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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

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The holy grail for lovers of Inca monuments, the enigmatic lost city of Machu Picchu is the most famous archaeological site in all of South America. The spectacular collection of temples, terraced hills and plazas was the mountain-top citadel of the Inca under Pachacutec and Tupac Yupanqui, until the coming of the Europeans with Pizarro. It may have the most familiar name, but Machu Picchu has refused to reveal many of its mysteries, including the secrets of its construction, function and demise. The overgrown ruins were discovered by US historian Hiram Bingham in 1911, and the quality of the stonework hints that it was an extremely important ceremonial site. The remains are thought to date from around 1450, built at the height of the Inca Empire, and as they escaped being plundered by the Spanish they include semi-intact icons and shrines that were defaced or removed at other sites.More
#2

Sacsayhuaman (Saqsaywaman)

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Sacsayhuaman is the largest and most impressive of four archaeological ruins on the outskirts of Cusco, Peru. Built by the Incas, it served an important military function and was the site of a major battle with the Spanish in 1536. The name itself can be translated as “speckled head” and some say that the city of Cusco was laid out in the shape of a puma, with Sacsayhuaman forming the head. The complex was constructed out of massive stones, some weighing as much as 300 tons, cut to fit together without the use of mortar. Today, many of the outside walls, built in a tiered, zigzag formation, remain, as do several tunnels and the “Inca’s Throne.” The latter is a series of large rocks with well-worn grooves used by many visitors as slides. A large, open plaza holding several thousand people was once home to ceremonial activities and continues to be used today – most notably for the annual celebration of the Inti Raymi festival in late June.More
#3

Qorikancha (Coricancha)

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The Inca site of Qorikancha forms the foundations of the colonial church of Santo Domingo, creating an unusual combination of monolithic Inca and arched colonial architecture. Qorikancha means ‘Golden Courtyard’, and in Inca times the temple walls were clad with 700 sheets of solid gold, proving a tempting lure for the conquistadors. The gold sheets and gold and silver statues are gone, melted down and recast by the Spanish, but the impressively hewn curved wall of basalt stonework remains. The temple complex is thought to have been built by the first Inca emperor, Manco Capac, 100 years before the coming of the Spaniards. It was built as an observatory and religious temple to the sun, housing the mummified bodies of the Inca rulers. When you enter the courtyard, imagine the octagonal front clad with solid gold, flanked by temples to the moon and the stars draped in solid silver.More
#4

Cusco Cathedral (Catedral del Cuzco)

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Cusco’s Cathedral of Santo Domingo is a colonial gem, boasting an altar of silver and a magnificently carved choir. The building stands on the site of an Inca palace, and was built from stone blocks removed from the nearby Inca city of Sacsayhuaman by the triumphant conquistadors. The elaborately decorated cathedral was built from 1559 to 1654 on the city’s main square, Plaza de Armas, and is filled with colonial artworks, artifacts and richly decorated chapels. The most famous artwork is a Last Supper painting by Marcos Zapata featuring a meal of local guinea pig served with an Inca corn beverage. The highly ornamental facade features two domes flanking the chapels and nave, built in a Gothic-Renaissance hybrid style.More
#5

Sacred Valley of the Incas

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The Sacred Valley was the agricultural food bowl of the Inca, a fertile plain perfect for growing the Inca staples, maize and potatoes. At the heart of the valley is the ancient city of Cusco, surrounded by remote Quechua villages and the crumbling remains of Inca citadels. With its Quechua village festivals and markets, colonial churches, Inca ruins, river rafting, horseback riding and trekking, there are plenty of reasons to head out into the Sacred Valley of the Incas for the day or longer.More
#6

Ollantaytambo Ruins

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Inca street and town planning at its finest is preserved in the village of Ollantaytambo, surrounded by neatly terraced hills. Soaring above the town’s cobbled streets, which have been lived in since the 13th century, is the massive Inca fortress and the monolithic stones of the Temple of the Sun. Built by Pachacuti in the 1400s, the huge complex features fine stonework and a ceremonial temple hill area topping the stepped, fortified terrace. Climb more than 200 steps to the top for fabulous views and an up-close look at the impressively hewn masonry. You’ll also see the remains of several temples and ceremonial fountains. To see where the huge blocks of stone were quarried from the mountainside, follow the 6km (3.5 mile) trail to the quarry on the other side of the river - the water was diverted to flush the stones down to the construction site.More
#7

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.More
#8

Plaza de Armas (Huacaypata)

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There was once a time when Cusco was the center of the powerful Incan Empire. From the coastal deserts of southern Peru to the frigid peaks of the Andes, every decision within the empire traced back to the city of Cusco. It was the beating heart at the very center of one of the greatest civilizations in history, and at the center of Cusco was the massive square which was known as Huacaypata. When the Spanish besieged the city, however, many of the buildings around Huacaypata were viciously razed to the ground. Western structures were erected in their place to solidify the imperial dominance, and the name of the square was also changed to reflect the Spanish heritage.More
#9

Q'enqo (Qenko)

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Near Cuzco, on the way to Pisac from Sacsayhuaman, is the amphitheater and temple of Q’engo. 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 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.More
#10

Maras Salt Pools

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Nestled in the Sacred Valley of the Incas is the remote town of Maras, known throughout Peru for its thousands of worked salt pans. Salt has been collected here since before the time of the Inca, rising to the surface from a subterranean stream and evaporating in the Andean sunshine. You can gather your own handful of salt or buy some packaged to take home from Maras’ gift store. The terraced saltwork pools dotting the Andean hillsides look quite stunning, glittering like bright white snow in the sunshine, so bring your camera. The town of Maras was quite important in colonial times, and you’ll see some out-of-place ornate Spanish homes and the mud-brick colonial church.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

Top activities in Cusco

Machu Picchu Day Trip from Cusco

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Machu Picchu Day Trip from Cusco

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Best of Peru 6-Day Cusco, Machu Picchu, and Lake Titicaca Tour

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Best of Peru 6-Day Cusco, Machu Picchu, and Lake Titicaca Tour

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Sacred Valley Tour from Cusco

Sacred Valley Tour from Cusco

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Sacred Valley Tour Including Lunch

Sacred Valley Tour Including Lunch

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Machu Picchu - Full Day from Cusco

Machu Picchu - Full Day from Cusco

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Private Full-Day Tour To Machu Picchu with Lunch

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Private Full-Day Tour To Machu Picchu with Lunch

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Machu Picchu Private Full-Day Tour from Cusco

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Machu Picchu Private Full-Day Tour from Cusco

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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.
star-5
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.
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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
Sacred Valley of the Incas, Pisac, Awanacancha & Ollantaytambo Tour
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.
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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!
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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.

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