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20 Best Things to Do In, From, and Around Cusco (Chosen by Experts!)

Cusco is a magical city with lots to offer, and choosing what to do may be a daunting task. Below, we have compiled a list featuring 20 of the best things to do and attractions to visit on your trip.
Cityscape of medieval church and houses with old tile roof in Cusco Peru.
Cityscape of medieval church and houses with old tile roof in Cusco Peru.

1. The Cusco Cathedral

Built between 1560 and 1664 and nestled in the heart of Cusco, the beautiful Cusco Cathedral boasts an imposing exterior, intricate architecture, and a unique collection of religious art.

The gigantic main doors of the cathedral are open to genuine worshippers between 6 a.m. and 10 a.m., but religious festivals are also a superb time to see the cathedral. Additionally, you can visit the cathedral on a Cusco walking tour. Whichever way you experience this gem, this is unquestionably one of the best things to do in Cusco!

Facade of the Cusco Cathedral in Peru.

2. San Blas Neighborhood

San Blas, Cusco's oldest and undeniably most attractive neighborhood, is known for its exceedingly narrow and colorful streets. Each of the houses and businesses lining the streets features painted blue doors and colorful adornments, which gives this bustling neighborhood its bohemian charm.

The neighborhood is home to local artists who sell their work here. You can also find hidden cafes serving a variety of cuisines, including French, Italian, American, and, of course, Andean. Don’t forget to bring your camera, as this is one of the most photogenic places in the city.

A colorful street in the San Blas neighborhood, Cusco. Photo by Daniella Beccaria

Cusco Tours:

3. The Cristo Blanco Statue

Perched high above the colonial center of Cusco, standing tall at 8 meters, or 26 feet, is Cusco's most famous statue, the Cristo Blanco. It is a statue of Jesus Christ with raised arms, which symbolizes the protection of the city. It is similar to Christ the Redeemer in Rio de Janeiro, but in miniature format.

It was designed by local artist Francisco Olazo Allende and was gifted to the city by the Palestinian Arab community, which sought refuge in Cusco after World War II. Located only a 10-minute walk from the famous Sacsayhuamán archaeological site and offering panoramic views of the city, the Cristo Blanco statue is definitely worth visiting.

The Cristo Blanco Statue.

4. Taste the delights of Peruvian cuisine

Peru is known as one of the top gastronomical destinations in the world, so it comes as no surprise that Cusco is home to a plethora of enticing restaurants and bars. Order fresh trout ceviche made with local fish, mouthwatering Lomo Saltado, try a succulent alpaca steak, or step out of your comfort zone and order one of the local favorites, cuy al horno, or, translated, oven-baked guinea pig. Additionally, more than 3,000 types of potatoes grow in Peru, so be sure to try them fried, baked, and boiled.

Once you've had your fill of some of the world's best cuisine, lounge on the many balconies in the main plaza and enjoy the sights while enjoying a coffee or sipping on Peru’s national drink, the pisco sour. The bars and restaurants in Cusco won't disappoint!

A specialty of Peruvian cuisine, Lomo Saltado. Photo by NANDEY4J on Pixabay.

5. Farmers Market & Cooking Class

The local farmer’s markets are undeniably one of the best things to do in Cusco, as they provide you with the opportunity to try new foods and even practice your Spanish a bit. Grocery shopping in the market also provides insight into Peruvian culture and daily life.

Visit any of Cusco’s best markets, book a cooking class to use those delectable ingredients, and try world-famous Peruvian cuisine at home! Below, we will list some of the city's best markets.

  • San Blas Market

  • San Pedro Market

  • Wanchaq Market

  • Huancaro Market

Mercado San Pedro in Cusco. Photo by Ashim D’Silva on Unsplash.

6. Climb to one of the many viewpoints

Another exciting addition to your Cusco itinerary is taking in one of the city’s breathtaking vistas. Just a 15-minute walk up from the Cusco plaza de armas, or Cusco main square, you'll find the Mirador de San Cristobal, Plaza Santa de Santa Ana, and the Mirador de San Blas, where you can find sweeping panoramic views of the towering Andes and the city below.

These are the most accessible viewpoints, but if you’re wanting to go even higher, take a picnic up to the Qenqo ruins or visit Sacsayhuamán for even more views. Picturesque views await you, so remember your camera or smartphone!

Beautiful view of the city and the Cusco plaza de armas. Photo by anibal porras on Unsplash.

7. Visit the ruins of Tambomachay

Tambomachay, also known as El Baño del Inca, which translates to the “bath of the Inca,” is one of the many Cusco ruins located near the outskirts of the city. This stunning archaeological site consists of a series of aqueducts, canals, and waterfalls fed by natural springs that run through the terraced rocks.

While its actual purpose remains unknown, it is believed to have been a temple of worship for water and played an important function related to the regeneration of the land. Adding it to your list of things to do in Cusco is a must for history buffs!

The ruins of Tambomachay, also known as the Bath of the Inca, located just outside of Cusco. Photo by Brian Jeffery Beggerly on Flickr.

8. Nightlife in Cusco

After a thrilling day of visiting Machu Picchu or other attractions within or around Cusco, why not experience the vibrant nightlife? Cusco is known throughout Peru for being one of the cities with the best nightlife, and there are countless bars and clubs with a variety of themes to experience.

While it might seem difficult to choose a spot to your liking, the best spot to start is the Cusco main square, as its surroundings are full of bars and clubs where you can enjoy a night of salsa, rock, reggaeton, or the genre of music that you prefer. Whether you are looking to dance the night away or simply enjoy a drink with a lively atmosphere and good music, Cusco's nightlife scene should not be missed!

The nightlife scene in Cusco. Photo by Paddy's Irish Pub on Instagram.

9. Learn about Inca history in one of Cusco’s many museums

Step into the past with a visit to the Cusco Regional History Museum, which is home to ancient Inca relics and restored Spanish paintings. After that, explore the museum beneath the Coricancha, where they have elongated skulls and mummies on display. Finally, check out the Inca Museum, which boasts 3D models of Machu Picchu and other archaeological sites across Peru, a massive collection of Inca artifacts, and an even larger collection of mummies that are nearly perfectly preserved.

Whether you are a history fanatic or are simply looking for something interesting to do in Cusco, all of the Cusco museums are worth a visit if you have time.

Cusco Regional History Museum. Photo by Cusco Regional History Museum.

10. Embark on an exhilarating ATV tour through the South Valley

Embark on an exhilarating ATV tour through the stunning landscapes of Cusco’s South Valley. You will ride along dirt roads past local farms and grazing animals, appreciating the breathtaking scenery of the Andean landscape speckled with homesteads. You’ll also visit the Tipon archeological site and a traditional town nearby, Oropesa, famous for its delicious bread.

For thrill seekers or those looking for a unique blend of adventure, culture, and natural beauty, this is unquestionably one of the best things to do in Cusco.

Embark on an exhilarating ATV tour. Photo by Kilyan Sockalingum on Unsplash.

11. Visit the picturesque Wetlands of Huasao

The Huasao wetlands are situated in the southern valley of Cusco. Not many foreign tourists visit these wetlands, but it is an excellent option if you travel on your own through the so-called ‘South Valley of Cusco’. It is most famous for its scenic beauty, where several species of birds live; however, in recent years, incredible wooden sculptures with different figures of animals and fictional characters were created, which attracted visitors, especially those from Cusco.

There are no guided tours, but the wetlands are only 30 minutes from Cusco and can easily be reached by public transport from La Cultura Avenue in the city, making them worth visiting in your free time.

12. Paint Pucará Bulls and take home a souvenir

You’re likely to see small, cartoon-like ceramic Pucará bull figures with brightly colored patterns in the southern Andes of Peru. They often appear on the roofs of homes (always in pairs) in order to attract happiness, prosperity, protection, and fertility. Each color and design has a different meaning and purpose for the couple living in the house under their care.

Not only is creating your own ceramic Pucará bull one of the best things to do in Cusco, but it's also the perfect opportunity to craft a souvenir for when you head back home.

13. Attend a Weaving Class with talented artists of the Andes

Artesanal craftwork reigns king in Cusco, and traditional weavers are among the many talented artists of the Andes. Wools from local animals are washed, spun, and dyed with the natural plant materials before being skillfully intertwined using ages-old patterns for modern man to enjoy.

If you're keen on learning something new, then spending a day learning how to create colorful textiles is unquestionably a cultural experience you should try!

14. Hike to the Inca fortress of Sacsayhuamán

The stone fortress of Sacsayhuamán was used to protect the Inca capital of Cusco when the Spanish invaded and boasts enormous stones weighing up to 125 tons each. The ruins are one of the Incas' most spectacular structures and can be seen from almost anywhere in Cusco, including the Plaza de Armas.

You can hike from the main plaza by taking the most direct route up Pumacurco, but if you’d rather save your legs the extra 30 minutes, you can go by bus or taxi for just a few soles.

Impressive formation of polygonal, cyclopean walls of Sacsayhuamán. Photo by Ruben Hanssen.

15. The Humantay Lake

Humantay Lake, or Laguna Humantay, sparkles in the Andes mountain range like an emerald jewel. It's brilliant green and blue water makes it one of the most well-known lakes in Peru, as well as one of the top day trips from Cusco. The trailhead is only a 3-hour drive from Cusco, from where the hike to the lake and its breath-taking scenery will start. After an adventure-filled day, the return to Cusco and some well-deserved rest await.

No photograph can do this mystical gem justice, so paying a visit to Humantay Lake on your trip to Cusco is simply an opportunity that you should not pass on!

16. Take a stroll on the picturesque Siete Borreguitos Street

Located a mere five blocks from the city's main square, Siete Borreguitos Street is a window into the soul of Cusco and is evidently one of the prettiest streets in the city. Rich with culture, locals and tourists stroll its length daily, admiring its beauty. Traditional music, local delicacies and cuisines, artists showcasing their crafts, white walls, hanging flower pots, and well-lacquered balconies and gates call Siete Borreguitos Street home.

Journey through time on a pathway that tells tales of centuries gone by. It's not simply a street, but more of a sensory experience that is not to be missed on your adventure in the vibrant city of Cusco.

Siete Borreguitos Street in Cusco. Photo by hungariandreamers.com

17. Sapantiana Aqueduct

Nestled in the charming San Blas neighborhood, constructed over the Saphi River and featuring three levels of arches that resemble a bridge, is the Sapantiana Aqueduct. This beautiful man-made stone-stair waterfall was built by the Jesuit Order during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, but was only rediscovered in mid-2020!

Since its rediscovery, it has been visited more and more by locals and tourists alike, and not only is this one of the best things to do in Cusco, but it is also one of the most Instagrammable spots in the city!

The Sapantiana Aqueduct in Cusco. Photo by José Manuel Pacuri Sullón on Wikipedia , cropped from the original size, under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International

18. The Qosqo Center of Native Art

Founded in 1924, the Qosqo Center of Native Art's main purpose is the conservation and compilation of folk music and dances from Cusco and Peru. Its repertoire currently includes 50 dances, a hundred melodies from Cusco, and a large collection of traditional costumes and musical instruments. Additionally, its cast is made up of 70 artists.

The center presents daily folk music and dance shows from various provinces, districts, and communities of Cusco, as well as a museum displaying typical costumes and musical instruments. It is included in the Cusco tourist ticket and is the only place where you can appreciate music and dance from Cusco on a daily basis, which is why it has a large number of visitors, both nationals and foreigners. If you appreciate cultural activities, this is definitely an experience not to miss!

19. Rainbow Mountain and Other Day Trips

For those who need a break from the city, taking a day trip to one of the top attractions in Peru is an excellent choice for a mini-adventure. Both Rainbow Mountain (17,000 ft elevation) and Humantay Lake (13,800 ft elevation) are full-day trips that require an early start but are worth the effort. If you’re worried about the elevation, you can skip the short hike and ride a mule to the top.

For shorter excursions, try out a more relaxing Cusco day trip to the Sacred Valley, where you can visit small towns like Ollantaytambo, Urubamba, or Pisac. The Sacred Valley is only 40 minutes from the city and has sweeping views of the Andes mountains and the winding Urubamba River. Cusco's surroundings truly are an adventurer's paradise!

The mystical Rainbow Mountain. Photo by McKayla Crump on Unsplash.


20. Inca Trail to Machu Picchu

Of course, no list is complete without adding one of the best things to do in Peru, which is to visit World Wonder Machu Picchu, or more specifically, hike the inca trail to Machu Picchu. Though located outside of Cusco, the journey to Machu Picchu starts in Cusco, and the best part is that you can hike there on the iconic Inca Trail, with options for a two-day or four-day trek through the Andes.

Whether you choose the two-day or four-day trek, both options bring you to the ancient citadel of Machu Picchu, which will in all probability be one of the best, if not the best, travel experience you have ever had!

The Inca Trail to Machu Picchu. Photo by KAL VISUALS on Unsplash.

Your Cusco adventure awaits!

We don't believe anybody’s Peruvian adventure is complete without a visit to Cusco, and our list of the top 20 things to do in the former Inca capital highlights why this city is a must-see in Peru. If you're ready to experience this iconic gem, book your visit today and customize your trip of a lifetime with one of our travel experts.

 Daniella Beccaria
Daniella Beccaria
Daniella was born in the sunny beach town of Santa Cruz, California. She spent her youth there before moving to Washington state to pursue a degree in journalism, photography and Spanish. She has worked professionally as a photojournalist in Seattle photographing everything from protests and political rallies to music festivals and Machu Picchu. After moving to Peru in 2018, she fell in love with the people and culture and decided to stay in Cusco where she now works with Peru For Less.
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