The reason I call Cusco and archeological living city is because it was originally the main City of the Incan peoples - one of the main cultural and religious groups of the ancient world - like the Egyptians or the Mayans. And so the city retains many of the Incan stone walls, streets, and even building bases. The reason only mainly building bases instead of the entire building remains is because of Spanish and thus Catholic conquest that saw many buildings and temples destroyed - only for those same stones to be used in the building of the city’s cathedrals. The sites of Sacsayhuaman and the Qorikancha are 2 sites where it is very visible to see a lot of the Incan stone work that still exists otherwise.
Places to stay - Once choice place to stay if you are on a budget is the Pariwana hostel which is 2 blocks of the main plaza, very safe, lively with events at their bar / restaurant almost nightly, and with a great movie room as well as courtyard to hang about in. If you are wanting something more luxurious there are your regular European hotels like Novotel, and then of course, on the high end, are the Peruvian “Casa Andina” chain which is luxury en grande, as well as the 5 star hotel within the Monastery which is top of the line. These places run fairly expensive however, as Cusco is not only just a tourist hub, but a place of research for Anthropologists, Archeologists, Botanists, Agriculturalists, Naturopaths, and so forth. So where as Pariwana hostel is about $15 American a night for a bed, or $50 American a night for a private room with bath, a Casa Andina or Novotel will run $150 - 250 per night and the Monastery hotel is about $750 a night and up.
Some great things to do in Cusco, other than walking / hiking the streets of this archeological living city, are visiting the main Cathedrals, visiting the main plazas in the day and at night, visiting the archeological area of Sacsayhuaman that overlooks the city and was the Incan sacred area for religious rituals and temples, visiting the highly sacred building in the city known as the Qorikancha, and visiting the museums of culture, chocolate, and of coffee. One can also have coffee, breakfast, or lunch on the main plaza, party away in the many night clubs, get a massage, or shop at a massive range of stores carrying everything from tourist trinkets to gorgeous alpaca sweaters to beautiful jewelry.
For those interested in the adrenaline rush - one can book bike tours, rafting adventures, camping, trekking to glaciers, and more within the Valley. For those interested in cultural events - pick up a dance class or cooking class or join in a football / soccer match. There really is something for everyone.
Some great times to be in Cusco include the Sun and solstice festivals of June, Easter time, and Christmas time. Because almost the whole country is Catholic - they really celebrate their events. That said, for many others their Incan traditions and culture are just as if not far more important, and there are many of the Incan festival and events that take place through the year - including as mentioned above the festivals of the sun and solstice and all the month of June.
If you are in Cusco for longer, make sure to check out some of the markets not just for shopping, but for the amazing food - the market of San Jeronimo is quite the overwhelming market - but so incredible at the same time - teeming with loads of fruits and vegetables freshly trucked in, with women bringing cacao and coffee straight from the jungle, and animal carcasses everywhere in the meat district within the market. Oh, they also repair shoes in 10-20 minutes within this market.
Good street foods include - Anticuchos, Empanadas, and Cut fruits
For more on visiting cafes and restaurants in Cusco, check out this previous blog post
- Taxis - 3-15 soles
- Taxi to the airport - 12-15 soles
- Bus rides in the city - 70 centimos - 1 sol - to Sacsaywoman is 3 soles in taxi - 15 soles
- Average hostel 25-50 soles per night (shared bed - 6-10 to a room)
- Private room ($40 - $50 American / night)
- Good Hotel ($150-200 American / night)
- 5 star hotel ($350 - 1000 American / night)
- Street food 1-5 soles
- Decent cheaper meal - 5-15 soles
- Good meal with drink - 20-40 soles
- Excellent meal at a great restaurant with drink - 50-100 soles
- Meal at top restaurant in Cusco - 200 - 250 soles per person with drinks.
- Museums - 5-30 soles or better yet get the 10 day Sacred Valley pass or Cusco city pass for 120 - 150 soles - Well Worth it
- Cinema - at the mall - 10-15 soles