1. How do I get to and leave Cusco? Is it easy to get around the city?
You can travel to and from Cusco by bus or plane. Flights from Lima, Cusco, Puerto Maldonado and Juliaca (Puno) leave daily; there are no international arrivals. The airport is located about 12 to 15 minutes away from the main square by car. A taxi ride will cost about s/.12 but prices are always negotiable.
You can also travel to Cusco by bus from Lima, Cusco or Puno. Peru has an excellent inter-province bus service. Most of the inter-province buses in Cusco leave from the bus terminal “Terminal Terrestre,” which is about a 10 minute ride in taxi from the main plaza in Cusco.
The main means of transport in Cusco are taxis and combis (small buses) that cover the whole town. However Cusco is a relatively small city and you can easily walk to the city center from almost any part of town in 10-20 minutes.
2. Do I have to pay a tax at the Cusco airport?
A domestic departure tax of $5-10 USD depending on your destination must be paid before boarding at the airport payment teller window. You will be directed to the window at the check in counter. This will mean lining up twice, which is a good reason to arrive early although the airport is rather small and lines are quick. The TUUA may be included in the ticket price so please consult your travel advisor for the latest details.
3. What are the best bus companies to travel to/from Cusco?
Traveling to Cusco by bus takes around eight hours from Puno, ten hours from Arequipa, and a whopping twenty-two hours from Lima. The best companies for these long distances are Cruz Del Sur, Cial, Flores and Palomino as they offer high level of comfort and quality service. It is only a short ride to the Sacred Valley towns of Pisac and Urubamba – the ride lasts less than two hours, and actually makes for quite a beautiful journey.
4. Where are the best places to eat, drink, and shop in Cusco?
• Restaurants: Peru is known for its excellent cuisine. In any city you can find a wide range of restaurants offering some of Peru´s finest dishes at very reasonable prices. Check out our Cusco Restaurants – Travel Guide for a selection of restaurants offering local specialties.
• Bars/cafés: Cusco boasts a vibrant nightlife that you can enjoy well into the early hours of the day. See our Cusco Nightlife – Travel Guide for recommended bars and nightclubs to experience a great night out in this historic city.
• Shopping: There are several places in Cusco where you can find various Peruvian goods. The Cusco region is known for its high-quality artwork and handiwork. See our Cusco Shopping – Travel Guide for more information.
5. Are there tourist information offices, and where are they located?
There are two main tourist information offices located in Cusco. InfoPeru, the national tourist information office, is located on Avenida del Sol, close to the Plaza de Armas. The regional office, DIRCETUR is situated on Calle Mantas between the Plaza de Armas and Plaza San Francisco.
6. Where can I send my postcards from Cusco? Where can I buy stamps?
The main post office is located at the end of the Avenida del Sol. You can also find stamps and mail boxes in many of the shops around Plaza de Armas. A regular letter costs around six soles for Europe and five soles for the United States. Mail takes about 10-12 days to get there.
7. Where can I find good international cuisine in Cusco?
Peruvian cuisine is excellent and celebrated worldwide, but you may want to mix it up and try something else. Cusco is filled with delectable international restaurants where you can enjoy a nice meal. Right on Plaza de Armas, you can find some excellent restaurants offering French fare alongside the traditional Peruvian dishes, such as Le Papillon or Le Nomade. You can also taste the famous and exquisite Argentinean meat at Tangobeef (Calle Suecia, close to the Cathedral). If you wish to enjoy a nice cold beer and a cheeseburger, you can stop at the highest Irish Pub in the world, Paddy O’Flaherty, on Plaza de Armas.
8. What is the altitude of Cusco?
Cusco is located at a towering height of over 11,000ft (3,350 meters).
9. What is the altitude sickness and how can it be prevented?
Cusco’s high altitude means that there is a possibility that you will suffer some side effects due to the exceptional conditions. It is difficult, however, to be certain of the impact it will have on you as altitude affects people in different ways. The side effects usually come in the form of headaches or getting tired very easily as the body adjusts to the change in altitude.
Here are some tips to help your body acclimatize:
• Get sufficient sleep.
• Before going to high altitudes don’t eat too much and avoid fatty foods.
• Drink plenty of water.
• Once you’re there, take baby steps to allow your body to get used to the altitude.
• A lot of people sell coca leaves in the streets, which naturally help to open your lungs and reduce headaches. A popular option is coca leaf tea.
Ask your doctor’s advice about these altitude medications too:
These are abundant in the drugstores found on almost every street corner across Peru.
10. Where does the name Cusco come from?
The actual name “Cusco”, derived from the Quechua word “Qosqo”, literally means "navel of the world" due to the Incan belief that Cusco was actually the center of the world; not a surprising belief at all if you consider that Cusco once served as a hub for the vast network of roads that linked the quite expansive Inca Empire together.
11. What is the population of Cusco?
Cusco is considered a mid-sized city with between 300,000 and 350,000 inhabitants.
12. What is the weather like in Cusco?
Cusco’s location and altitude result in only two seasons: rainy and dry. The rainy season typically lasts from October to March, with the heaviest rains arriving in January and February. April/May, just after the rainy season, or September/October, before the rainy season sets in are the recommended times to visit Cusco. The rainy season tends to be quieter in terms of tourism, with almost daily showers lasting a few hours.
During the dry season, rain is virtually nonexistent; Cusco is bathed in sunshine and enjoys blue skies during daylight hours. The minute the sun disappears, however, Cusco becomes bitterly cold, so be sure to pack some warm clothes. During the winter dry season, temperatures can run from anywhere between -1°C (30°F) at night to 20°C (70°F) ) during the day.
Precipitation can reach as much as 163 mm in January (midsummer) spanning over an average of 18 wet days. The wet season sees little change in temperature, although nights are not as cold and will rarely drop below 6°C (45°F).
Not surprisingly the dry season is the best time to travel to Cusco and conveniently this coincides with summer holidays in Europe and North America. Consequently, this is the busiest time of year (outside of Christmas) and the tourist high season. So travelers looking for more peace and quiet may want to consider traveling to Cusco on other dates.
13. Where can I find an ATM in Cusco?
Access to ATM’s while in Cusco should not be an issue for travelers. ATM’s and money exchange locations can be found throughout the city, especially near the Plaza de Armas and Plaza San Blas.
14. What is the Cusco tourist ticket? Where can I buy it? What is included?
The Cusco tourist ticket (Boleto Turistico) gets you into 16 of the most important places of interest in and around Cusco, including some of the major draws in the Sacred Valley of the Incas. In fact, you cannot get into many churches and museums without it.
The Boleto includes admission to the following sights:
• Museo de Arte Religioso
• Iglesia de San Blas
• Monasterio y Museo de Arte de Santa Catalina
• Municipal Palace Museum
• Museo Histórico Regional
• The Inca ruins of Sacsayhuamán, Q'enko, Puca Pucara, Tambomachay, Pisac, Ollantaytambo, Chinchero, Pikillacta, and Tipón.
15. What local products can I purchase in the Cusco region?
Cusco is well-known for its weaving and textile arts. There are various suppliers of such products and particularly of quality Alpaca wares. A few of the best are Alpaca 111 (Plaza Recocijo 202, Cusco - Tel. (084) 243-233),Alpaca 3 (Calle Ruinas 472, Cusco - Tel. (084) 226-101) and Mon Repos (Portal de Panes 139, Plaza de Armas, (084) 251600).
16. Where can I buy local handicrafts?
Handicrafts stores are plentiful in Cusco selling a range of artisan items – the best place to catch these is at the Centro Artesanal Cusco at the end of Avenida El Sol, which is the biggest handicrafts market in the city. This has a large number of vendors selling various souvenirs, such as alpaca textiles and clothing in beautiful and vivid colors. You will also find a lot of great places to shop for local goods in the villages surrounding Cusco. Pisac (39 km from Cusco), for example, is renowned for its market taking place on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Sundays.
17. When are the main Cusco festivities that I may be able to see while visiting?
• January 20th – Fiesta de San Sebastián. This is a feast to honor San Sebastian, the patron saint of Cusco. There are great festivities with folkloric dances, and feasts of local food and fruit.
• February/March – Carnaval. Done in typical Andean fashion, solemn traditions and processions take center stage. You will also see parades with costumes and traditional dances. Children, and some adults, celebrate Carnival by partaking in city-wide water battles, so prepare to get wet!
• March/April – Easter Monday & Celebration of El Señor de los Temblores (Lord of the Earthquakes). This celebration began in 1650 after a painting of Jesus entitled Cristo de la Buena suertepurportedly stopped an earthquake that was rocking Cusco to its foundations.
• May 2nd-3rd – The vigil of the cross. This celebration takes place atop every mountain with a crucifix on it.
• June – Corpus Christi
• May/June - Cusco beer festival. The festival lasts for three days and kicks off a month of celebration in the city.
• June – Qoyllur Rit’I (Snow Star Festival). This festival is held annually in honor of Señor de Qoyllur Rit'i, an indigenous shepherd boy said to have been visited by the image of Jesus. Today the festivities are an enthralling tradition celebrating the blend of Catholicism and Andean religions.
• 24th June - Inti Raymi. The Inti Raymi festival is held every year to celebrate the most important god in the Inca World: Inti (the Sun). Occurring on the Winter Solstice of the Southern Hemisphere, the celebration brings together large numbers of worshipers throughout Peru and attracts thousands of visitors from around the world.
• Last Sunday of August – Huarachicoy Festival. Held at the Sacsayhuaman site, nearby Cusco, this is an authentic reenactment of the Inca manhood rite entitled "party in order to arm gentlemen" by the Spaniards.
• September 8th – Corpus of Almudena. Also known as “Day of the Virgin,” this is a colorful and vibrant procession taking place from the church of Almudena on the southwest of Cusco to the Plaza San Francisco.
• December 24th – Santuranticuy. Held on Christmas Eve, this “sale of saints” is one big celebration of Christmas shopping in Cusco’s Plaza de Armas.
18. What are some interesting places to see while in the Sacred Valley?
There are many small villages surrounding Cusco where you can enjoy the beautiful landscapes of the Sacred Valley and discover the way of life of its inhabitants, such as in Yucay in the Urubamba Valley where the ruins of the Sacsayhuamán fortress are located. You can also make a small detour to Andahuaylillas (39 km from Cusco), where you will see a glorious religious gem known as Peru’s “Sistine Chapel.” Chinchero is a typical traditional village that makes a perfect excursion for those wanting to relax and spend a few moments away from the crowds of Cusco.