The high altitude of Cusco, Peru, will make you feel a bit dizzy, but even once you have adjusted, perhaps with some coca tea, your head will continue to spin at the history and culture in this city, which was once capital of the Incan empire, and is today a UNESCO World Heritage Site and incredibly popular destination. Cusco is the gateway to the ... Read more
Incan ruins of Machu Picchu, but its history stretches back before the Incas to the Killke culture, who originally constructed the Sacsayhuamán (sometimes pronounced “sexy woman”) ruins just outside the city. Zip around town in a Combi, usually a Volkswagen bus with a name like “Zorro,” stopping upon request. Try some guinea pig (cuy), a local delicacy, or play sapo, a traditional game where you throw coins at a bronze toad while consuming chicha (corn beer). Whether living like a local or stopping in for the big archaeological sites, a visit to Cusco is a must on any South American adventure.

Cusco places to stay and top hotels

Cusco things to do and experiences

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Cusco

Weather

Cusco’s main tourist season is during the Southern Hemisphere winter from June through September, which for the Imperial City brings a cool and dry climate, with temperatures in the 60s (15-21C) . Traveling at ... Read more
off-peak times can mean much better hotel deals, but the summer rainy season can make doing things like hiking the Inca Trail pretty tricky. There is something to be said about the added air of mystery when Machu Picchu is shrouded in a thick, swiftly-moving cloud, but you might not get many postcard-worthy photos. Do bring layers if you travel during the winter -- it can get as cold as 32F (0C) at night.

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Cusco

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Cusco reviews & trip reports

  • 9.8
    Backpackers
  • 9.8
    History Buffs
  • 9.8
    Adventure Travelers
  • 7.8
    Outdoor Enthusiasts
  • 6.9
    Foodies

Member Reviews(88)

Oakland, California, USA

Sitting at over 11,000 feet high in the Andes, it is one of the 10 highest cities in the world, making the air thin and the temperatures cool.

Cusco was the historic capital of the Inca Empire from the 13th century until the Spanish Conquest in the 16th century. Inca archaeological sites can be found within and all around the city, with Spanish architecture often built directly on top. There is also evidence left by the Killke who occupied the area prior to the Inca, from 900 to 1200.

In 1950 a great earthquake destroyed more than a third of the city. While many of the modern buildings were destroyed, the Inca architecture survived, including many sites that became newly exposed.

A fascinating culture where belief in Catholicism and the Inca traditions have come together for a unique view on life.

It is also a place where you get to indulge in world renowned Peruvian food, which includes ceviche, quinoa dishes, and an assortment of Peruvian-Asian fusion. You have the opportunity to try Cuy (guinea pig) and Alpaca, and enjoy checking out many of the towns vibrant markets.

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Foster City, California, USA

Cusco is the former capital city of the Incas, and the oldest inhabited city in the Americas, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

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The San Francisco Bay Area, California, USA

We had a great time in Cusco. There's a lot of history here and it's a great location in the Sacred Valley to base yourself to see Inca ruins like Ollantaytambo. There's a lively main square. Climb uphill for beautiful views of the city. In town, you'll see llamas and women in traditional dress, mostly wanting your tourist dollars, but still cool to see.

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New York City, New York State, USA

Cusco will take your breath away - quite literally, considering the high altitude. But once you recover, you will be in awe at every turn, from the colonial Plaza de Armas to the Inca sun temple Qurikancha. The juxtaposition of cultures makes this city fascinating and one of the world's top destinations.

My advice is to spend at least two to three full days exploring the city before moving on to the Sacred Valley and Machu Picchu.

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Puerto Vallarta, Mexico

Of all the cities and towns I visited in Peru I would have to say Cusco was my favorite, the people here were really kind and lovely.

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Menlo Park, California, USA

Cusco is a magical city - once an Inca capital, then a Spanish colonial city, now a hub for adventurers looking to visit Machu Picchu. As you wander the cobble stone streets, you will see the base of many walls with the original Inca stonework - huge boulders cut so perfectly you can't fit a credit card between them - with Spanish colonial brickwork built on top. There are good restaurants, cheap lodging, and lots of history and culture to take in. But be warned - Cusco is high up - 11,100 ft. That is 4000 feet higher than most ski towns in Colorado. It is very easy to get altitude sickness here, so plan to give yourself a day or 2 to adjust before trying any strenuous activity.

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Elkton, Maryland, USA

Awesome place and has a good balance between very touristy and just local places and sites.

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Boston, Massachusetts, USA
Ambassador

Cusco is a hotbed of tourism, but it also had a lot of history and much that is worth the hype. Many of the Spanish churches here have Inca stone bases. The architecture is Spanish, but it found only in pockets around the city. There's good food, friendly people, and a lot to see here. Cusco is also the stepping stone to the Inca Trail, so lots of backpackers will have to stop here on their way to hike to Machu Picchu.

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Anchorage, Alaska, USA

One of my favorite places in Peru. Cusco can be touristy, but it is a pleasant city to hang out. Nice and cool climate also helps. A lot of things to do around the city including the famous Saqsayhuaman.

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Orinda, California

Wow! Take it easy for a day to get over the altitude and then dig in . Incredible sights, cheap but delicious food, and then you are in for a great vacation. Of course you cannot miss Machu Pichu but you knew that already....

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