Cusco

Southern Highlands

Nestling in the dip of the Watanay River Valley, from above the city of Cusco takes the shape of a puma, which some historians theorize was a purposeful design. As the city expands, its borders creep up the sides of the surrounding mountains, but puma statues, fountains, and signs keep the big cat’s status of unofficial city mascot.

Though a popular “travel guide myth” is that Cusco means, in the Quechua language, "belly button of the world," this is a misnomer: the word actually derives from the Quechua word for a large bird or owl, or more fully, “rock of the owl.” This refers to an ancient legend of the founding or creation of the city. In its day, however, Cusco was very much the “belly button” or center of the great Inca Empire, which stretched across South America from Northern Chile to Colombia.

Cusco is famous for its curious blend of Inca and Spanish culture, most evident where colonial Spanish churches and convents have been built squarely on top of masterfully constructed Inca walls, such as Qoricancha (or Coricancha), the Inca temple poking out from under the colonial church of Santo Domingo.

Despite the Spanish colonists’ best efforts to pillage the city of its Inca riches, they failed to completely destroy the massive network of Inca stonework, which continues to withstand both time and the elements while the Spanish buildings crack and crumble around them.

It’s no wonder that droves of travelers visit the city every year; with its numerous Inca temples, colonial churches, and vibrant plazas, Cusco has so much to offer. Aside from the archaeological and religious sites of interest, Cusco is home to a multitude of quality restaurants, bars and cafes, offering an array of local and international drinks and cuisine.

Most of the major Cusco sights, including the Plaza de Armas, Qoricancha, La Iglesia de la Compañía de Jesús, and La Catedral, are within walking distance of one another and can be covered in about half a day, and it is worth devoting a decent amount of time to browsing the various shops and markets encountered along the way. Visitors might even be lucky enough to be in town during one of the many religious and cultural celebrations, for which the city’s streets fill up with music and dancing.

Nearby Activities

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Inca Trail to Machu Picchu 2 Days/1Night

4-in-1 combo|8 hours

Cusco

2.8 / 5.0
Starting At$608
Inca Trail to Machu Picchu 2 Days/1Night

This 2-day, 1-night tour offers travelers an excellent introduction to the Inca Trail and Machu Picchu. You’ll take the train to and from Cusco, hike along a...

2.8 / 5.0
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Salkantay Peak Program

4-in-1 combo|Multi-Day

Cusco

New Tour!
Starting At$655
Salkantay Peak Program

This tour offers an alternative option to treks on the Inca Trail. Over the course of 5 days and 4 nights, you’ll hike across beautiful mountainous environments as...

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Inca Trail to Machu Picchu 4 Days/3 Nights

5-in-1 combo|Multi-Day

Cusco

New Tour!
Starting At$800
Inca Trail to Machu Picchu 4 Days/3 Nights

This 4-day, 3-night tour provides travelers with a comprehensive experience on the Inca Trail. You’ll hike for several days, passing Inca archeological sites and...

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Cusco Culinary Experience

Gastronomy|4 hours

Cusco

5.0 / 5.0
Starting At$69
Cusco Culinary Experience

On the Cusco Culinary Experience tour, a Peruvian chef will show you how to make some of Peru’s best-known dishes. Choose between a 9 a.m. lunch class and a 3 p.m....

5.0 / 5.0
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Andean Explorer Train - Cusco to Puno

|10 hours

Cusco

5.0 / 5.0
Starting At$318
Andean Explorer Train - Cusco to Puno

During this full-day tour you’ll ride a luxury train from Cusco to Puno, one of the most spectacular routes in all of Peru. This is one of the highest passenger...

5.0 / 5.0
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City Tour and Nearby Ruins

3-in-1 combo|4 hours

Cusco

4.7 / 5.0
Starting At$83
City Tour and Nearby Ruins

Cusco is a modern city coexisting with an ancient and dramatic past. In the ruins surrounding the city, you’ll see the remnants of a complex belief system and...

4.7 / 5.0
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Escape to Machu Picchu

3-in-1 combo|14 hours

Cusco

4.6 / 5.0
Starting At$328
Escape to Machu Picchu

During its lifetime, Machu Picchu saw the rise and the fall of the Inca Empire. Machu Picchu was built in the 15th century, just before the Spanish arrived and took...

4.6 / 5.0
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Tourist Bus - Cusco to Puno

|10 hours

Cusco

4.2 / 5.0
Starting At$86
Tourist Bus - Cusco to Puno

On this tour you’ll travel from Cusco to Puno on a comfortable bus and make stops at several interesting sites along the way. The whole tour lasts about nine hours.

4.2 / 5.0
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Hiram Bingham Luxury Train Excursion to Machu Picchu

2-in-1 combo|14 hours

Cusco

New Tour!
Starting At$905
Hiram Bingham Luxury Train Excursion to Machu Picchu

On this luxury train ride to Machu Picchu you’ll get to speed through the pastoral beauty of the Sacred Valley. First you’ll take a 4-hour train ride, and then a...

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Mountain Biking Yuncayapata

Biking|4 hours

Cusco

New Tour!
Starting At$79
Mountain Biking Yuncayapata

This intermediate level mountain biking tour takes you through ruins, a small village and the valleys around Cusco.

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Rainbow Mountain Tour

2-in-1 combo|Multi-Day

Cusco

New Tour!
Starting At$295
Rainbow Mountain Tour

This two-day tour will push you physically but the reward of seeing one of the most magical places in Peru, if not the whole world is entirely worth it.

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Nearby Lodging

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JW Marriott Hotel Cusco

Cusco

Air Conditioning

Bar

Cable TV

Free Breakfast

Restaurant

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5.0 / 5.0
From$439

JW Marriott Hotel Cusco

A 5-star hotel in the heart of historical Cusco, the JW Marriott Hotel Cusco offers architecturally breathtaking accommodations very close to the main attractions of...

5.0 / 5.0
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Aranwa Cusco Boutique Hotel

Cusco

Air Conditioning

Bar

Cable TV

Free Breakfast

Restaurant

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5.0 / 5.0
From$358

Aranwa Cusco Boutique Hotel

Just two blocks from the heart of the fascinating city of Cusco, this renovated mansion offers luxury service and loads of period art for your perusal.

5.0 / 5.0
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Sonesta Posada del Inca Cusco

Cusco

Air Conditioning

Bar

Cable TV

Free Breakfast

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5.0 / 5.0
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Sonesta Posada del Inca Cusco

Sonesta Posada del Inca is located just a few steps away from Cusco’s main square. With first-class lodging and authentic Peruvian hospitality, this hotel offers...

5.0 / 5.0
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Sonesta Hotel Cusco

Cusco

Air Conditioning

Bar

Cable TV

Free Breakfast

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4.0 / 5.0
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Sonesta Hotel Cusco

Integrating stone motifs throughout common spaces while keeping the overall feel very contemporary, Sonesta Hotel Cusco was renovated for a 2010 reopening. It’s a modern...

4.0 / 5.0
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Costa del Sol Picoaga Cusco

Cusco

Air Conditioning

Bar

Cable TV

Free Breakfast

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Costa del Sol Picoaga Cusco

In the 1600s, the Marquis de Picoaga constructed an elegant mansion as his new home in the New World. The mansion was renovated into a hotel, and some of the stonework...

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Inkaterra La Casona Cusco

Cusco

Air Conditioning

Bar

Cable TV

Free Breakfast

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New Hotel!
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Inkaterra La Casona Cusco

Inkaterra La Casona Cusco is an exquisite hotel in central Cusco. Set within a 16th-century colonial mansion, Inkaterra La Casona is easily one of the best hotels in...

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Casa Andina Cusco Catedral

Cusco

Air Conditioning

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Cable TV

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Casa Andina Cusco Catedral

Casa Andina Cusco Catedral is centrally located in Cusco. The hotel has clean, comfortable rooms and awesome access to Cusco’s main plaza.

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