This list of the best places to visit in Cusco will help you prepare a route through one of the most beautiful and historic cities in Latin America, which we are sure will not disappoint. Located on a slope of the Andes mountain range, Cuzco was the capital of the Inca Empire and one of the most important cities in the Spanish colonial era.
Declared a World Heritage Site, it still preserves remains of Inca temples and constructions in the foundations of numerous colonial buildings in which this mixture of two cultures can be observed while walking through its cobbled streets and squares, visiting the most important temples and churches, as well as when try its delicious gastronomy accompanied by a pisco sour.
Furthermore, the city is perfect as a base to visit some of the great jewels of Peru such as the Sacred Valley, the Mountain of the 7 colors and Machu Picchu. Based on the experience of the days we spent in the city during our free trip to Peru, we have made this list of what we believe are the 10 essential places to see in Cusco. Let’s start!
The Plaza de Armas is the heart of the historic center and one of the most important places to visit in Cusco. Formerly this square was a swamp that the Incas dried to make it the center of administration for the entire Empire, but with the arrival of the Spanish, numerous buildings and churches were built around the square, on top of the Inca temples and palaces.
Today the square is full of tourist restaurants and large chains such as McDonald’s or Starbucks, travel agencies and souvenir shops, which for us have taken away a bit the charm of past times, although it is still a must in the city.
Two of the most interesting places that you can visit in the square are the Cathedral of Cusco and the Church of the Company of Jesus. The Cathedral with a mixture of Baroque, Gothic and Plateresque styles has several wonders inside such as the chapels, the main altar and the sacristy.
Next to the Cathedral, there is the Iglesia de la Compañía de Jesús, one of the most beautiful baroque churches in Peru where, in addition to observing its impressive façade, it is worth entering to see the main altar, the 4 cedar altars and the golden pulpit.
An interesting option to learn about the history of the city and not miss a thing is to book this private tour with a guide in Spanish or this free tour of Cusco for free !.
Visiting hours of the Cathedral: every day from 10am to 6pm
Church visiting hours: every day from 8 a.m. to 11 a.m. and from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m.
San Blas, located in the historic center, is the most beautiful and charming neighborhood to see in Cusco. Strolling through the narrow and steep cobblestone streets, seeing the old colonial houses or looking for some original souvenir in one of the craft shops and workshops, are some of the best things to do in Cuzco.
Among its most interesting places is the Church of San Blas, the oldest in the city built on an Inca temple that is worth entering inside to see its fantastic carved wooden pulpit.
Also in this neighborhood, being in the upper part of the city, you will have good views of the city.
It is recommended to finish a route through Cuzco in one day returning to this bohemian neighborhood at night to have a pisco sour in one of its picturesque places full of tourists and locals.
Located about 40 minutes walk north of the historic center, there are the ruins of the Sacsayhuamán fortress, another of the essential places to visit in Cusco. This complex began to be built in the 15th century by order of Pachacutec, one of the most important Incas that the Empire had. And although currently only a part of the old Sacsayhuamán is preserved, you can still see the incredible walls of large stone blocks forming 3 overlapping platforms.
Keep in mind that in the complex you can walk through the different platforms using the stairs and doors made of stone such as the fantastic Puerta del Sol and several stones on the walls, which reach 400 meters in length, see various images made by the Incas .
If you have time, we recommend doing a route that can take you one morning, first visiting the Inca ruins of Tambomachay, Pukapukara, Qenqo and ending with Sacsayhuamán. To do this route you can take a combi in the Plaza de Armas until you reach the last site and walk down the hill visiting the rest of the temples.
If you want to know better the history of the city and the Incas, the most interesting option to visit this area is to book this guided tour with a guide in Spanish that includes the 4 Inca ruins.
Visiting hours: every day from 07:00 to 18:00
Calle Loreto, located in the historic center, is the most interesting in the city as the contrast between Inca and colonial buildings can be seen more clearly. The Inca walls located in the lower part of the Spanish buildings are a true work of art where the large stone blocks fit perfectly like a puzzle.
The most famous point of the Inca walls and located among the essential places to see in Cusco, is located a few meters from Loreto Street, on Hatun Rumiyoc Street, where the 12 Angles Stone is located, famous for its great finish and bordered by its twelve angles.
Another of the places to see in Cuzco is the Mercado de San Pedro, the oldest and best known in the city. This market, also called Central Market, was built by the famous Gustav Eiffel, author of the Eiffel Tower and inside you will see stalls of all kinds of typical Peruvian products such as passion fruit, pineapple, corn, cassava, Andean potatoes and others more common in all markets.
It is also a good place to buy handicrafts and try typical local dishes at one of the food stalls.
A good way to explore this market and try some of the Peruvian delicacies with the recommendations of an expert is to book this gastronomic tour with a guide in Spanish.
Visiting hours: Monday to Saturday from 6:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. On Sundays it closes at noon.
In addition to Sacsayhuamán, there are three other Inca archaeological sites that deserve to be among the essential places to visit in Cusco. The first is Tambomachay, dedicated to the worship of water and located 8 kilometers from Cusco, which highlights a beautiful natural environment where an Inca hydraulic system consisting of sources, channels and aqueducts was located.
A 5-minute walk from Tambomachay is Pukapukara, known as the Red Fort. In these ruins you can see the different rooms and walls of the old fortress, which could be used as a hunting lodge, guard post or a stopping place for the royal procession.
Following the road in the direction of Sacsayhuamán you will arrive, in an hour on foot, to Qenqo, a religious complex where you can see the remains of various Inca buildings such as an amphitheater, two columns with astronomical functions, a canal and an underground room.
Qenqo is located one kilometer from Sacsayhuamán and also very close to the Cristo Blanco, an 8-meter statue from which you can take the way down to the city, with fantastic views of the city of Cusco.
To save money we advise you to book the specific tourist ticket for the Cusco area that includes all these ruins and the tourist attractions of the city.
Keep in mind that although it is recommended to do this walking tour of the landscapes, you can take a combi that brings you closer to this site.
The magical Sacred Valley of the Incas, located 15 kilometers from Cusco, is one of the most impressive places to visit in Peru. In this Andes valley that passes several rivers, you will find archaeological sites of the ancient Incas, indigenous and colonial towns and landscapes that will leave you speechless.
This valley was highly appreciated by the Incas for its good conditions for agriculture in which, taking advantage of the geography, they created a system of terraces to cultivate their precious corn.
Among the essential places to see in the Sacred Valley are:
Pisac: The impressive Inca ruins situated on a hill, the cultivation terraces and the craft market are enough reasons to visit Pisac.
Ollantaytambo: This is one of the masterpieces of Inca architecture in which an enormous complex of several floors built on two mountains stands out, which had defensive, religious and administrative functions.
Moray: In this place you can see some perfect circular terraces that would have been used by the Incas to do experiments with different crops.
Salineras de Maras: Thousands of small pools filled with water form this old salt mine that will leave a postcard image on your retina.
Chinchero: This indigenous town is one of the most beautiful in the Sacred Valley. Do not miss the square located on what was an Inca palace and the stalls to buy crafts that mount in the surroundings.
All these places can be visited with day trips from Cusco, the most common being the excursion to Pisac and Ollantaytambo and the one that goes through the Maras and Moray Salt Mines. In both you will have a guide in Spanish and pick up from your hotel.
Another option is to use the combi for the longest journeys and to get to the entrance of the deposits take a taxi.
To save money, we recommend booking the specific tourist ticket for the Sacred Valley area.
Machu Picchu, the lost city of the Incas, located just over 100 kilometers from Cusco, is considered one of the seven wonders of the world as well as one of the most important places to visit in Cusco.
This ancient Inca city, which was hidden between the mountains and the vegetation until the explorer Hiram Bingham discovered it in 1911, stands out for its 15th-century ruins such as the Intihuatana stone, the Temple of the Sun, the Main Temple, the Temple of the Condor and the Three Windows Room.
To get to know the history of this ancient city better and not miss any interesting place, it is advisable to do part of the visit with a guide.
To visit the city of Machu Picchu and climb the Huaynapicchu you must reserve the entrance several months in advance, as you have a limited number of daily visitors.
To get to Machu Picchu by public transport, you can take a train in Cuzco or Ollantaytambo to Aguas Calientes, where buses leave every hour to take you to the entrance of the archaeological site.
Another option is to book this day trip that includes transportation, hotel pickup, entrance, and a guide in Spanish during your visit to Machu Picchu.
That said, we have to highlight that the most magical way to get to Machu Picchu is by walking the 40 kilometers of the Inca Trail, which have made it one of the best things to do in Peru.
This 4-day excursion through paths with ancient stone steps, valleys and mountains with dream landscapes, will take you to this wonder of the world. You can shorten part of the journey by booking this two-day tour.
Visiting hours: every day from 6 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.
Another of the best excursions and places to visit in Cusco is the Rainbow Mountain also called the Mountain of the Seven Colors. Located more than 5000 meters high in the Andes, it presents one of the most incredible geological phenomena on earth, which have made it one of the best known places in the area in a few years.
This explosion of colors is the product of the combination of different minerals that give the sensation that a rainbow fell from the sky on the mountain, when viewed from afar. Keep in mind that the best time to see the hues clearly is in July and August, the dry season.
The best and most comfortable way to get to the Rainbow Mountain is to book this excursion from Cusco with a guide in Spanish or this 4-day tour that includes Machu Picchu, both will take you to one of the most impressive places to visit in Cusco.
Keep in mind that the journey to the point where the trekking starts is about three hours and although the views of the mountain and the path are impressive, the trek of about 3 hours to the viewpoint of the Rainbow is quite demanding. It is advisable to bring warm clothes and coca leaves to overcome altitude sickness.
Although this place is far from the usual tourist routes that focus on knowing the Sacred Valley, it is becoming very fashionable and more and more people visit it, so if you are going to take the excursion, it is worth booking in advance .
Qorikancha was a temple built by the Incas dedicated to the Sun god that over time expanded and beautified until it became the most important place of worship in the Inca Empire. One of the most outstanding elements that are preserved from the temple are the large blocks of solid rock that were joined together without any mortar, to form large walls. These walls that were covered with gold foil delimited several temples within Qorikancha such as the Sun, the Moon and the Stars.
With the arrival of the Spanish, the Santo Domingo Convent was built on top of Qorikancha, destroying the upper part of the Inca temple.
Visiting hours: Monday to Saturday from 8:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Sunday from 2pm to 5pm