canoeing, zip lining and trekking. The route gets its name because it crosses paths through the Cusco jungle, surrounded by landscapes full of vegetation. The route to follow is: Cusco – Abra Málaga (cycling) – Santa María (canoeing and trek) – Santa Teresa (zip line and thermal baths) – Hydroelectric (trek) – Aguas Calientes – Machu Picchu.
The Inca Jungle, in its classic version, lasts 4 days and 3 nights. The nights are spent in tourist accommodations. Food is in tourist restaurants. The majority of tourists who choose this experience are young people or people with a young spirit. The tours also include: hotel pick-up, tourist transportation, professional guide, tickets and all the safety equipment necessary to practice adventure sports.
- How much does it cost?: The classic 4-day Inca Jungle tour to Machu Picchu costs $420 (varies depending on the tour agency you choose).
- More information: The Inca Jungle uses the alternative route to Machu Picchu through the Hydroelectric station. This route takes you to the town of Aguas Calientes in approximately 8 hours (the last 2 hours on foot).
Peruvian gastronomy in Cusco
Peruvian gastronomy is one of the best in the world. And in Cusco, the most touristic region of Peru, you can enjoy its flagship dishes in some of the best restaurants in the country. The most representative dishes of Peru are: ceviche, ají de gallina, lomo saltado, causa stuffed, rice with chicken, grilled chicken and more. All these dishes have a story and a secret to tell.
In Cusco you can taste delicious Peruvian cuisine in markets or restaurants from $3 per menu or in exclusive gourmet services for $40 or even $300 per culinary experience. The most famous cheap restaurants are the San Pedro market and the San Blas market. The most exclusive restaurants are: Cicciolina, Chicha, Huacatay, Mil Centro, Illary, Kion, Abra Bristo de Altura, Chuncho, Incanto and more.
- How much does it cost?: The most recommended restaurants in Cusco for their quality and great flavor can cost from 25 to 135 soles per dish (from 7 to 35 US dollars).
- More information: Peruvian gastronomy is at the top of the world. In 2023, the Central de Lima restaurant was chosen as the best restaurant in the world.
Nightlife in Cusco
Cusco is famous for the multiple nightlife options it offers: bars, clubs, pubs and more. Due to the large influx of tourists from all over the world, Cusco’s nightclubs are famous for hosting people of all nationalities. This adds a touch of cultural interaction to the night. The main bars and clubs are located around the city’s Plaza de Armas.
The most famous tourist bars and clubs in Cusco are: Chango Club, Muki, Mythology, Mushrooms Lounge & Bar, Loki, Irish Bar Paddy, London Twon Lounge Bar and more. The music is varied, however, reggaeton, salsa, electronica and rock stand out. Some of the special dates in Cusco are: Inti Raymi (June 24), National Holidays (July 28), New Year’s Day (January 1) and Carnivals (the entire month of February). The nightclubs and bars have police and private security.
- How much does it cost?: Admission to bars and clubs is usually free. Cocktails and drinks vary from $5 to $25 depending on the establishment chosen.
- More information: The most famous beer in Cusco is the ‘cusco beer’. Offers options such as malt, wheat or golden. The price varies from 2 to 5 dollars depending on the establishment chosen.
By Machupicchu Terra – Last updated, September 26, 2023