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Things to do in Cusco

Things to do in  Cusco

Welcome to Cusco

With its verdant backdrop, high-altitude location—a dizzying 11,150 feet (3,400 meters) above sea level—and rich indigenous culture, Cusco is one of Peru’s most enchanting cities. Perhaps best known as the gateway to Machu Picchu, Cusco is both the sacred capital of the Incas and the grand finish to the legendary Inca Trail. Below Machu Picchu, the Sacred Valley of the Incas boasts a wealth of archaeological wonders, traditional market villages, and mesmerizing views, while the Salkantay and Lares treks are two of the country’s most worthwhile long-distance hikes. Cusco itself has plenty to offer too, with its beautiful colonial buildings, buzzing marketplace, and traditional and neo-Andean restaurants.

Top 10 attractions in Cusco

#1
Machu Picchu

Machu Picchu

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The lost city of Machu Picchu is the most famous archaeological site in Peru and, arguably, all of South America. The UNESCO World Heritage–listed collection of temples, terraced hills, and plazas was once the mountaintop citadel of the ancient Inca empire. It may now be world famous, but Machu Picchu still hasn't revealed the mysteries behind its construction, function, and eventual demise.More
#2
Sacsayhuaman (Saqsaywaman)

Sacsayhuaman (Saqsaywaman)

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The largest and arguably most impressive of the four archaeological ruins on the outskirts of Cusco, Sacsayhuaman (Saqsaywaman) was built by the Incas from massive stones weighing as much as 300 tons. A critical military site in the battle with the Spanish for the Inca empire in 1536, the ruins offer impressive views over the city below.More
#3
Sacred Valley of the Incas

Sacred Valley of the Incas

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Between Cusco and Machu Picchu lies the Sacred Valley of the Incas (Urubamba Valley), home to some of Peru’s most interesting pre-Columbian ruins and attractive colonial towns and villages. While many travelers pass through here en route to Machu Picchu, the valley has become a destination in its own right.More
#4
Qorikancha (Coricancha)

Qorikancha (Coricancha)

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A symbol of both Incan cosmology and their brutal conquest at the hands of the Spanish, Qorikancha (Coricancha) is one of the most important sites in Cusco. The sacred temple—which the Incas created to worship their sun deity and then swathed in gold—was looted and destroyed by conquistadors, who built a colonial church atop the temple ruins.More
#5
Cusco Cathedral (Catedral del Cuzco)

Cusco Cathedral (Catedral del Cuzco)

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Built atop the Inca palace Viracocha, the Cusco Cathedral was a triumphant statement for conquering colonists who laid the foundation stones in 1559. Now Plaza de Armas’ showpiece, the cathedral is the seat of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Cusco and a significant cultural monument holding the largest collection of Cusco School paintings.More
#6
Ollantaytambo Ruins

Ollantaytambo Ruins

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Perched at the northern end of Peru’s Sacred Valley of the Incas, the Ollantaytambo Ruins were once the administrative center of the Inca Empire. At this well-preserved and partly rebuilt archeological park, learn the secrets of Inca urban planning, admire the ceremonial temple, masterful Inca stonework, and set off on the legendary Inca trail.More
#7
Tambomachay

Tambomachay

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Tambomachay might not be one of the biggest ruins in Cusco, but it’s definitely one of the highest, topping out at nearly 13,000 feet.Located five miles from the city center, Tambomachay is also known as “the Baths of the Inca” due to the multiple baths which are scattered about the site. The Inca held water in a spiritual regard as one of the sources of life, and the spring waters at Tambomachay are masterfully diverted into aqueducts, baths, and stone-carved waterways which would divert the water through the stone. Given the site’s natural beauty and the spiritual significance of its waters, it’s believed by historians that Tambomachay was reserved for Inca royalty.When visiting Tambomachay today, be sure to admire the smooth mosaic of stone which forms the walls of the ruin. The way in which the stones are perfectly stacked on each other is an example of the handicraft for which the Inca were famous. Also, take a moment to notice the way that the multi-tiered terraces are built into the mountainside in such a way that they nearly blend as a natural part of the landscape. This is a relaxing, powerful, and meditative spot that sees far fewer visitors than some of the more famous ruins.To visit Tambomachay, you can either take part in a guided tour or visit the site independently. For those who choose to visit on their own and are looking for a bit of a workout, consider riding a bus to the site and then strolling the five miles back towards the city. Remember to take it slow, however, as the altitude can easily be felt, and be sure to admire the views of Cusco that stretch out to the surrounding valley.More
#8
Plaza de Armas (Huacaypata)

Plaza de Armas (Huacaypata)

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From the coastal deserts of southern Peru to the frigid peaks of the Andes, every part of the vast Inca Empire traced back to Cusco. Tucked within the Andean mountains, the scenic capital city was the beating heart of one of the greatest civilizations in history. Today, you can feel this powerful history most palpably in its central square, Plaza de Armas.More
#9
Q'enqo (Qenko)

Q'enqo (Qenko)

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Near Cuzco, on the way to Pisac from Sacsayhuaman, is the amphitheater and temple of Q’engo(Qenko). This site which is at 3,600 meters above sea level has some of the best examples of undisturbed Incan carving in the world. The name (which has many alternative spellings, sometimes with a k) means zig-zag, and this is in reference to the carved channels in the rock at the site. The site is actually comprised of four different parts, with the most popularly visited being Q’engo(Qenko) Grande, which was used as an astronomical observatory and holy site.Q’engo Grande is a large limestone outcrop with two small knobs that show a shadow pattern at the summer solstice in June. Also carved into the limestone are a series of caves, altars and hollows that would have been used to move water. The site was used as a stopping point on a pilgrimage of religious importance during the Inca period, and mummification took place onsite as well. There are 19 trapezoidal niches as well, which used to house idols and mummies, though these are no longer onsite.More
#10
Maras Salt Pools

Maras Salt Pools

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Maras, a remote Andean town deep in Peru’s Sacred Valley of the Incas, is a favorite of photography buffs and gourmands alike for its famous salt pans (Salinas de Maras). Fixed in geometric shapes on terraced hills, the surreal, photogenic pools were created by the Incas 2,000 years ago, and the mines are still harvested for their pink salt.More

Trip ideas

How to Spend 2 Days in Cusco

How to Spend 2 Days in Cusco

What to Pack for Machu Picchu

What to Pack for Machu Picchu

Top Markets in Cusco

Top Markets in Cusco

Recent reviews from experiences in Cusco

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An Unforgettable Dreamy Experience
Carol_P, Jan 2021
Best of Peru 6-Day Cusco, Machu Picchu, and Lake Titicaca Tour
I was very fortunate to be able to visit Peru within a small window of availability during this long COVID nightmare.
star-5
Great Experience
Matthew_M, Mar 2020
Inca Bridge of Qeswachaka Private Service
What an interesting place to visit.
star-5
Wow! Really a wonderful day!!!
James B, Dec 2019
Cusco Food Walking Tour
His English is fantastic and he really cares about Cusco, its history, heritage and culinary scene.
star-5
Full day horseback riding
Bree W, Sep 2019
Machu Picchu Private Guided Tour from Aguas Calientes
You get to see so much of the country side and her customer service was amazing!
star-5
Awesome
CaroleR678, Jun 2019
Machu Picchu Tour from Cusco Full Day
To see such an amazing sight.
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Must visit!
vickyhsu1, Jul 2018
Machu Picchu Day Trip from Cusco
I would recommend people to stay overnight in Machu Picchu area as the transportation from Cusco will take about 9-10 hours, leaving you 2-3 hours to visit Machu Picchu.
star-5
Amazing place, great tour, awesome...
Daniel H, Mar 2018
Machu Picchu Day Trip from Cusco
Once there we had our own personal English-speaking guide, very knowledgeable.
star-5
This was a well organised tour and...
Kate, Nov 2017
2-Day Private Tour to Machu Picchu from Cusco
A great way to see Machu Picchu if you are short on time and want the highlights.
star-5
I had a great trip. Fredi the...
Ravi D, Aug 2017
Best of Peru 6-Day Cusco, Machu Picchu, and Lake Titicaca Tour
Peru is a great place to visit and Machu Picchu is the crown Jewel.
star-4
Opportunity to see the heart of...
Keith V, Nov 2017
Half-Day City Tour of Cusco Including Tambomachay
Opportunity to see the heart of Cusco and get up close to many Incan ruins.
star-5
The place is already great to visit...
Ilka R, Jun 2017
Machu Picchu Private Full-Day Tour from Cusco
The place is already great to visit!
star-4
We got to see the major sites in...
Sandra M, Feb 2018
Half-Day Temples and Cusco City Tour
We got to see the major sites in Cusco with a good guide.
star-5
I think one of the best places to see...
Sandra C., Jun 2018
Skip the Line: Planetarium Cusco Admission Ticket
I think one of the best places to see stars is probably Cusco and at the planetarium, we can learn so much about it.
star-5
Richard was an expert tour guide...
Allan S, Feb 2017
Private Half-Day Historical Cusco with Sacsayhuaman
He spoke English well, and he knew the area and the facts.
star-5
Great way to see the sites around...
Mtnmantim, Apr 2017
Half-Day City Tour of Cusco Including Tambomachay
Great way to see the sites around Cusco as well as the nearby Ruins.
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Great tour. Got to see the city with...
Eric L, May 2016
Half Day Cusco City Sightseeing
Got to see the city with a detailed tour guide and also get some great references for food!!.
star-4
After our disastrous Machu Picchu...
Hodo A, May 2016
Pisac Indian Market and Ollantaytambo fortress
After our disastrous Machu Picchu tour with viator the day previously we had no hope for this tour however it was well organised with an excellent guide who spoke great English.
star-5
If you are looking for something a...
William F, Dec 2016
Sacred Valley 4x4 Quadbike Adventure from Cusco
It was a great way to see the valley and some of it's sights!
star-5
Clean car and very kind driver...
Jennifer D, Jun 2016
Cusco Airport Arrival Transfer
gave great advice on where to eat and what to see while in Cusco!
star-4
The whole bus was Spanish speaking...
greek519, Oct 2016
Full-Day Sacred Valley Tour Including Buffet Lunch from Cusco
The guide was great and said everything in both Spanish and English.

All about Cusco

When to visit

For trekkers looking to tackle the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu, May through September offers the most pleasant conditions, but be prepared for crowds—this is Cusco’s peak season. Those willing to visit during the rainy months (December through March) will be rewarded with crowd-free sights, cheaper accommodation, and a number of traditional fiestas and folklore festivals.

Frequently Asked Questions

The answers provided below are based on answers previously given by the tour provider to customers’ questions.
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What are the top things to do in Cusco?
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