Sitting high in a mountain valley at 3,400 meters above sea level, Cusco provides an enchanting introduction to the world of the Andes. Once the capital of the mighty Inca empire, the city today is the gateway to Machu Picchu.
Exquisite churches, fantastic museums, and narrow cobbled streets in the historic center merit at least a few days’ worth of exploration. Add to that stunning Inca ruins both within the city and in the surrounding hills and you’ve got a recipe for travel magic. Cultural festivals throughout the year, including Señor de los Temblores and Inti Raymi, highlight the region’s mixed Spanish-indigenous heritage and illustrate the continual renewal of the community’s long-held Andean traditions.
As one of Peru’s most popular destinations, Cusco boasts a range of hotels to suit every budget. The following are our preferred hotels in Cusco, selected for their outstanding service, ideal location, and excellent amenities.
JW Marriott El Convento Cusco
Corner of Calle Ruinas 432 and San Agustin, Historic Center, Cusco
Built upon a former Inca temple and Spanish convent, El Convento Cusco goes above and beyond in creating a hotel environment to match the historical setting. Common areas and 153 guest rooms provide equal parts comfort and elegance as well as a full range of excellent services and amenities, including 2 restaurants, a bar, fitness center, and a museum exhibiting artifacts excavated during the construction of the hotel.
Calle 7 Cuartones 306, Historic Center, Cusco
The upper floors at El Mercado look out over the tiled roofs and surrounding hills of Cusco, while the gorgeous interior courtyard offers a peaceful oasis away from the city bustle. This excellent 4-star hotel offers bright and airy rooms, 32 total, and comfortable common areas that entice guests to sit and relax. Standard room amenities include a safety box, satellite TV, and marble bathrooms, with an option to upgrade to an extra-luxurious suite. Start your morning with breakfast, featuring made-to-order eggs and any combination of fresh fruit juice. After a day of touring, “La Taberna” prepares delicious cocktails to help you unwind and a selection of market fresh dishes to fuel the next day’s adventures.
Casa San Blas
Tocuyeros 566, San Blas, Cusco
With gorgeous wooden furnishings, a pretty terrace area with umbrellas, and colorful artwork, Casa San Blas Boutique will make you feel at home in Cusco. All 18 rooms showcase handmade colonial-style furniture and Andean weavings as well as lush bedding for a good night’s rest. Dine or order a cocktail in the downstairs restaurant before indulging in a luxurious massage in your room. Located in the historic artisan quarter of San Blas, this excellent-value hotel is privately situated, but still close to restaurants, bars, artisan workshops, and galleries.
Amaru Inca I
Cuesta de San Blas 541, San Blas, Cusco
Located in the heart of the bohemian San Blas district, Amaru Inca Hostal offers comfortable accommodation for a great value. Each room is furbished with wood flooring, a flat-screen television, and a private bathroom with shower. The hotel is set in a charming colonial house with internal patio and garden. Wifi is available in common areas.
See all Cusco Hotels
Traveling to Peru in the peak season (June, July, August) requires lots of planning several months in advance. This includes booking hotels in Cusco and Aguas Calientes (Machu Picchu), flights to/from Cusco, train tickets to/from Machu Picchu, Huayna Picchu tickets (limited to 400 and sell out weeks in advance) and Inca Trail permits if applicable.
Tips for Altitude Sickness
Altitude sickness is a concern for travelers arriving to Cusco (at 3,400 meters or 11,150 feet) directly from lower elevations. Minor symptoms include headache, fatigue, insomnia, and loss of appetite. Acclimation varies widely by individual. Most people are able to adjust within a day or two. Severe reactions to the altitude are rare and hard to predict. Before you travel, ask your doctor about medications to prevent altitude sickness. During your visit to Cusco, keep hydrated, avoid heavy meals, and try the local remedy, coca leaf tea. If you’re planning to hike to higher elevations, plan to spend 2-3 days acclimating in Cusco before beginning the trek.
Getting Around Cusco
Walking is the best way to get around the historic center of Cusco. You can walk from one side of the historic center to the other within 15-20 minutes. Around the Plaza de Armas you’ll find Cusco’s top attractions, restaurants, and nightlife options. The area around the main plaza is mostly flat, but the streets become steeply inclined when you walk toward the San Blas, San Cristobal, or Santa Ana neighborhoods.
You can find money exchange offices and ATMs throughout the historic center and on Av. El Sol. (Ask your bank about international banking fees.) For payments in USD or to exchange USD or Euros to Soles, you’ll need crisp bills with no blemishes of any kind. Bills with tiny rips, marks, and other defects will likely be rejected.
Cusco city is generally warm during the day and cold at night. Bring sunblock and sunglasses for day tours, and don’t forget your warm clothes for the evenings. A thermal undershirt paired with a fleece, windproof jacket, and long pants is usually sufficient for Cusco’s 5C/40F nights.
For the rainy season, packing the right clothes to stay (relatively) dry can make the difference between an enjoyable experience and a wet, miserable one. Pack long pants made of synthetic quick drying fabric (not jeans), a rain poncho to go over your head and your backpack, and an umbrella to use during day tours.
Some legs of your Cusco trip may require you to leave your heavy luggage behind, for example to take the train to Machu Picchu (passengers are limited to 1 bag or backpack weighing 5kg/11lbs) or for a multi-day trek. This is generally not a problem as most hotels provide luggage storage for guests at no additional charge.