The typical Peru trip includes a day or two of acclimatization in Cusco, a city at very high altitude, before booking trekking or sightseeing tours in the area. No matter your age or fitness level, we always recommend this time to acclimatize because altitude sickness can affect absolutely anyone. The good news is that there’s plenty to see and do right in the city of Cusco, so you can still thoroughly enjoy the forced relaxation time at the beginning of your travels in the Andes mountains.
Try to book your hotel or Airbnb near the Plaza de Armas of Cusco, which is the main landmark in the historic center of Cusco. From there, any which way you turn are the quaintest cobblestone paths, architecture dating back to the 1500s, dressed-up llamas, and locals in traditional garb that transport you back in time to the history and culture of the area. When you walk around, see if you can find the many references to Quechua (the language spoken during and before Inca times) in business names, street names, and signs around town.
In addition to the many souvenir shops and restaurants in the area, here are ideas for what to do in Cusco for a day (all of these must-see places in Cusco, Peru are within walking distance of the main plaza):
- Qorikancha (The Golden Temple) & the Santo Domingo Convent
- Twelve-Angled Stone
- San Pedro Central Market
- Sapantiana Aqueduct
- Gateway Arch of Santa Ana
- San Blas Plaza & Neighborhood
- San Cristobal Lookout
- Inka Museum
- Coca Museum
How many days do you need in Cusco? We’d recommend booking your trip for at least one week so that you can see the city, tourist sites nearby, and the Machu Picchu archeological site (one of the New Seven Wonders of the World). Minimally, you need at least 3 days in Cusco to see the main sites (see What to Do in Cusco for 3 Days).