Every traveller in Peru is certain to spend time in Cusco, the captivating former capital of the Incan empire.
A destination in its own right due to its historical importance in South America, beguiling blend of cobblestone streets, colonial period architecture and that unmistakable Peruvian street spirit, Cusco’s designation as the gateway to the beautiful Sacred Valley and Machu Picchu simply further underscores its enduring popularity.
We have now visited Cusco twice during our own South American adventures, and came away with distinctly different impressions each time - and that’s why we’re sharing our advice on how you really should spend your time there and our own thoughts on the very best things to do in Cusco.
After our first stay, to be quite frank, we actually didn’t like Cusco very much. We didn’t dislike it, but we were in no rush to return and other places in Peru felt more special and more enjoyable. Perhaps it was because of the high season crowds in July, or that we were a little travel fatigued after travelling for almost 14 months in Latin America by that point. Nevertheless, we made a promise to ourselves that on our more recent six week trip through Peru that we would really try to uncover some of the magic which makes so many other travellers fall in love with Cusco.
And thankfully, with eight days in the city before and after our Inca Trail hike, we did.
Here’s our advice on the best things to do in Cusco - from chocolate shops to cool cafes, cooking classes to curry and churches, and hipster neighbourhoods to traditional magicians at work - plus tips on where to stay, how to deal with the altitude, where to eat, and how to get around Peru’s seventh largest city.
The Best Things To Do In Cusco
Koricancha: The Golden Temple of the Sun & Convento / Iglesia de Santo Domingo
Out of all the attractions in Cusco, these two are the crown jewels.
Koricancha (often spelled Coricancha) was the ‘the centrepiece of the Incan empire’ and considered the holiest site in Incan mythology, but its golden glory was tarnished by two key events in the history of Peru. Firstly, when the Spanish demanded a ransom for the release of the kidnapped Incan emperor Atahualpa, much of the temple’s gold and silver (legend says that it was covered in an incredible amount) were stripped, melted, and used to pay. The conquistadors, true to colonial form, then reneged on the emperor’s release and murdered him.
Once the Spanish proceeded to take Cusco, they chose to destroy most of the revered Incan site and stripped it of any remaining gold. The final act to underpin the power shift? The building of a church upon Koriancha’s foundations, which you can still find and visit next door (named the church and convent of Santo Domingo).
It is the remains of Koricancha which continue to act as an important link to the Incans, and a key place to visit in order to understand them and the clash of two civilisations, with one’s temple built atop the other in a very unsubtle metaphor for conquest.
Location | Calle Santo Domingo
Entry | S/. 10 (£2.3 / $3) per person for Koricancha, whilst the Church is either free or S/. 10 (on our last trip to Cusco it was free but we think it now charges). Expect to spend 1-2 hours here, and you can also hire a guide on site. Note that neither Koriancha or Santo Domingo are included in the Cusco ‘Boleto Turistico’.
Opening Hours | For Koricancha, it’s 8.30 a.m. - 5.30 p.m. (Mon - Sat) and 12.00 p.m. - 5 p.m. on Sundays.
Tip | There are some lovely gardens round the back which are popular with locals and tourists to hang out in the afternoon sun for free.
Hang Out in San Blas
It is apparently obligatory to refer to the San Blas as ‘bohemian’ or ‘artisan’ when writing about it in a Cusco guide, but we’re not going to do that here.
However, this area was really the catalyst for changing our perspective on Cusco, and allowing us to enjoy it away from the central tourism-focused areas. It’s pretty, less busy, has our favourite Cusco coffee shops and restaurants, a handful of excellent independent clothing and jewellery shops, a chilled out vibe, great views of Cusco, fun nighttime bars and, well, lots of the things that we like when we’re based in a city for more than a few days.
As so many travellers set up a little base in Cusco for a week or so, quite a few naturally gravitate towards San Blas during the day and night, and we’d recommend you make a beeline to this small quartier too whilst you’re in the city and embrace your inner flâneur. It is definitely worth that walk up the damned hill!
In terms of our favourite San Blas haunts, you’ll find a few of them scattered throughout this post, and we can also recommend the KM 0 bar in the evening which has live music and a lengthy happy hour (but does see way too many hippies congregate outside).
Look Down on Plaza de Armas
The beating heart of Cusco, from first to last light there is never a still moment in Plaza de Armas.
The central square of the city, bordered by the imposing sandstone Cusco Cathedral (completed in 1654 with the aim of removing Incan religious beliefs and now a UNESCO heritage site) and the smaller but beautifully intricate Church de La Compañia de Jesus.
You will inevitably cross Plaza de Armas many times on your own Cusco visit, but our tip to enjoy it most is to go for a morning coffee or afternoon beer at one of the pricer second floor cafes and restaurants which can be found on three sides of the square. With small balconies to huddle on, it’s a welcome respite from walking and sightseeing and the best way to watch the world of traditional and tourist Cusco colliding in a kaleidoscope of colour.
Read Next | 18 Useful Tips for your First Time in Cusco
Note - you will be inundated with offers for ‘massage massage’ in Plaza de Armas by young women. As far as we’re aware, this is thankfully a legitimate enterprise where very cheap hour-long massages (from as little as S/. 15 - 20) are offered. We never took up this offer (even after returning from our hike on the Inca Trail) so let us know in the comments if it’s worth it and 100% legit!
By the way, we actually preferred the quieter Plaza de las Nazarenas as a plaza to hang out in.
Tip | Mama Africa and Mushrooms, as well as Paddy’s Irish Pub and Norton’s Rat Tavern, are some of the go-to places for late-night drinks and fun on Plaza de Armas. Just remember that Cusco gets mighty cold in the evening, so wrap up warm.
Explore San Pedro Market
A big reason we didn’t like Cusco on our first visit was because we felt a little to disconnected from the sights, sounds, and smells we had savoured elsewhere in Peru; it all just felt a bit too much like a ‘presentation’ of Peru, rather than the ‘actual’ Peru we had experienced in the north.
One our second visit, that all changed with frequent visits to San Pedro market. If you are only visiting Peru for a short time and looking to experience some of the authentic vibe, then we highly recommend that you make a beeline for this market and the streets surrounding it. If you’ve grown up, like us, in place where stuff is purchased in a sanitised and strip-lighted supermarket, then this market alone will be an experience for all your senses.
Within a touristic city, markets like this have remained undeniably local.
Get a smoothie from the alley of identical smoothie ladies, marvel at the fresh produce, enjoy a great value lunch amongst the hubbub of locals, and brave the stench and stains of the butchers aisle. After you’re done, a walk up the hectic Tres Cruces street will offer some of your best insights into day-to-day life in Cusco as well.
Other Cusco markets to visit include daily Mercado Wanchaq and the Baratillo Market on Saturdays.
Enjoy The Best View of Cusco
Cusco was supposedly designed in the shape of a puma and, although you won’t be able to make that out very clearly anymore, you really won’t mind as you sample the best view of the city with a pisco sour or cold beer in hand.
The breathless walk up to Limbus Restobar (Calle Pasñapakana 133), with its long outdoor seating area and floors-to-ceiling glass walls may take its toll if you haven’t yet acclimatised, but it is 110% worth it for the views alone - a drink here was one of our favourite things to do in Cusco after a day of 15,000 steps exploring the city!
View House, just a little further up the hill and a turn the right, offers a cooler, more backpacker rooftop vibe as well as excellent views and strong cocktails. Note that Limbus can experience a lengthy queue for sunset drinks, so View House is a good option if you don’t want to wait.
Almuerzo at Green Point
We’re both vegetarian, and seeking out the best veggie restaurant in the cities we visit is always high on our list. If you’re rolling your eyes reading this, then please don’t skip to the next part of this post (you will regret it!)
Everyone absolutely adores eating at Green Point (235 Carmen Bajo). One guy in our hostel who had never eaten vegetarian food went there at our insistence and said it was the best food he had had yet in South America!
An institution in the San Blas neighbourhood, this restaurant offers (for our money) the best value almuerzo (set lunch deal) in Peru, with three beautiful, fresh vegan and vegetarian courses and a drink served each day for only S/. 18 (£4.2 / $5 / €4.7). It’s so popular through word-of-mouth that it often sells out, so don’t leave it too late to find your appetite.
Their pricer regular menu is also available at lunch and dinner, and offers more of the same fresh, organic mix of Peruvian and fusion dishes.
Oh, and if you’ve been travelling for a while and craving something different for your tastebuds (especially after your Inca Trail hike or another multi-day hike), then make a beeline to ‘Taste of India “Cafe Carvalo”’ (315 Calle San Agustin) for a curry. It’s great value at around S/. 30 and really delicious (but if you like spicy food ask them to make it spicier than normal).
Use It As A Base for Day Trips
Cusco’s sights on their own could easily be discovered over the course of two or three days. However, many travellers (including us) end up setting up camp and staying in the city for a week or longer. The reason? There are an incredible number of excellent sites an hour or two from Cusco and it just makes more sense to use the city as a base instead of leaving it.
Note that if you are planning on hanging around in Cusco for 4+ days, then the city also has a number of yoga classes available as well as several Spanish schools.
Indulge in Chocolate Tasting + Cooking Classes
Although ceviche is Peru’s best dish, we don’t really recommend seeking it out here (raw fish dishes are best consumed on the coast because, well, they’re a lot closer to the sea than Cusco). However, Cusco does offer travellers a few excellent opportunities to get up close and personal with Peruvian cuisine.
First up, there are a number of cooking classes on offer where you will visit a local market, learn about the ubiquity of Peru’s famous potatoes and corn, then head to the kitchen to create your own dishes and learn about the history of food in Peru with a homemade pisco sour. We love doing cooking classes when we travel, and this four-hour class in Cusco is highly recommended.
Next on the menu, and something that Emily was quite happy about, is a visit to one of the several excellent chocolate houses in Cusco where you can sample some of the finest products from local producers. Peru is actually quite renowned globally for the quality of its cacao beans and chocolate, and Cusco offers the chance to sample (or devour) lots of it. If you’re a chocolate fiend, then you’ll want to perhaps accidentally wander past the following (in no particular order) to try some samples:
| Choco Museo (210 Calle Garcilaso)
| Bonbonao (299 Calle San Juan de Dios)
| Tika Chocolates (823 Avenida El Sol)
Solve The 12-Angle Stone
Now, if you’ve been doing your research for Cusco, then you may have seen a lot of posts talking about the 12-Angle stone (sometimes called the 12-Point Stone).
It isn’t really something to make you excited for your upcoming trip is it? Especially in comparison to a make your own chocolate workshop!
We are with you on this one too, especially as this revered stone on a very narrow street is pretty much always crowded and has a guy in Incan fancy dress permanently positioned next to it. So far, so underwhelming right?
It took us two visits to Peru, and a few hours hike to the top of the Pisac ruins before we actually understood why Incan stones are so special. Without going into too much detail, just know that 1. nobody knows to this day how they cut such laser-sharp lines on rock and 2. wow they slotted these rocks so seamlessly together in complex geometric patterns to the extent that a piece of paper cannot slide between then. We have the internet, we can send Elon Musk’s cars into space, and yet we cannot fathom or replicate how the Incans cut their stones so methodically, precisely, and artistically.
Masonry mysteries indeed.
READ NEXT | EVERYTHING TO KNOW BEFORE THE INCA TRAIL HIKE
That’s why the 12-Angle stone is special and why, hopefully, you will be able to appreciate a little quicker than we did the wonder of looking at certain aspects of all the Incan ruins in and around Cusco.
Location | 480 Calle Hatunrumiyoc
Did You Know | Cusco also plays host to a myriad of important cultural festivals, holidays, and events, so it isn’t unusual to arrive and notice something going on. Inti Raymi (Festival of the Sun) however is by far the most famous festival, and sees Cusco’s streets are filled with dancers and musicians for a week and thousands of visitors come to the city specifically for the Incan workshop reenactment events, so accommodation filsl up quick. The festival is on June 24th.
Cusco Coffee Shop Days
As travel bloggers, part of our job is literally to discover and hang out in the word’s best coffee shops so that you know where to find a great cup of coffee, as well as somewhere cool to hang out for a lazy day.
As we set up base in Cusco, we were able to sample a number of its third-wave cafes and hipster hangouts. These are the best coffee shops in Cusco:
Good wifi, a cool space, a healthy and affordable menu of poké and açai bowls, and bloody great coffee too. Qura was our favourite cafe to work in in Cusco, and we weren’t the only ones who shared this view.
The cafe also plays hosts to a wonderful photography from an Amazon awareness charity, and has non-dairy milks.
Location | 228 Carmen Bajo in San Blas (note that they have a smaller cafe nearby but we didn’t visit it)
Served from a hidden away cart a couple of streets away from Plaza de Armas, so many of our Instagram followers recommended this place to us that we simply had to try it - and it’s excellent. If a coffee shop in Cusco has good beans, then the chances are that Three Monkeys supplied them.
Location | 159 Calle Arequipa in the doorway entrance to a restaurant.
Like having a coffee in an artist friend’s living room (we don’t actually have any of those, so maybe it’s nothing at all like it), Cocoliso is part coffee-shop and part boutique clothes store. Not one for large groups, but nice to escape the crowds and enjoy the peaceful bohemian environment and pastries.
Location | 122 Calla Palacio
We kind of wanted to keep this one our little secret, but then we remember that you guys are cool right and won’t tell anyone else about it? We stumbled into this place whilst walking around San Blas and thought it was a cute little boutique clothes and jewellery store - then we went upstairs and discovered that it was that but also a beautifully intimate cafe too. Huddled on our little balcony overlooking old Cusco, it was a happy place (and we could have spent all our money buying things here too).
Location | Atoqsayk’uchi - closed on Mondays.
A cosy place to settle in for the day, especially if it’s a bit miserable outside, The Meeting Place isn’t as hipster as the other places mentioned on this but has really friendly staff, hearty meals, and a friendly (but demanding) cat. Its run by volunteers and all profits go back to local projects.
Location | 630 Plazoleta San Blas
Colourful walls and decent coffee, this wasn’t our favourite place to hang out in Cusco but it’s still a decent option.
Location | 101 Calle Tandapata, San Blas
Unsurprisingly, a number of the above are part of Rica Chicha, a community of independent businesses focusing on doing good and creating quality produce in Cusco.
Visit A Few of Cuso’s Museums and Exhibitions
There are more than a few underwhelming museums in Cusco (here’s looking at you Inka Museum), but we recommend you make your way out to the following if you’re having an education exploration day in Cusco:
Centro de Textiles Tradicionales del Cusco (CTTC) | Any visitor to Peru will quickly discover that 1. Its textiles are incredible and 2. You will have to decide just how much you can fit in your backpack to take home or justify carrying on a long term trip. However, this well done museum offers the best insight into the social story and history of these colourful traditional fabrics and textiles - from how they are made, their significance within communities, and the effort to keep this ancient craft and knowledge alive. The museum also has a group of gossiping ladies creating handmade pieces in the traditional manner each day, and some excellent locally sourced pieces to purchase. It makes sense to stop here after you visit nearby Koricancha.
Location | Av. Sol 603 / Entry | Free / Hours | Not sure, but open daily.
Coca Museum | Within your first few days in Peru or Bolivia, you will note that coca leaves are a big thing amongst the local population. Although most in the west know these as the key ingredient in cocaine and Coca-Cola’s original recipe (that’s why it’s half ‘Coca’), these leaves have been used for centuries in Andean cultures for various medicinal and recreational purposes. For travellers suffering altitude in Peru, coca tea will be the most offered antidote! Thistiny museum, like the one in La Paz, explains the story on the plant’s significance in Peru’s past and present, and also has a coca-themed gift shop.
Location | Plaza San Blas 618 / Entry | S/. 10 (£2.3 / $3) but includes a coca tea and sweet / Hours | 9 a.m - 7 p.m
Museo de Arte Pre-Colombino (MAP) | One of the best museums in Cusco in terms of curation and the quality of exhibits, it’s a privately funded one which (as the name would suggest) focuses on art and artefacts from the period prior to the Spanish conquest. Definitely a worthwhile addition to everyone’s list of things to do in Cusco!
Location | Plaza de las Nazarenas 231 / Entry | S/. 20 (£4.6 / $6) to foreigners, but 50% off for foreign students / Hours | 8 a.m – 10 p.m.
Pisco Museum | It isn’t really a museum, especially come nighttime, but we thought you had earned a drink by this stage. Peru’s most famous cocktail, a sour blend of egg white and pisco, is something you should sample a lot of whilst travelling here (it’s all part of the cultural experience you know?)
If you’re heading to Cusco and the Sacred Valley, then it’s likely that you’ll have to buy the ‘boleto turistico’ at some point during your stay. Without this ‘tourist ticket’, it’s simply not possible to enter several museums (not included above) and a number of important archaeological sites outside the city - read this guide to know the essentials and find out if the boleto turistico is worth it.
Look at the Stars
Stars and constellations were central to many beliefs and visions of the Incas, and a visit to the unique family-owned Cusco planetarium offers a different perspective on the city and the civilisation.
Departures for the planetarium are at 5:40pm from Plaza Regocijo and this activity is obviously best done when there are clear skies because, y’know, you won’t really be able to see anything otherwise.
Walk to Sacsayhumán
Sorry, but we’re going to talk about Incan stones again for a couple of minutes.
As we’ve mentioned, there are a number of excellent days trips from Cusco, but a short bus ride or walk up to the impressive Incan ruin of Sacsayhumán (it’s pronounced ‘sexy-woman’, no joke) is a great opportunity to get out of Cusco for a morning or afternoon.
The site of the old citadel is a pleasure to explore for an hour or two and its ginormous black boulders are incredibly impressive. Just note that if you plan on doing a Sacred Valley tour, a visit to Sacsayhumán may be included, so you don’t want to end up visiting it twice.
To visit Sacsayhumán and many other sights in Cusco and The Sacred Valley, it is necessary to purchase a ‘boleto turistico’ in advance.
How to get there | You can get to Sacsayhuamán on foot, by taxi, or with a local bus. To walk, simply use Google Maps to find the enjoyable route which takes you through Cusco and up the Atoc’sekuchi staircase - it’s pretty self-explanatory. It’s also possible to take one of the many buses or collectivos which pass the Sacsayhuamán entrance to neighbouring towns - ask you hotel/hostel for advice on the best place to hop on and it should only cost S/. 1 one-way.
A taxi takes 10 minutes up to the ruins and shouldn’t cost more than S/. 10 - you can agree a rate for the driver to run you back down (or take you to other ruins within the vicinity and included in the boleto turistico) or just walk or take a collectivo back to Cusco - please just avoid walking up or back after the sun goes down.
Cristo Blanco (the big Jesus gifted by Palestinans after World War II) is also up here and, although not terribly impressive in its own rite, it offers a nice view over Cusco too.
Where to Stay in Cusco
First things first, Cusco’s accommodation is more expensive than a number of other places on the traveller trail in Peru. Dorms remain quite reasonable on average, but private rooms are generally scarcer and pricier. Whether you’re in a hostel or hotel, prices also increase in peak season (June - August) whilst availability is limited due to the number of international tourists who arrive - this makes booking ahead of your visit essential.
The majority of Cusco’s best accommodation options for every budget are located within the pretty historical centre but, if you’re travelling long-term, it’s important to note that we found the standard of hostel in Cusco to be either ‘not that great’ or ‘really overpriced’ in comparison to other popular South American cities. Due to this, we spent a lot of time on both trips researching all the options online, and visiting many in person whilst in the city, so that we could find the best options for overall experience, value, and facilities.
Here are our recommendations on where to stay in Cusco:
Atawkama Hostel | Our small and affordable base for seven nights on our second visit to Cusco, and we were really happy with the choice. Set on a cobblestone street in Cusco’s old town, this colonial property is a 7-10 minute walk from Plaza de Armas, but was ideally located for everything we needed to do in the city. It’s secure, with large kitchen, decent free breakfast, really hot showers, great wi-fi, a couple of indoor and outdoor common areas, plus secure lockers and luggage storage facilities. We stayed in a Salvador Dali inspired private double with a shared bathroom (much cheaper than many other hostels in Cusco), but if you’re a solo traveller you might like the fact that its dorms don’t have bunks but rather single beds for guests (a little like Snow White and her dwarves we thought!). Check availability and prices on Hostelworld or Booking.com.
Pariwana Hostel | A long-time and highly rated favourite in Cusco, Pariwana is a social rather than a party hostel. Much larger than Atawkama, it offers free breakfast, a well-equipped kitchen, good wi-fi, security lockers, and a big common area. Privates are expensive but the dorms are a good rate given the facilities included. This hostel is really big but it’s important to note that any late-night fun is confined to the bar so that all guests still get a really good night’s sleep. Check availability on Hostelworld or Booking.com
If either of the above is unavailable or doesn’t suit your taste or budget, then we’ll be publishing our list of the Seven Best Hostels in Cusco for Backpackers soon! For party hostels, go for Loki or Wild Rover.
Tip | Whatever you do, don’t arrive in Cusco after a long night bus journey with the ambition that you’ll just walk around and find a good hostel deal - we’re talking from experience here. With all our backpacks on, hardly any sleep, and the shift in altitude, it wasn’t really a fun morning for us even though we had shortlist of hostels to visit. It makes a lot more sense to at least book your first night in Cusco to save a lot of hassle and unnecessary walking. Inka Hallpa is a basic but good value guesthouse in the old town with affordable privates and breakfast.
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Casona La Recoleta | Located in the centre of Cusco, this guesthouse is set within a peaceful verdant courtyard and offers double rooms, loft spaces, or apartments to couples and groups - check availability and price.
Selina Plaza de Armas | Some of the most stylish private rooms available in Cusco are found at Selina. It only opened at the start of 2019 but has received excellent reviews thus far. Good breakfast, excellent wifi, and cool common areas to get work done or plan your day. Dorms are also available here making it retain a good traveller atmosphere, but the prices, facilities and decor here make it more of a boutique style hotel. Check price and availability here.
Cooper Hotel Boutique | An exceptional daily breakfast buffet, excellent central location, and stylish modern and traditional touches throughout as is to be expected in a boutique hotel like this - check availability here.
Antigua Casona San Blas | Set within a restored colonial property, this is a touch of luxury in Cusco’s best neighbourhood (and the firepit in the courtyard is a wonderful thing for those chilly Cusco evenings). Check price and availability here.
Airbnbs in Cusco
As with many popular tourist spots in South America, the presence and viability of Airbnb is increasing as an option. Renting an apartment for your Cusco stay is actually one of the best value options in the city - especially if you’re a family or large group, or plan on setting up a base in the city for five days or longer.
Tip | If you’ve never used Airbnb before, then you can sign up via this link and get up to £25 off your first booking.
How To Get Around Cusco
Once you’ve adjusted to the altitude and the ascents to reach certain neighbourhoods, you’ll find that Cusco is an immensely walkable city and most of its attractions are never more than 15-20 minutes walk from anywhere in the city centre.
There are however no shortage of taxis offering to pick you up as you walk around the city (trust us, their ceaseless tooting will start to piss you off quite quickly), and these are useful when you need to catch a colectivo connection for a day trip or are coming back after dark.
In general, Cusco does not have the same issues as some other cities in South America for fake taxis or taxi safety concerns providing common sense is used during the day. For extra peace of mind, or for late night journeys, we recommend using Uber which now operates in the city. Although it can sometimes take 5+ minutes for a driver to arrive, we used the app a lot when coming back from day trips tired and on the wrong side of town. If you sign up to Uber with using this code (andrews37583ue), then your receive money off your first trip.
Whether with Uber or a regular taxi, we never paid more than S/.8 for a trip within or across Cusco (and S/. 4-5 was the most common). If uncertain of costs, put the journey in Uber to see its estimate and then use that as a guide when agreeing your price with the taxi driver (note that taxi meters are very rarely used in Cusco, so prices are usually agreed in advance, and normal taxis usually charge a sol or two more than Uber).
In addition to taxis, a large number minivans and buses clog the streets of Cusco after 5 p.m. taking people all over the city for S/. 1.
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As mentioned above, colectivos are essential for day trips from Cusco. These are minivans which run from the city to towns and villages within the Cusco region, and they operate from a few spots around the city rather than a single terminal.
Read this post for our list of the best day trips from Cusco (published soon!) and information on how to reach them independently with colectivos.
Transport To / From Cusco
As it forms such an integral part of Peru’s ‘gringo trail’ it is relatively easy and affordable to reach Cusco.
Cusco’s airport (Alejandro Velasco Astete International Airport) is a 15-20 minute taxi ride from the city centre, so an extremely convenient option. There are no direct international flights to Cusco, so your best option is to connect via Lima’s Jorge Chavez International airport. Several airlines run the Lima - Cusco route, which is consistently cheap (starting from £45 / $60 / €50 per person), reliable, and only take 90 minutes.
An taxi from the city centre to/from the airport should cost S/. 15-20, but you may have to haggle that down from an opening price of S/. 25 or higher. If you prefer convenience, then you can easily book a private taxi service in advance to meet you at the airport.
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If you’re travelling from Arequipa (a lovely city and most traveller’s stop immediately before or after Cusco), then the overnight bus to Cusco is your best option. Overnight buses in Peru range from basic to an incredibly high standard - we recommend you take a look at the options and book online via RedBus.
There is a bus which runs from Lima to Cusco, but it takes 24 hours and these days isn’t worth taking as flights are so ubiquitous and affordable (trust us, we did this bus ride back in 2015!)
Unlike a number of cities in Peru, Cusco has a single central bus station (‘Terminal Terrestre’), which is a 10 minute taxi ride from the historical centre (cost is S/. 8-10) - a local bus also runs to the station but it’s best to just take the taxi or Uber it. Most bus companies leave and arrive here, but we think that Cruz del Sur (the fanciest-schmanciest bus company in Peru) has its own terminal so double-check that if you’re travelling with them.
As we mentioned, for onward travel to various towns in the Sacred Valley (such as Pisac and Ollantaytambo) your best bet is the colectivos which do not depart from the bus station. Instead, they leave from various places in Cusco - you’ll find full information on this in our upcoming post on the best day trips from Cusco post.