Discover the amazing things to do in Cusco. This city, nestled in the heart of the Peruvian Andes, is rich in history and culture.
Skyhook, we’ll help you explore everything, from ancient ruins to savouring local culinary delights. Cusco offers an adventure for every traveller.
11 Best Things To Do in Cusco
Whether you’re planning to tackle the classic
Inca trail or just exploring the wonders of Cusco, here are our 11 top things to do in Cusco, Peru.
Cultural and Historical Explorations
Are you a fan of culture? These 3 things to do in Cusco will make your Peru tour an unforgettable experience.
1. Marvel at the Koricancha: The Golden Temple of the Sun
Step into the past at Koricancha, once the most revered site in Inca civilisation. This architectural marvel, also known as the
Temple of the Sun Machu Picchu, symbolised the Inca’s devotion to their most revered deity – the Sun God.
Why it’s a must-visit: Koricancha’s walls were once famously lined with gold, reflecting the sun’s rays in a dazzling display of luxury and craftsmanship. Although the gold is long gone, the temple’s remaining stonework is a testament to the Inca’s advanced masonry skills.
What you’ll experience: As you wander through this sacred site, you’ll feel the echoes of history around every corner. From the precisely cut stones to the temple’s serene ambience, Koricancha offers a unique window into the Inca’s spiritual and architectural prowess.
Our insider tip: The on-site museum provides deeper insight into the temple’s history and significance within the Inca Empire.
2. Journey Through Cusco’s Historical Center: A Blend of Spanish and Andean Architecture
Immerse yourself in the charm of Cusco’s Historical Center, a tapestry of cobbled streets and striking colonial buildings seamlessly interwoven with ancient Andean architecture. This area is a living museum showcasing the fusion of Spanish colonial and Inca influences.
Why it’s a must-visit: Here, Spanish colonial churches stand atop Inca foundations, and narrow alleys lead to sunlit plazas, offering a visual feast of architectural styles.
What you’ll experience: Strolling through the Historical Center is like walking through pages of history. Each building and street tells a story, from the grandeur of the Plaza de Armas to the intricate stone walls of ancient Inca palaces.
Did you know? Cusco was designed in the shape of a puma, a sacred animal for the Incas. The city’s layout aligns with this symbolic representation when viewed from above.
3. Unravel the Mysteries of Sacsayhuaman
Venture just outside Cusco to explore Sacsayhuaman, an awe-inspiring fortress that showcases the ingenuity of Inca engineering. Perched on a hill overlooking Cusco, this site offers stunning views and a glimpse into the mysterious world of the Incas.
Why it’s a must-visit: Sacsayhuaman (often pronounced ‘sexy-woman’) is famous for its massive, intricately carved limestone boulders, some weighing as much as 200 tons. The precision with which these stones fit together, without using mortar, is a marvel of ancient construction.
What you’ll experience: As you wander through the expansive complex, you’ll be captivated by the grandeur of the towering walls and zigzagging terraces. It’s where you can feel the pulse of Inca history and the mysteries that still linger.
Pro tip: The panoramic view of Cusco from the fortress is breathtaking, especially during sunset, offering a new perspective on the city you’ve been exploring.
Local Life and Cuisine Experiences
Cusco is a city that delivers for those looking to indulge in the local life and cuisine. Here’s what we recommend:
4. The Bohemian Vibe of San Blas District
Discover the artistic soul of Cusco in the San Blas District, a colourful and vibrant quarter known for its bohemian flair. Nestled on the steep streets above the main square, San Blas is a haven for artists, musicians, and artisans, making it a must-visit for culture enthusiasts.
Why it’s a must-visit: San Blas is not just a district; it’s a canvas of creativity. Its narrow, winding streets are lined with artisan workshops, quirky boutiques, and galleries, each bursting with unique pieces that reflect the rich Peruvian culture.
What you’ll experience: A stroll through San Blas is like stepping into a lively, open-air gallery. You’ll encounter everything from intricately handcrafted textiles and jewellery to vibrant paintings and sculptures. The district is also home to some of Cusco’s best cafes and bars, offering perfect spots to relax and soak in the local atmosphere.
Did you know? The San Blas Church, an often-overlooked gem with a beautifully carved pulpit, is said to be one of the finest examples of woodcarving in the world.
5. Indulge in Cusco’s Gastronomic Delights: From Street Food to Fine Dining
Cusco is a city that offers a feast for the senses. From humble street vendors to elegant fine dining establishments, Cusco’s gastronomic scene is as diverse as its history, blending traditional Andean flavours with contemporary culinary art.
Why it’s a must-visit: Cusco’s cuisine is a delightful fusion of ancient recipes and modern innovation. Here, you can taste everything from traditional dishes like “Cuy” (guinea pig) and “Chiriuchu” to internationally-inspired gourmet meals.
What you’ll experience: Strolling through Cusco’s markets and streets, you’ll encounter an array of enticing aromas and flavours. Street food vendors offer affordable, authentic bites like “anticuchos” (grilled meat skewers) and “empanadas”.
For a more upscale experience, Cusco’s restaurants serve exquisite dishes that testify to Peru’s status as a world-class culinary destination.
6. Chocolate Tasting and Cooking Classes: A Culinary Adventure
For foodies and chocolate enthusiasts, the experience of tasting and creating these delights firsthand in Cusco is an unmissable adventure.
Why it’s a must-do: Peruvian chocolate is renowned for its rich quality and unique flavours derived from locally grown cacao. Participating in chocolate tasting and cooking classes satisfies your taste buds. It provides an insight into the traditional culinary techniques of Peru.
What you’ll experience: Chocolate tasting sessions in Cusco allow you to sample various artisanal chocolates and learn about the process from bean to bar.
Cooking classes, on the other hand, immerse you in the preparation of classic Peruvian dishes guided by local chefs. It’s a hands-on experience where you get to enjoy your culinary creations.
Our recommendation: Look for workshops that offer a farm-to-table experience, where you can visit a local cacao farm to understand the cultivation process before diving into chocolate-making or cooking sessions.
7. The Best Coffee Shops in Cusco for a Perfect Brew
For coffee lovers, Cusco offers many charming coffee shops, each serving its unique spin on Peru’s renowned coffee beans.
Why it’s a must-visit: Peruvian coffee is celebrated worldwide for its high quality and distinctive flavour profiles. Cusco’s coffee shops serve excellent brews and act as cosy retreats where you can relax and soak in the city’s unique vibe.
What you’ll experience: Each coffee shop in Cusco has its own character. From quaint, art-filled cafés tucked away in narrow alleys to bustling establishments with views of the lively streets, there’s a spot for every mood. Enjoy classic espresso-based drinks, or try local specialities like coffee made from beans grown in the surrounding Andean regions.
Did you know? Peru is one of the largest coffee producers in the world, and its coffee is known for its mild, aromatic, and flavorful profile, often with hints of fruitiness.
And let’s not forget about the nature lovers. Here are 2 of our favourite nature-inspired activities in Cusco.
8. Trek to the Colorful Palccoyo Rainbow Mountain
Embark on an adventure to Palccoyo, a captivating alternative to the more frequented Vinicunca, offering a glimpse into the stunning, multicoloured landscapes of the Andes.
Palccoyo Rainbow Mountain Cusco, with its accessible trails and fewer crowds, is a hidden gem waiting to be discovered.
Why it’s a must-visit: While the Vinicunca Rainbow Mountain has gained fame, Palccoyo offers a more serene experience. Its three distinct rainbow mountains, coupled with striking red valleys and rock formations, create a breathtaking panorama that is a feast for the eyes and soul.
What you’ll experience: This trek is all about the journey. As you walk the gentle trails, you’ll pass through quaint Andean villages, interact with the local community, and witness the daily lives of people who have lived in harmony with these mountains for centuries.
Did you know? The rainbow-like stripes on these mountains are due to the varied mineral content in the soil, which has been exposed over time by erosion. This natural phenomenon creates a stunning array of colours, from reds and yellows to greens and purples.
9. Discover the Tranquil Beauty of Humantay Lake
Humantay Lake is a hidden jewel nestled in the Andean mountains. This turquoise alpine lake, set against the backdrop of the impressive Salkantay and Humantay peaks, is a paradise for nature lovers and photographers alike.
Why it’s a must-visit: Humantay Lake is more than just a picturesque spot; it’s an experience that combines natural beauty with a sense of adventure. The lake’s striking turquoise colour, resulting from glacial meltwater, is a breathtaking sight that contrasts beautifully with the surrounding rugged mountains and green valleys.
What you’ll experience: The trek to Humantay Lake is an adventure. As you ascend through diverse landscapes, you’ll witness the changing flora and get glimpses of the Andean wildlife.
Upon reaching the lake, the tranquillity and beauty of the scene offer a perfect moment for reflection and admiration of nature’s wonders.
Day Trips and Outdoor Adventures
No trip to Cusco would be complete without taking a quick day trip. We suggest adding these activities to your itinerary.
10. Explore the Sacred Valley: Inca Architecture and Ancient Ruins
Sacred Valley Cusco of the Incas has ancient ruins, traditional villages, and breathtaking landscapes. This fertile valley, once the heartland of the Inca Empire, is a tapestry of archaeological sites and vibrant Andean culture.
Why it’s a must-visit: The Sacred Valley is a living museum where you can explore the remnants of Inca architecture and understand the sophisticated agricultural practices of this ancient civilisation.
The valley’s relatively lower altitude than Cusco makes it an ideal starting point for acclimatising and exploring the region.
What you’ll experience: From the famous terraces of Pisac and the fortress of Ollantaytambo to the less-visited Moray and Maras salt pans, each site in the Sacred Valley tells a unique story.
The valley is also home to bustling markets, like the one in Pisac, where you can find handcrafted goods and fresh local produce.
Pro tip: Make sure to spend some time in Ollantaytambo Cusco. This well-preserved Inca village still maintains its original urban planning. Walking its cobbled streets gives you a real sense of how Inca towns were structured and functioned.
11. Machu Picchu: A Day Trip to the Legendary Incan City
You can’t visit Cusco and not stop by
Machu Picchu. This UNESCO World Heritage Site is more than a tourist destination; the
Machu Picchu circuits are a pilgrimage to the Incan civilisation’s heart.
Why it’s a must-visit: Machu Picchu, often called the “Lost City of the Incas,” is one of the most recognised symbols of Incan ingenuity. Regarding good
reasons to visit Machu Picchu, its well-preserved ruins, set against lush mountains and swirling clouds, make for an awe-inspiring experience.
Did you know? Machu Picchu was built in the 15th century but remained unknown to the outside world until its discovery by Hiram Bingham in 1911. Its purpose remains a mystery, with theories ranging from a royal estate to a religious sanctuary.
Remember, this is just a glimpse of what your
Peru tours offer. Each step in the ancient city of Cusco paves the way for more discoveries, inviting you to delve deeper into Peru’s rich heritage and natural wonders. With us at
Skyhook Adventure, Cusco is just the beginning of an unforgettable adventure in the heart of Peru.
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