So you’re travelling to Cusco — smart choice! Whether you’re here for a quick pre-Machu Picchu visit or staying longer to explore, this guide will give you everything you need to know about visiting Cusco, from getting to and from the airport, to the best Peruvian books you should read, to the cool local spots you should check out.
There are no public transit options for getting to and from the airport, so you’ll likely need to rely on a taxi. Look for the grey-coloured taxis within the airport property, and drivers wearing dark uniforms with ID cards hanging around their necks — these taxis are safe and easy to find. You’ll need to agree to the price before you leave, but the cost should be about S/. 20 to S/. 30 PEN (6.70 to 10 USD) from the airport to the city centre. Do not use the services of random taxi drivers at the baggage area and in the parking lot.
Alternately, most hotels can arrange for airport transfers, but you’ll need to secure the pick-up in advance.
Public transit: Cusco’s public transit runs from 6am to 9pm and costs between S/. 0.70 and S/. 2.50 PEN (0.20 to 0.85 USD). If you plan to ride transit, be sure to carry cash and small coins. Large notes or foreign currency won’t be accepted.
Taxi: The most popular taxi company is Taxi Turismo Cusco. If you’re hailing one off the street, look for the taxis with board signs on the roof, rather than independent, unmarked drivers. You’ll need to confirm the rate before accepting the ride, but as a rule of thumb, a ride within the city centre is about S/. 4 PEN (1.35 USD). If you’re heading further out of town, a ride to Tambomachay archaeological site will cost about S/. 30 PEN (10 USD) and a ride to Sacsayhuamán will cost about S/. 20 PEN (6.70 USD).
Walking: While it’s safe to walk around the central area of Cusco, we recommend that you avoid San Pedro Market after about 6pm.
Sightseeing buses: If you’re suffering from sore feet, you can also see the city from a sightseeing bus. Cusco Panorámico Servicio Especial has departures from morning through to late afternoon, with each tour lasting just over an hour. The cost is S/. 20 PEN (6.70 USD).
You’re in South America, so of course you have to check out a soccer (or football) match! You can watch the Peruvian League at least twice a month, on either Saturdays or Sundays, and really get a feel for the locals’ love of the sport. The cost ranges between 5 and 30 USD — worth every penny for local interaction and watching a match at 3,400 metres above sea level!
For a taste of Peruvian folk traditions, the folk dance show at the Centro Qosqo de Arte Nativo showcases everything from agricultural rituals to wartime dances.
If you’ll be in Peru in June, you absolutely must celebrate the Inti Raymi, or Sun Festival, on June 24th. Inti Raymi was the most important celebration during the Inca Empire, honouring the winter solstice and the Inca New Year. Today, there are plenty of parades and celebrations occurring all throughout June, leading up to the main event on the 24th. You can buy tickets for the 24th from the Inti Raymi website or from Vive Cusco.
Also happening this time of year is the Corpus Christi celebration (dates vary from year to year, happening 60 days after Easter Sunday). While the event is primarily a religious one (it’s said to represent 15 saints and virgins greeting the body of Christ at the Cathedral of Cusco), it’s also a big foodie event. The night before the main day, expect a feast of 12 typical Peruvian dishes, including cuy, chiriuchi, and chicha.
Looking for more things to do? Urban Adventures offers tours in Cusco, all led by local experts that will give you a taste for local life in the city:
Cusco Ruins & Market Walking Tour
On this day tour you’ll visit key Incan highlights to experience Cusco at the grassroots level. Start at the vibrant San Pedro local market. Then head out of town to explore two major Inca sites, Sacsayhuaman and Q’enqo. Enjoy a picnic around amazing landscapes and then return to Cusco walking, learning about the history and culture along the way.
Machu Picchu Full Day Tour
Short on time? Not keen on sweating it out on the Inca Trail? Then join this Cusco tour to perform a major lifehack on your Peru travel plans by fitting a scenic train ride, picnic lunch, a soak in hot springs and a guided tour of Machu Picchu all into one day.
Cusco Pisco Making
Get to know Peru through its flavors on this Cusco tour that teaches you all you need to know about one of Peru’s most unique creations: the Pisco Sour! From market, to mixing, to the best part — consumption! — we couldn’t teach you any more about this legendary drink on this tour even if we tried.
What better way to get prepped for a Latin American adventure than with a viewing of The Motorcycle Diaries? The epic tale of Che Guevara’s travels through Argentina, Chile, Venezuela, and Peru will cause some serious wanderlust.
And of course, you can’t very well go to the City of the Incas without seeing the original Secret of the Incas. Before you make the trek to Machu Picchu, watch this classic flick. Fun fact: the character of Indiana Jones was heavily based on Secret of the Inca‘s Harry Steele (Charlton Heston), who was in turn based on Hiram Bingham III, the explorer who (controversially) discovered Machu Picchu.
Listen to some Inka Beats by Miki Gonzales, Fiesta Peru by Jean Paul Strauss, and Cholo Soy by Jaime Cuadra to get in the mood. All these musicians perform traditional Peruvian music, from ancient Andes music to Creole Lima waltzes, but with a modern twist. The band Novalima blends Afro-Peruvian music with electronica and other contemporary forms.
If your Spanish is up to the challenge, gain a better understanding of Peruvian and Andean history with La Mestiza de Pizarro by Álvaro Vargas Llosa, which tells the story of Francisca, the real-life daughter of Spanish conquistador Francisco Pizarro and Inca princess Inés Huaylas.
Or, for an entertaining literary trip to the Lost City of the Incas, read Turn Right at Machu Picchu by Mark Adams, which humorously follows in the steps of Hiram Bingham III.
History buffs may want to read Inca Treasure, which covers Peru’s history, from pre-Columbian civilisations through to modern times.
Want to chat? Feel free to give us a ring at +51 996 055 559 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
And then, if you want to book more Urban Adventures tours in Cusco, go right ahead!