Cusco Travel: Updated Guideline
Cusco Peru: Updated Guideline
Cusco, the main tourist destination in Peru and one of the most important in the world. It offers its visitors, in a unique and spectacular way; a rich historical and monumental legacy, located in a territory of mountains and multicolored valleys, lush forests and jungles, beautiful lagoons and rushing rivers. The department of Cusco is considered Cultural Heritage of Humanity and its main attraction is the Natural Sanctuary and Citadel of Machu Picchu, declared one of the new seven wonders of the world.That is why in this article we write in a very detailed way; all the Cusco travel updated guideline.
1. How to get to Cusco?
The only international airport that Peru has. Is the, Jorge Chavez airport, which is located in the city of Lima; Cusco is known as the historical capital of America. And is the most important tourist destination in Peru, because of that, there are many land and air alternatives; that I will make you know on this Cusco travel updated guideline.
- From Lima to Cusco, flights depart throughout the day from 4:30 am to 19:40 pm. The flight lasts 1 hour and 25 minutes and the companies that provide this service are: Latam, Avianca, Lc Peru, Star Peru, Sky Airline, Viva Air.
- From Arequipa to Cusco, there are usually two direct flight schedules. One in the morning and the other one in the afternoon; the company that provides this service is: Latam.
- From Juliaca (closest airport to Puno) to Cusco, flights depart around midday. The flight lasts around 50 minutes and the company that provides this service is: Latam.
Among the companies with the best service that I used, so I can recommend you, are: Cruz del Sur, Civa, Oltursa and Palomino.
- If you would like to go by bus from Lima to Cusco. The buses leave all day around; the trip lasts around 23 hours.
- If you would like to go by bus from Paracas to Cusco. The buses usually leave from 2:00pm to 4:00pm; the trip lasts around 19 hours.
- If you would like to go by bus from Ica to Cusco. The buses usually leave from 4:00pm to 6:00pm; the trip lasts around 18 hours.
- If you would like to go by bus from Nazca to Cusco. The buses usually leave from 6:00pm to 8:00pm. The trip lasts around 15 hours and a half.
- If you would like to go by bus from Arequipa to Cusco. The buses leave from 7:00pm to 9:00pm. The trip lasts around 10 hours and a half.
- If you would like to go by bus from Tacna to Cusco. The buses usually leave from 2:00 pm to 4:00 pm. The trip lasts around 14 hours.
- If you would like to go by bus from Ayacucho to Cusco. The buses usually leave from 7:00pm to 9:00pm. The trip lasts around 13 hours.
- If you would like to go by bus from Puno to Cusco. The buses usually leave from 8:00pm to 10:00pm. The trip lasts around 6 hours and a half.
We don’t have a commercial partnership with any of the bus companies mentioned in this Cusco travel updated guideline. We are not responsible for any misunderstanding or problem with said companies; the recommendations l make are based on my personal experience.
2. Where to sleep in Cusco?
In the magical Cusco city, you can find from basic hostels to five star hotels. From staying in the city of Cusco to staying in the sacred valley of the Incas; or the magnificent town of Ollantaytambo.
One of the most important things, if not the most, of the trips is the lodging, normally this represents 50% or more of your expense and can make your stay unforgettable, in a good or bad way.
To book a hotel always keep the following in mind:
- Access to public transport.
- Free WIFI.
- Room size.
- Treatment of staff.
- Quality of service.
- Read reviews from other travelers.
3. What to do in Cusco besides Machu Picchu?
Cusco is one of those destinations where, no matter how many times you visit it; you will always have something to explore. In the imperial city and its surroundings, there are still places where very few tourists arrive; places with great charm but little known.
3.1. Humantay Lake.
The Humantay lagoon is a magical, charming and mesmerizing turquoise lagoon, that is surrounded by imposing glaciers; that are part of the Vilcabamba Mountain Range, including the majestic peaks of Salkantay and Humantay.
The melting of the snowy Humantay gives rise to the splendid turquoise lagoon, which will transform your way of seeing nature; enjoying the flora and fauna that will be registered in your mind and in the wonderful snapshots of the place.
3.1.1. Humantay lake through a travel agency.
Around the main square of Cusco and through websites you can book the excursion to the humantay lake; which begins with your pick up from your hotel at 5:00 am. and ends in Cusco at 17:00 pm. This tour through a travel agency includes within its program: breakfast, lunch, transportation, tour guide and entrance to the Humantay Reserve. The price of the excursion varies according to the service and the inclusions, and costs between 35 and 140 dollars.
Keep in mind, that you will drive 6 hours round trip and hike 2 hours uphill to the lake; and 1 hour downhill to catch the van again. If you would not like to hike uphill you can rent a mule for 100 soles.
Also remind, that the Humantay Lake Tour, is well known, so you will be surrounded by crowds.
To do the Humantay lake excursion on you own, it is not convenient as this is more expensive.
3.1.2 Humantay lake, only for you.
If you would like to be the only one or one of the few in the Humantay lake, I recommend the following. Coordinate with a private taxi; so that in the afternoon, around 3:00 pm. for you to be taken for 3 hours to the hamlet of Soraypampa; from where you have an exceptional view of the Humantay and Salkantay mountains. Here you can rent, igloos, shelters and huts to pitch tents.
The next day, begins the ascent of two hours to the Humantay lake around 6:00 am. (the path is very obvious).
You must start at that time, so that when you arrive at the Humantay lake; you will be the only one or one of the very few in that fantastic place; and also you can appreciate a beautiful sunrise on the Humantay lagoon.
The prices are as follows:
- Private taxi from Cusco to Soraypampa, is between 250 and 300 soles (1 to 4 people per taxi).
- The price of the igloos are between 100 and 140 soles; the shelters between 50 and 80 soles, and the huts to pitch tents at 10 soles.
- Meals cost between 10 and 20 soles.
- The entrance to Humantay is 10 soles.
- For your return, book seats through a travel agency from Soraypampa to Cusco; the price is between 60 and 70 soles. Also you can, coordinate with a private taxi to pick you up from Soraypampa.
3.2. Rainbow Mountain.
About 100 kilometers southeast of Cusco, Peru; there is a rainbow made into a mountain.
It is the mountain of the Seven Colors, also known as Vinicunca or Rainbow Mountain. The mountain is located in the Vilcanota Mountain Range at 5,200 meters, in the Pitumarca district; Its slopes and peaks are dyed by stripes of intense shades of fuchsia, turquoise, lavender and gold.
There are several ways to get to the rainbow mountain; the first and best known is the one day excursion. According the travel agency you choose, you can start at 4:00 am, 5:00 am, 6:00 am, or 7:00 am. And culminates with your arrival in Cusco around 17:00 pm. This program includes transportation, tour guide, breakfast, lunch and entrance to the protected area. The cost is between 30 and 140 dollars and varies according to the service and inclusions.
The second option is a trek of two days and one night that allows you to camp very close to the rainbow mountain; and be the first and probably the only one to arrive around 7:00 to this incredible place. The cost of this excursion is between 200 and 250 dollars.
The third option is a trek of 4 days and three nights, through the Ausangate trek and rainbow mountain; that also allows you to arrive at this magical place around 7:00. The cost of this excursion is between 450 and 600 dollars.
3.3. Palcoyo rainbow mountains.
While the famous rainbow mountain receives thousands of tourists every day; the secret rainbow mountains of Palcoyo rest in complete solitude.
Personally, if I have to choose between the rainbow mountain; that is beautiful and the rainbow mountains of Palcoyo; I prefer to go to Palcoyo: because the hiking distance is much less, and it has three rainbow mountains.
This excursion according to the travel agency you choose, you can start at 4:00 am, 5:00 am, 6:00 am or 7:00 am. and culminates with your arrival in Cusco around 17:00 pm. This program includes transportation, tour guide, breakfast, lunch and entrance to the protected area. The cost is between 35 and 140 dollars and varies according to the service and inclusions.
3.4. Inca bridge of Qeswachaka.
Relive history and go back in time; visiting the last Inca bridge, built in straw over the majestic Apurimac river. It is located 3 hours from the city of Cusco.
This tour, starts around 6:30 am and culminates with your arrival in Cusco around 17:00 pm. This program includes transportation, tour guide, breakfast, lunch and entrance to the protected area; due to the low influx, the tour is done privately. The cost is between 140 and 200 dollars and varies according to the service and inclusions.
Ausangate is one of the highest snowy mountains in Peru; located in the Vilcanota mountain range 130 kilometers from Cusco and reaches an altitude of (6,372 m / 20,905 ft). Ausangate has several lagoons of a bright green blue color, yellow and reddish lagoons; it also has a natural landscape of great beauty, it is full of herds of llamas, alpacas and vicuñas: in addition of giving you the chance to inmerse with traditions and lifestyle of the andean communities.
There are different itineraries to visit this beautiful region; however there are two that I visit regularly and that I consider to be the best hiking trails in Ausangate.
The first one, is a 4 day ausangate trek & rainbow mountain; depending on the type of service and inclusions, it costs between 450 and 600 dollars. And the second one, is a 6 day ausangate trek & sibinacocha lake that has a cost of between 600 and 850 dollars.
The ancient city of Choquequirao, shows the vestiges of the Inca ancestors and their culture. It is located exactly in the province of “la Convencion”; and its ruins are so majestic that they are easily compared to Machu Picchu. It is even given the name of «the sacred sister of Machu Picchu» for its similarity in architecture and landscapes that surround it.
There are different itineraries to visit this amazing place; however there are two that I tour regularly and that I consider to be the best hiking trails in choquequirao.
The first one, is a 4 day choquequirao trek, depending on the type of service and inclusions; it costs between 400 and 600 dollars. And the second one, is a 7 day choquequirao trek & Machu Picchu; that has a cost of between 1000 and 1200 dollars.
3.7. Sacred valley of the Incas.
The Sacred Valley of the Incas, that lies between Cusco and Machu Picchu within the Peruvian Andes, is made up of numerous rivers that descend through gorges and small valleys. It has numerous archaeological monuments and indigenous peoples. This valley was much appreciated by the Incas due to its special geographical and climatic qualities.
The tour starts at 8:00 and ends up around 18:00 pm. Prices are between 40 and 100 dollars, depending of the service, the inclusions and if the group is private or shared.
If you wish, you can also visit the sacred valley of the Incas on your own.
What you should do, is hire a private taxi in the city of Cusco, that costs between 200 and 250 soles; and that will take you to all the places of interest in the valley.
Lunch in a touristic restaurant, the buffet costs between 30 and 100 soles and in a local restaurant between 8 and 15 soles. In addition, to enter to the attractions in the sacred valley, there are two types of tickets; one is known as a partial tourist ticket, that costs 70 soles and with which you can visit the following circuits:
Partial Tourist Ticket – Circuit I: Archaeological Park of Sacsayhuaman, Qenqo, Pucapucara and Tambomachay (4 attractions only) and is valid for one day.
Partial Tourist Ticket – Circuit II. Qoricancha Site Museum, Regional Historical Museum, Museum of Contemporary Art, Pachacuteq Monument, Tipón Archaeological Park, Popular Art Museum, Qosqo Center for Native Art and Pikillacta Archaeological Park (8 attractions) and it is valid for two days.
Partial Tourist Ticket – Circuit III: Ollantaytambo Archaeological Park, Pisaq Archaeological Park, Chinchero Archaeological Park, Moray Archaeological Park (4 attractions only) and is valid for two days.
The other one is known as the general tourist ticket that costs 130 soles, which is valid for 10 days and with which you can visit 16 attractions of the city.
Circuit I: Archaeological Park of Sacsayhuaman, Qenqo, Pucapucara and Tambomachay (4 attractions).
Circuit II. Qoricancha Site Museum, Regional Historical Museum, Museum of Contemporary Art, Pachacuteq Monument, Tipón Archaeological Park, Popular Art Museum, Qosqo Center for Native Art and Pikillacta Archaeological Park (8 attractions).
Circuit III: Archaeological Park of Ollantaytambo, Archaeological Park of Pisaq, Archaeological Park of Chinchero, Archaeological Park of Moray (4 attractions).
3.8. South valley of the Incas.
The South Valley Cusco Tour; travel the southern part of the of Cusco and combine three architectural styles with the Inca site of Tipon, the Pre-Inca center of Pikillaqta and the Colonial temple of Andahuaylillas, better known as the sistine chapel of America due to some similarities with the sistine chapel in the Vatican city.
The excursion starts at 8:00 and ends up around 15:00 pm. Prices are between 35 and 100 dollars, depending of the service, the inclusions and if the group is private or shared.
3.9. Cusco city tour.
The noble and great city of Cusco is considered the Archaeological Capital of America. The ancient capital of the Incas is a place full of archeological sites, museums, temples and more; magical places like the fortress of Sacsayhuaman, the temple of Coricancha, the archaeological centers of Qenqo, Puca Pucara, Tambomachay, the Main Square and the Cathedral of Cusco. Although it is possible to visit these places on your own, the best way is to do the Cusco City Tour; is with a travel agency and a tour guide.
There are two types of city tours in Cusco: one is the traditional one, with which you visit the cathedral, the temple of the sun, Sacsayhuaman, Qenqo, Puca Pucara and Tambomachay and which has a cost of between 35 and 80 dollars.
The other, is the alive city tour, with which you visit the viewpoint of San Cristobal, the artisan neighborhood of San Blas, the local market of San Pedro, the cathedral and the Temple of the Sun; which has a cost of between 35 and 45 dollars.
4. Experiential tours.
In addition to the numerous natural and archaeological attractions of the city of Cusco, you can also make experiential tourism excursions.
Inside these alternatives are: the excursion to the potato park; that combines a visit to a llama and alpaca zoo, as well as learning about the medicinal plants of this area of the Andes.
Visit to the community of Misminay with overnight, to experience andean textile process, grow the andean fields, engage with the traditions and tales of the andes; and taste the typical food of the andean communities.
Taste local flavors and visit a guinea pig farm; participate and learn about the local gastronomy, agricultural crops, textiles,music and the guinea pig farm, in harmony with the people.
There are many more experiential tour options, so just do your research.
These tours are done privately and the prices are between 90 and 110 dollars.
4.1. Manu jungle trip.
Manu National Park is a protected natural space, located in the southeast of Peru; partially located in the departments of Madre de Dios and Cusco, in the provinces of Manu and Paucartambo.
If Machu Picchu is the jewel in the crown of the Andean country in terms of Inca culture; Manu National Park is number one in the category of jungle and wild nature. It is a magical place, isolated and one of the last bastions of this fragile ecosystem that still remains practically intact.
The alternatives and programs to visit the Manu National Park are countless, there are two areas that can be explored; One of them is the cultural zone, and as its name indicates, this part of the park is located in an area where wildlife is in contact with the local population.
The other area, is known as the reserved area of the park and is practically completely isolated from human civilization; it is where you have the best chance of observing huge mammals and reptiles.
Cultural zone of Manu, can be done on excursions of 4 and 5 days; and the prices vary from between 250 to 600 dollars according to the inclusions and the service.
Manu reserved area, can generally be done on excursions of 5, 6, 7, 8, 9 and 10 days and has a cost of between 1200 and 2000 dollars; depending on the inclusions, the service and the places that are visited.
4.2. Ayahuasca retreats.
Ayahuasca is a sacred brew and a very strong medicine, that must be taken responsibly and that can solve or alleviate many diseases.
But beware, it is not a quick solution either: it has to be a slow, gradual and deliberate process that allows you to find your answers.
Ayahuasca awakens biological circuits and mechanisms, that allow us to create new connections in our brain; especially in the hippocampus, which allows you to have flashbacks and deep connections with the most intimate part of your being and the essential energy of what surrounds us.
There are various options for performing ayahuasca, from the one day experience to the experience of 7 days or more. The prices are between 350 and 1500 dollars according to the security, the experience of the shaman, the inclusions and the service.
Many ayahuasca experiences are done in Cusco and a few in the jungle, if you have time; my recommendation would be to you do it in the jungle, since it is the original environment of the plants used to make the brew.
5. Important cusco travel updated guideline safety tips.
It is not difficult to get to Cusco and although the place is safe, it is always good to be careful.
- Altitude sickness can take its toll so try to acclimatize at least 3 days before undertaking any trek and at least one day prior taking any tour.
- Pack for all types of weather, it is normal to have rain, cold, heat and sunshine even in short periods of time.
- Choose your travel agency carefully, compare and ask lots of questions.
- Be aware of pickpockets and never take your credit/ debit card or passport anywhere unless 100% necessary.
- Bring sunscreen from 50 DEET or more and apply it at least every one hour and a half, Arequipa is almost always hot and radiation in Peru is even higher than in Australia.