Lima may be the capital of Peru, but Cusco is the real heart of the country. Full of spiritual history and located a mere 3 hours away from Machu Picchu, you’ll definitely find yourself here during your trip to Peru. Enjoy 48 hours in Cusco or more with my 2-day guide!
Unlike most of my 48-hour guides, there aren’t quite as many activities listed back-to-back. This is mostly because of the altitude in Cusco. Cusco sits at an altitude of 11,152 feet and it’s not uncommon for travelers to get altitude sickness when visiting.
Naturally, it’s important to take things slow and not pack your day with too many activities in Cusco. If you happen to be visiting for more than 48 hours, I’ve listed alternative activities to do.
However, please follow the general time agenda so you don’t get too sick or winded. It takes about 5-7 days for your body to adjust to the altitude!
8:00 am Enjoy Some Coca Tea
If it’s your first day in Cusco, I highly recommend you avoid eating heavy the first day. Skipping breakfast could actually be a great benefit! But you’ll still need a little something in your stomach! Odds are your hotel in Cusco will provide you with some coca tea first thing in the morning. In case they do not, enjoy some great views, free wifi and bomb coca tea at Cappuccino Cafe.
Other options: Jack’s Cafe, The Meeting Place, Tea World
9:00 am Shop and Mingle with the Locals at San Pedro Market
One of my favorite things to do is shop where the locals go. I could spend all day doing it! The San Pedro Market runs from 8 am – 5 pm and sells all kinds of things like spices, hot meals, sweets, produce, handmade clothes and bags, crystals and trinkets. Take a tour here or explore the market on your own. Whatever you do, make sure you haggle! Also, be sure not to eat too much or it might enhance your altitude sickness symptoms.
Other options: San Blas Market, Center for Traditional Textiles of Cusco
1:00 pm Visit the Ccochahuasi Animal Sanctuary
Instead of taking pictures with the “alpaca ladies” (a practice that has been debated as animal cruelty), visit the animal sanctuary 30 minutes from Cusco. Not only will you get your llama and alpaca fix, but you’ll also meet a caoti, condors, hairless dog, falcons, macaws, deer, mountain lions and a domestic kitty!
6:00 pm Check out the Plaza de Armas at Sunset
The Plaza de Armas is Cusco’s main square and top tourist attraction in the city. This was once Huakaypata, or the Great Inca Square. Now full of Spanish Colonial buildings, like the Cusco Cathedral and the Church La Compañía de Jesús, are the major sites tourists marvel at. While this square is busy pretty much any time of day, it’s the most beautiful around sunset. Come enjoy the hustle and bustle as you take pictures amidst the square before the sun goes down.
7:00 pm Enjoy a Light Dinner at Deva
If you’re looking for a place to eat light and enjoy free wifi, this is the perfect dinner spot. Deva is an amazing restaurant with hearty Peruvian dishes (like guinea pig and tamales) or very light soup in case you’re stomach isn’t up for a big meal. If you’re lucky, your host will bring you a welcome drink of chicha, also known as corn beer! (If you’re too afraid to drink your first night, save it for your last; it’s delicious!)
Other options: Faustina,
7:00 am Enjoy Breakfast Bright and Early
If you’re headed to Machu Picchu or Rainbow Mountain, you’ll need to start getting your body clock ready for early wake-up calls. Most hotels offer an early morning breakfast for those about to start their day with a 4 am tour. But if you’d like to wander around the city, La Valeriana has some of the best pastries and coffee in town!
Other options: Deli Monasterio, Seledonia’s Mesa, Pantastico
10:00 am Have Your Coca Tea Leaves Read at Sacsayhuaman
Infamously known as “Sexy Woman,” Sacsayhuaman is a famous mountain in Cusco known for its spirituality and rich history during the Inti Raymi Festival. If you don’t feel like trekking up here alone, make an appointment with Peruvian Shamans and have your coca tea leaves read in this sacred space. You’ll get an incredibly glimpse into your future as well as an impressive view of the city.
2:00 pm Have Lunch at Bodega 138
For those of you feeling a little homesick, sometimes there’s nothing better than a little comfort food. Not only does this restaurant have amazing pizzas, but some delicious chicken soup in case you’re still feeling a little queasy from the altitude. And if you’re feeling a little bold, this place has an incredible selection of craft beers.
Other options: Creperia La Bo’M, PER.UK, Barrio Ceviche Seafood Kitchen
3:00 pm Explore San Blas
Northeast of Plaza de Armas is San Blas, a bohemian and artistic neighborhood of Cusco. While it might be a bit touristy, it’s definitely a lot quieter than the center of the city. Unlike the colonial architecture throughout the city, this neighborhood painted in white is filled with artisans, museums, and interesting eateries. Some favorites include the ChocoMuseo, Museo De La Coca, San Blas Temple and the open air market at Plaza San Blas.
Other options: Lucrepata neighborhood, San Cristóbal neighborhood
7:00 pm Treat yo’self to a Lovely Dinner at Le Soleil
You might be surprised to find that one of Cusco’s best restaurants features French cuisine! This upscale restaurant is perfect if you’re looking for a break from Peruvian food or looking for a nice night out. Make sure you enjoy their famous creme brulee along with some French wine.
Other options: Map Cafe, Qespi, Uchu Peruvian Steakhouse, Inti Raymi Restaurant
Taxis are the primary form of transportation here and luckily they are incredibly cheap. When arriving from the airport, try to walk out and down the street (to the right) a little ways. You shouldn’t pay more than 15-20 soles to the center of Cusco. Any more than that is a rip off!
If you happen to have wifi, Uber is also available. We only had wifi when we were in hotels and restaurants so used Uber sparingly. However this is the most accurate price for transportation and you will not get ripped off.
If you haven’t booked any tours before your trip, don’t worry. There are several tourist agencies that can help you plan for any retreat. Even your hotel can help you find the perfect tour! Just make sure you shop around for the best price!