Cusco is the capital of the Inca Empire in Peru and one of the most magical cities that I have ever visited: the vibrant colours; the buzzing nightlife; the indie cafes… what more could you ask for?
I fell in love with Cusco and wanted to share with you all the places which I stumbled across.
When to go?
I travelled to Cusco at the end of June just in time for the Inca Sun Festival on June 24th. The city was so full of energy and life but the only downsides were that we were in peak tourist season (£££) and there were people everywhere!
If you are looking for a quieter time then May is most likely your best bet as it is the start of the dry season but the mountains are still lush from the rain, there are also fewer tourists then.
The dry season runs from May – October. I experienced sunny days (around 15˚C) but very cold nights due to the high altitude. The wet season is therefore November – April and although there are less tourists there is of course rain causing landslides, most common in February, which can lead to difficulties with Machu Picchu treks.
Where to stay?
There are tonnes of options for accommodation in Cusco. With the help of a friend I managed to find a perfect hostel for only 70 soles/night for two people (you can email me for more details and the discount if you are interested).
Other places I personally didn’t stay at but heard good reviews for:
A very fun, young, travellers vibe. The hostel is situated at the top of the Cusco which means two things – the view from the bar is incredible and the hike up is somewhat painful at altitude. There are also hostels in La Paz and Arequipa and if you go to all three you get a free t-shirt!
56 – 100 soles (pp/n) and all the rooms are dorms
As hinted at in the name, this hostel is the perfect place for chilled out backpackers. They offer breakfast included, a kitchen to cook in and free wifi!
From USD11 (pp/n)
A taxi from the airport should cost you 20 soles, the grey coloured taxis are the official airport ones and the drivers will all have ID, these are definitely the safest ones to get.
Walking will be your main mode of transport when getting around the city, but most taxis will charge 4 soles for a journey in the city centre. There is also Uber in Cusco! The public buses run from 6am – 9pm and will cost from 0.70 – 2.50 soles (you will need small change). The sightseeing bus costs 20 soles and each tour lasts around an hour.
There are usually departure taxes leaving a city by bus:
- Leaving Puno ~ 1.50 soles
- Leaving Puerto Maldonado ~ 3 soles
Bus companies I used:
- Turismo mer ~ 50 soles Cusco – Puno, 7 hours, 8:30am or 10pm. There is on and off wifi and a snack. They will charge 10 soles to change a ticket
- Cruz del sur – 51 soles Cusco to Puno, 6:30 hours, 10pm. You get a TV, small snack and coffee.
It is best to go to the bus station the day before and book your seat on the bus, all the buses have very comfy seats and most will give you a snack.
Where to eat?
Cusco is packed with cute cafes and delicious restaurants hidden away on side streets and through arches.
La Valeriana ~ a central bakery with the yummiest apple crumble muffins ever and a large selection of herbal teas and other goodies. There is a huge wall where you can stick your own love heart notes to the tree!
La Bo’M ~ mmmmn. The interior decor is a reason alone to visit. They have the most incredible crepe menu out there and beautiful views over the city. And if you didn’t think it could get any better… they own the hostel downstairs and give a 10% discount on the crepes to people staying in the hostel and a free breakfast. More crepes? Yes please!
Panaderia Qosqo Maki ~ cheap, yummy and hands down the best chocolate brownie I have ever tasted.
El Tabuco ~ stone oven pizza, and they even do delivery!
All small, family owned restaurants will do a ‘Menu del Dia’ which includes a soup, main (usually rice and meat) and a drink for 8-10 soles. I would HIGHLY recommend this to travellers, this is such a cheap way to enjoy the local food.
What to do?
Oh my… the markets. I have been to quite a few markets around the world on my travels, and Cusco’s markets were definitely up there. Everything was just so beautiful, the only thing preventing me from getting it all was the limited space in my backpack.
My personal favourite market was the HUGE Artisan Market on Av. Tullumayo. It was jam-packed with alpaca jumpers, earrings, rugs… and so much more.
The San Pedro Market also had heaps of knick-knacks and food!
An unmissable site in Cusco is the Plaza De Armas, which (of course) is a large plaza surrounded by stunning cathedrals and is, although a little more pricey, a perfect place to enjoy a drink and bite to eat.
Sacsayhuaman … or ‘sexy woman’ is a site of inca remains just a 10 to 20 minute walk up the hill from the centre. Of course not quite as impressive as Machu Picchu, but somewhere worth uphill the altitude walk. You can wander around yourself or have a tour.
Tours to Machu Picchu
I am doing a separate blog post all about our tour to Machu Picchu, click here to read it.
Some handy tips and necessary information for travelling in Peru.
Language ~ Spanish
Currency ~ PEN (Peruvian soles)
Electricity ~ The standard two pin (US) plug is used
As with all South American countries, always always always hide your money. I have heard of countless cases of pick-pocketing in Peru so please be extra careful.
Most ATMs will charge you, and never use the global net ones as they charge huge amounts! There is one just down from the Plaza De Armas on the other side of a rectangular fountain which doesn’t charge.
In general the markets will only accept cash, and I had a lot of trouble paying with MasterCard as most places which do accept card only accept Visa.
US Dollars are accepted and can be exchanged very easily, perhaps not at the best rate though. Bartering is definitely allowed in the markets, never accept your first offer.
If you can, SPEAK SPANISH! This will open doors for you and reduce prices significantly.
Malaria ~ there is no risk of malaria in Cusco or Machu Picchu.
Cusco is 3400 meters above sea level which can cause a lot of problems for some travellers. Nearly half the number of tourists visiting Cusco will suffer from altitude sickness (soroche), that said this is nothing to worry about. You may feel a little dizzy, sick, and/or have shortness of breath.
I am not a doctor, but here are some tips that I heard:
- It is important to not try and do too much on your first few days
- Avoid alcohol, or if you are drinking take is slow as it hits you a lot harder
- Drink lots of water
- Put chlorophyll drops in your water
- Drink Coca Tea
I hope this helps!