If you go to one place in Peru, it’s pretty likely that it will be Cusco, as it is the gateway to Machu Picchu. But that’s not the only reason you should visit Cusco or the Sacred Valley. The whole area is overflowing with things to do and see- as well as truly exceptional places to stay and things to eat.
Where to Stay in Cusco
When choosing somewhere to stay in Cusco there are hundreds of choices. Do you prefer to stay in a large luxury hotel or a boutique guest house? Are you a mid-range traveler, budget, or do you love to treat yourself to your sleeping arrangements?
Big luxury hotel stayers will find themselves at home at Palacio del Inca Luxury Collection and its prime location behind the Qoricancha makes it the perfect central location. Other options include the Belmond and the Marriot.
Smaller boutique hotels can be tricky to get right, and there’s no one size fits all for travelers, so chat to our team about what you like while booking your tour and we will match you up with your perfect place.
Where to Eat in Cusco
Great restaurants are another thing that Cusco and the Sacred Valley are overwhelmed by. Read this blog to find out about our favorite restaurants in Cusco and the Sacred Valley.
Cusco Museums to visit
There are many museums to visit in Cusco to learn about the Incas and pre-Inca cultures. Some of the best you can only visit using a Cusco tourist ticket which is valid for two weeks and grants you access to the ruins around Cusco city. You can find out more about the tourist ticket here.
The Inca museum takes visitors through the history of the Incas and is widely considered to be one of the best museums in Cusco city. It’s also just seconds away from the Plaza de Armas (albeit up a hill) so it’s a great pit stop for those on the search for something to do during a spare afternoon.
If you love chocolate then there’s no reason not to visit the chocolate museum. It will take you through the life and times of chocolate along with free samples, demonstrations, and even chocolate sculptures. Perfect for families and backpackers alike.
An Incan temple that was partially torn down by the Spanish and rebuilt as a church, is the best example of the stark contrast between Incan and Spanish architecture. It has a very interesting history and is highly recommended to visit with a guided tour.
Morada de Los Dioses
Not exactly a museum, but instead a rock carving sculpture park. It’s in the process of being built, but still absolutely worth a visit if you like rock carving or are looking for something different to do in the wider Cusco area. It is easily accessible by taxi and should cost around 5s to enter.
Things to do in Cusco
There is more than a lifetime of activities in Cusco and Peru. There are must visits and hidden gems everywhere you look- but sometimes you need an expert to help you find the really good things amongst the tourist traps. So here we are!
Rainbow Mountain is a very popular and famous destination. However, we don’t recommend it and we actually stopped offering trips there. We did this because there are thousands of visitors every day, so it’s always very crowded. It also often suffers from social troubles, with the two communities that control the entrances fighting, often becoming violent.
However, there is a (much better, in our opinion) alternative. Palcoyo has not one, but three rainbow mountains. The walk is also much shorter and flatter, about 45 minutes with a gentle hill, as opposed to 2 hours with a very steep incline at the end.
The surrounding scenery is also much more pleasant when visiting Palcoyo, as you will see a whole valley of wonderful colors surrounding you and the Ausangate mountain range in the background. An added bonus is the optional short extra hike to the rock forest above.
Finally, the extra bonus for Palcoyo over Vinicunca (the ‘typical’ rainbow mountain) is that the areas surrounding Palcoyo are used for alpacas to graze on, so you can get up close to Peru’s favorite animal.
High above the Sacred Valley lie the mysterious and little-known ruins of Huchuy Qosqo. Your hike takes you along the old Inca trail, through remote farming communities and stunning mountain scenery to finally reach this fantastic Inca site. If you are looking for a great day hiking, far from the crowds, this is a truly spectacular option.
Chinchero to Huayllabamba
This is a delightful combination of culture and trekking.
Explore a little walked section of the Inca Trail on your way from the weaving town of Chinchero to Huayllabamba- the home of one of the oldest authentic markets in Peru.
There is more than one Inca trail. This half-day hike follows a lesser-known one connecting the impressive Inca site of Chinchero with the Sacred Valley.
Chinchero itself has a fascinating market that is much more authentic than the more famous Pisac market. Here you can see the local women dressed in beautiful hand woven traditional clothing before taking this beautiful trail down through a canyon to emerge amongst the lush agricultural fields that border the Urubamba River.
Farm to Food Experience
This is a special day to learn about Cusco and the Sacred Valley gastronomy, discovering the amazing variety of local agricultural resources and biodiversity, to later put into practice the cooking lessons at La Base Lamay.
We will leave Lamay towards the community of Huayllajara. The locals will take us to visit their farms with traditional crops (like potatoes, oca, anu, tarwi, quinoa, beans among others) and will teach us about their traditional farming techniques, while we taste their local produce.
Then we will visit a garden with veggies, later incorporated into the local gastronomic offer. We will learn about the local culture and their daily activities, according to the time of year and the agricultural calendar.
The tour and interpretation will be focused on the agricultural and food processing techniques, such as the preparation of chuño and moraya, the washing and uses of quinoa, elaboration of Chicha de Jora, and other interesting Andean activities.
Finally, we will return to La Base Lamay for the cooking lessons. The idea is to prepare Peruvian classic recipes and use the native products in the cooking process.
To encourage the spirit, we will prepare pisco sour or enjoy a Pisco tasting session. End of the activity and return to your hotel or to your next destination.
Community Day in the Sacred Valley
This day we will visit one of the mountain communities of our project “La Base Lamay”, learn about their life, and traditions, and contribute to the sustainable development of the community.
We will meet at La Base and coordinate the activity with the group. The community will welcome us and teach us their traditions and customs. We will participate in a spontaneous faena Agricola and recognize the different varieties of local crops and plants, learning also about their farming traditional tools and techniques.
After the activity, we will have a typical lunch, based on the food produced by the community. In the afternoon, the women will share with us the art and process of weaving, which is very important in their family dynamics, and we will have the opportunity to talk with them about their customs and their role in the field.
After this interactive day, we will return to Lamay and to your hotel, or your next destination.
Sacred Valley Tour
Nestled between Cusco and Machu Picchu, the Sacred Valley of the Incas is a wonder waiting to be discovered. A deeply important area for the ancient civilization, the warmer climate, and slightly lower altitude meant that it was used to grow an extensive list of food for the Incas, including the UNESCO-protected white corn.
We offer completely private and personalized trips through the Sacred Valley, allowing you to pick and choose what aspects interest you and take faith in our expert knowledge, devising a dream trip through the Sacred Valley.
There certainly are areas in the Sacred Valley that deserve a little more time, Urubamba ad Ollataytambo are great places to acclimatize as you arrive to Cusco as the altitude is lower than the city itself. Ollantaytambo is also the departure point for the Inca Trail and trains to Machu Picchu.
Eating in Peru is pretty cool. But learning to cook here is so much better. This will give you a skill that you can share with your friends and family and will offer you a fresh (and delicious) way to always remember Peru.
You can explore Cusco markets alongside your own personal private chef before being whisked away to a rooftop restaurant in the heart of Cusco, where you will learn how to make two traditionally Peruvian dishes and the iconic drink of Peru- the Pisco Sour. What could be better? Insider tip- check out the afternoon class to enjoy the sunset with your pisco sour.
Take a short Cusco art workshop and work with a local artist to decorate your very own Pucara Bull.
You will learn and apply the gilding techniques so important to traditional Cusco art. You will learn about the history of the bulls and their role in local customs. And about the Cusco school of art and its fusion of Andean culture with European.
Your workshop takes places in La Mestiza cafe on the Avenida El Sol. And will be led by a member of the Totemiq Art Collective.
This cafe was decorated by Totemiq and demonstrates how they are helping preserve the traditions of Cusco´s artists by fusing with modern-day design.
This is a great way to create your own very special souvenir and pass a fun, relaxing and educational two hours.
Cusco is one of the most photographic cities in the world. Filled with hidden treasures and moments, just waiting to be discovered. If only you know where to look, and how to look.
In the company of a local photographer, you will stroll the streets of Cusco, finding those little moments of everyday magic. With their help, you can begin to notice all the colours, textures and expressions of everyday life that make Cusco so special. And that most people never notice.
You start by meeting your photographer, normally Adriana Peralta, in one of our favourite cafes. Over coffee, you can chat about the route and share your hopes for the hours ahead.
Then take your specially selected route, full of moments waiting to be noticed and captured. There is nothing quite like having local expertise to show you around.
We have a wide range of rafting trips, spanning from one day rafting on the Urubamba river and Apurimac Canyon, to a 10 day extravaganza to the heart of the Amazon Rainforest and everything in between. We cater to everyone, from beginners and children to advanced teams, and we have stretches of water for everyone.
Paddleboarding or Kayaking
We love watersports so much we have our own base on the shore of Lake Huaypo in the Sacred Valley. This is the perfect way to spend a morning relaxing while staying active in the Sacred Valley.
Paddleboarding in Peru is nothing new. 3000 years ago Peruvian fishermen were riding the waves on small reed platforms known as “Caballos de Totora”. Literally “reed horse”. These were the origins of stand up paddleboarding in Peru and the world.
Amazonas Explorer has the world’s highest Paddleboarding fleet, here in Cusco, 3500m or 11,000 feet higher than this addictive sport’s humble origins. If you have ever wanted to try it out, then this half-day Paddleboarding in Cusco tour at Laguna Huaypo is a great opportunity.
You can also combine this experience with a traditional Pachamanca, a ‘Pago la Tierra’ ceremony with a local Shaman, or a cooking demonstration. You can also make this a day experience adding on a visit to Maras and Moray or another bike ride in the Sacred Valley. Get in contact with us for more information on this.
Sailing or Windsurfing
If you are a keen boater, or a thrill-seeker both of these are incredible options for you to do something a bit different in Cusco. Both Sailing and windsurfing are better suited to the afternoon, so the morning is free for a little cycling through the Sacred Valley, or if you prefer some paddleboarding or kayaking.
A mere 3 hour from Cusco, lies a stunning, little known Inca site, perched high above the Apurimac Canyon at 4100metres/ 13450 feet. Its name means “The Horned Fortress”. Our 2 day/1-night Waqrapukara Trek is a must for anyone wanting to visit this stunning archaeological site before it is discovered by the crowds. Camping close to the ruins, under the star-filled Andean sky, far from the crowds, this is a truly spectacular option to see a hidden jewel of Peru.
We have mountain biking and e-biking tours in Cusco suitable for everyone. From gentle bike rides for families ready to explore the Sacred Valley Trail on a mountain bike,
E-bike tours to help you up those hills E-biking in Cusco and the Sacred Valley, through to tours for people looking for a full week of Singletrack Mountain Biking in Cusco. Or journeys of discovery, Mountain Biking from Titicaca to Machu Picchu.
With so many different activities available for travelers to take on while visiting Cusco, you would be hard-pressed to not fill up your holiday. At Amazonas Explorer, we are experts in Cusco and the Sacred Valley, so get in contact with one of our adventure specialists to help streamline your options for an incredible adventure in Cusco and Peru.0