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Bucket list destination:

Cusco

  • Cusco, Cusco Region, Peru

Last updated: 09 July, 2024
Expert travel writer: Alex Robinson

Cusco was the Inca capital, laid out in the shape of a giant puma, sitting at the heart of an empire that stretched to Ecuador and Bolivia. It was from Cuzco that the Incas administered their vast empire and the city centre’s tight grid, laid out in the 1400s, still bears their mark – as well as that of their conquerors, the Spanish.

Inca foundations are capped with Mediterranean-style structures, and the sun temple has an adjacent baroque church. Inca ruins litter the city – the bell-shaped Qoricancha temple, hulking Sacsayhuaman fort with its massive ramparts and Inca walls everywhere – jigsaw-pieced together from huge boulders, cut into bewildering geometric shapes. There are Spanish treasures too – magnificent churches and convents decorated with art made by indigenous Peruvian artisans.

Today, Cusco is the official ‘historic capital’ of Peru and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Yet many visitors use Cusco merely as a base for Machu Picchu – don’t miss out on all these sights.

Tours, tickets & transfers

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Our selection of the best Viator tours of this destination, plus helpful tickets and transfers

  • Cusco

Arrive in Cusco stress-free and make the most of your time in Peru by pre-booking your arrival airport transfer. Skip all the taxi lines and travel from Alejandro Velasco Astete Airport without a worry! These transfers are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week and coincide with your arrival flight.

Price $15

Min age 3

Rating 4.54 / 5 [185 ratings]

Tour supplied by:

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  • Cusco

This Cusco SightSeeing is one of the best things to do in Cusco while you are acclimatizing. We have carefully curated the itinerary to give you the best orientation of the city and tradition. This tour takes you to all the major highlights in and around Cusco. We start the tour by driving around the historic center of Cusco. You can sit back and enjoy the sights while rbi-lingual guide would explain the prominence of each landmark within the city. We will be later driving through the prime archaeological sites like Sacsayhuaman, Q’enqo, and Puca Pucara.

Price $15

Min age 1

Rating 4.56 / 5 [152 ratings]

Tour supplied by:

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  • Cusco

Discover the magic and beauty of Cusco, the capital of the Incan Empire. The flawlessly built Incan roads spread to all regions from the “Plaza” which was thought of as the center of the world. Visit the Temple of the Sun, the Convent of Santo Domingo and the famous Cusco Cathedral with its Cuzqueno paintings. Entrance fees included, skip the line.

Price $59

Min age 0

Rating 4.36 / 5 [126 ratings]

Tour supplied by:

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  • Cusco

Visit all of Peru's top attractions on this 6-day, small-group tour. Spend time in Cusco, the Sacred Valley of the Incas, Visiting Pisac, the famous Pisac Market, Ollantaytambo along the Urubamba river. Then visit the amazing Machu Picchu city of the Incas. You'll also visit the highest navigable lake in the world: Lake Titicaca, with the floating Uros and Taquile islands. Overnight accommodations starting at 3 star hotels, most of your meals, entrance fees and all transportation to and from each attraction (including Cusco airport transfers) are included in the cost of this tour.

Price $799

Min age 0

Rating 4.81 / 5 [106 ratings]

Tour supplied by:

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Travel advice

When to go

Temperatures are consistent year-round in Cusco, however May-September sees the least rainfall and is the best season to visit.

Getting there and away

The nearest airport to the city is Alejandro Velasco Astete International Airport which receives both international and domestic flights. Lima is a one-hour flight. From the airport, take a taxi (around 20 minutes) or a local minibus (around 40 minutes).

Alternatively, there are overland buses from Lima (20 hours), or arrive in style on the luxurious Andean Explorer, which connects Cusco with Puno and Arequipa.

Getting around

The historic heart of Cusco is compact and easily navigable on foot. Its main points are clearly mapped on the tourist ticket (boleto turistico), which provides admittance to all the major sights and can be bought at the first site you visit.

Health & Safety

Note that Cusco sits at an elevation of 3,400m, so mild altitude sickness can be problem. Allow plenty of time to acclimatise and avoid racing around the sites on your first day. Pickpocketing can be a problem in crowded areas, especially in the blocks around the central market.