It’s impressive to stand in the Plaza de Armas and look out over the mountains and churches. The historic centre of Cusco is always bustling with life and you’re likely to see a parade or two while you’re there.
1. Machu Picchu
If you visit Cusco and don’t go to Machu Picchu, it’s probably because you’ve already been there. If you are not considering it, I would strongly suggest you reconsider. It’s one of the new wonders of the world, and despite the number of tourists visiting it, it’s still one of my favourite historical sites in the world and tops the list of best things to do in Cusco. Here is a guide to hiking Machu Picchu on your own and here is a guide to hiking Machu Picchu with children. You can also book a day tour to Machu Picchu from Cusco here.
2. Rainbow Mountain
This is one of the newest and biggest adventures in the Cusco region. Rainbow Mountain is reached by a 3 hour drive from Cusco, once at the trailhead you will begin a 7.5 mile (12km) trek into the Andes. This high altitude trekking experience, taking you to 16,000ft, can be done as a day trip from Cusco, or as a multi-day adventure linked to the magical Ausangate trek.
3. Cusco Cathedral or Catedral Basílica de la Virgen de la Asunción
When visiting Cusco you will find a large number of churches and Catholic buildings. They look beautiful from the outside, but the interiors are even more stunning, most of them decorated with golden statues and details that will not leave you indifferent. If you want to visit them all, you can buy a ticket.
4. Qorikancha and Convent of Santo Domingo
During the Inca era, this was the richest temple in the area. It was covered with golden walls and even the statues were made of gold. After the arrival of the Spanish, the Dominican order built the large convent, mixing Inca and colonial architecture.
5. San Blas
Considered the bohemian quarter of the city, San Blas is one of the best things to do in Cusco and one of the most beautiful areas of the city centre. With its cobbled and narrow streets, it mixes tradition with the tastes of tourists. Here you’ll find restaurants, art galleries and craft shops… at tourist prices, of course.
6. Mercado Central de San Pedro
I’m a market freak and wherever I travel, visiting the local market is one of the first things on my list. San Pedro is a lively market full of local food, fruit and vegetables. You’ll also find food and juices there. If your stomach is strong enough, try them all!
The beauty of Cusco is that in every corner you will find a testimony of the Incas. A few minutes into the upper part of the city you’ll find Inca ruins to visit. Sacsayhuamán is a huge platform with well-preserved structures and a beautiful view of the city.
8. El Valle Sagrado
The Sacred Valley is perhaps the biggest reason why everyone goes to Cusco. Cusco is the starting point for all flights from Lima to Machu Picchu, so most people stop in Cusco first.
My favourite places to visit in the Sacred Valley are Salinas de Mara, Moray and Ollantaytambo.
9. El Sol Avenue
One of the biggest streets in the centre of Cusco, busy but with some interesting things to see. Go to the end to take a picture of the biggest graffiti in the city.
10. ChocoMuseo and Cafe Dwasi
These turned out to be my return points in the city, with a great selection of chocolates, beer and fancy prepared coffee, they are definitely some of the best things to do in Cusco. They also offer workshops where you can learn how to make your own chocolate.