What to do in Cusco
Cusco is considered to be the historical capital of Perú and one of the most important points of interest for international tourism. Capital of the Inca Empire, it has also been declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO.
Walking through this city feels like you’re in a huge open air museum.The city is at an altitude of 3400m (11150 feet) so remember to take it easy when you arrive, especially depending on how you get to Cusco. Once you got to the city and had a little rest, it’s time to focus on the main question: what to do in Cusco?
Plaza de Armas
The Main Square in Cusco was originally a swamp. The Incas managed to dry it and built their administrative centre on it. When the Spanish arrived, it started to transform, as Spanish constructions were installed basically on top of Inca landmarks. Today, this historic area is an iconic clash of two cultures, where you can see an astounding mix of architecture and traces of both worlds. Right here you also have the Cathedral and the Church of the Compañía de Jesus, both of which are worth a quick visit inside. If you want to understand a bit more about this city and its amazing landmarks, check our recommendations for the best museums in Cusco.
The 12 Angled Stone
You may think “how much can a stone tell me, really…” Well this one is a great example of the perfection achieved in the Inca’s architecture. The stone is part of one of the walls that delineates the Archbishop’s Palace. The wall was built with stone blocks cut precisely in the appropriate way so they fit like a puzzle. And a complicated puzzle, because this “piece” weighs approximately 6 tonnes! The whole construction is amazing, but this stone with the 12 angles is what you could describe as the main jewel of this geometrical masterpiece.
San Blas Square
This area is full of craftsmen, and it looks like it’s frozen in time, full of colonial style houses. Right next to the square you have the Church of San Blas, with its amazing interiors (something you won’t imagine by standing outside). At night it’s a beautiful area to see as well.
The whole neighbourhood is actually quite nice for a stroll, just a couple of blocks away you have the San Blas Market.
San Pedro Central Market
It’s the oldest market in the city, filled with handcrafts and fresh products, about a 15 minute walk from the main square. Pastries, pisco, tropical fruits, coca leaves, coffee, you name it. Every regional product you might want to try, is here!
Sacsayhuaman Archaeological Site
A marvelous Inca fortress, famous for the festival of Inti Raymi (Celebration of the Sun), which attracts visitors from all over the world. This celebration occurs in the winter solstice, so this place gets filled with visitors in the last third of June. This site is very close to Cusco (you can actually walk -and climb a few steps- to get there, it will take around 15-20 minutes), so depending on your itinerary, you can see it on its own, or combine it with full day trips to other archaeological remains. By foot, you’ll also get to enjoy amazing views as you get closer to it.
Qorikancha and Santo Domingo Convent
Just a 10 minute walk away from the Main Square, this Inca temple was built to honour the Sun, and it’s actually where the Inti Raymi festival begins. When the Spanish arrived they destroyed part of the original temple, as they built the Santo Domingo Convent (which you can enter). Today, you get to see a mix of both, along with the garden and the museum . “Qorikancha” in Quechua translates to “The Golden Temple”: plenty of the gold that was used for sculptures and ornaments was taken during the years of Spanish control over the area.
Tip: if you’re travelling in late June and you want to check out more info on the Inti Raymi Festival, see the official website here.
Of course, one of the 7 wonders of the modern world couldn’t be out of the Cusco priority list! But Machu Picchu is so special and there’s so much to talk about, that we have a full article dedicated to it, check out our Machu Picchu guide!
We hope you enjoyed our what to do in Cusco list for your trip. You’ll find this city is a perfect place to stay while you visit multiple breathtaking archaeological sites not too far away. Since there are so many, we’ve picked our favourites for you, check them here!