imperial city of cusco - Orange Nation

Cusco Travel Guide 2024

Once the capital of the mighty Inca Empire, Cuzco (also spelled Cusco) holds a unique charm that’s hard to put into words. Exquisite churches, fantastic museums, and narrow cobbled streets in the historic center merit at least a few days’ worth of exploration. Add to that stunning Inca ruins both within the city and in the surrounding hills and you’ve got a recipe for travel magic, explore our best Cusco Travel Guide

Cultural festivals throughout the year, including Señor de los Temblores, Corpus Christi and Inti Raymi, highlight the region’s mixed Spanish-indigenous heritage. They also illustrate the continual renewal of the community’s long-held Andean traditions. This fascinating and historically-rich city is sure to be one of the most memorable places you’ve ever set foot in.

Climate & Weather

The highland climate of Cusco City has two distinct seasons, rainy season and dry season. The climate ranges from temperate to chilly, throughout the year. The mountainous geography of the Cusco region has a wide variety of microclimates. Varying temperatures are usually determined by the level of elevation. The climate can be warm in the valleys, becoming humid the closer you get to the Amazon and frosty at high altitude plains. Generally, as you climb higher elevations, the temperature drops.

Rainy Season

The rainy season in Cusco is from December to March and coinciding with summer in South America. Rainstorms are unpredictable, though heavy rains are usually brief and episodic. January and February typically receive the most rainfall. Cloudy skies are typical throughout the rainy season, but you can expect a welcomed patch of sunshine on some days. Average temperatures are around 60°F (16°C) in the day and 46°F (8°C) at night.

Dry Season

The dry season is from April to November, coinciding with winter in South America. During these months in Cusco, it’s typically beautiful and sunny. The average daytime temperature is around 65°F (18°C), but if you’re in direct sunlight it can feel a lot hotter. At night, without cloud cover to create an insulation effect, the temperature dips down to a chilly 25°F (4°C).

Best Time to Visit

There are benefits to visiting Cusco during each season, as well as some drawbacks.

  • The dry season is the most popular time to visit Cusco. Weather conditions in the Andes are usually sunny with a minimal chance of rain, but attractions tend to be crowded. It´s also a perfect time for hiking.
  • The rainy season is a pleasant time to be in Cusco because there are far fewer tourists and crowds. However, during Semana Santa (Easter Week), a lot of Peruvians take their vacation and its more crowded than usual. Weather-related travel delays are more common, especially in January and February, when it rains the most.

Geography & Map

Cusco is located in the Huatanay valley in Southeastern Peru and surrounded by Andean peaks. The city is the capital of the province and region of Cusco. It’s the principal hub for tourism in Peru and patrons heading to and from Machu Picchu.

11,155 ft (3,400 m)

Pre-colonial history

The city of Cusco represents the sum of hundreds of years of indigenous and cultural fusion throughout the southern Andes of Peru. Excavations in the Cusco basin have uncovered artifacts and temples from the ancient Killke Culture dating as far back as 900 AD.

The Inca civilization began to develop as a city-state in 1200 AD, first co-existing with and then gradually absorbing neighboring ethnic groups. Inca oral traditions recorded after the Spanish conquest remember Manco Capac as the first Inca king.

Expansion of the Inca Empire did not begin until 1438, under the reign of Pachacutec-Cusi Yupanqui, whose name means “earth-shaker.” The Inca called their lands Tawantinsuyu, which spread over much of South America. They used the imperial capital of Cusco as their capital to impose political, religious, and administrative control.

The rectilinear layout of Cusco’s streets is an Incan legacy. Pachacutec ordered his subjects to rebuilt the city in the shape of a puma. The rivers Saphi and Tullumayo were canalized to control flooding and formed the outlines of the puma’s body (the rivers continue to run underground), its loins centered on Qorikancha, and its head represented by Sacsayhuaman. Sacsayhuaman overlooks the city and is built from giant stones. This area of Cusco was reserved for the elite. You can still make out areas that were designated for agriculture, artisanry, and industry.

Post-colonial history

Francisco Pizarro and Spanish soldiers landed on the shores of the Inca Empire in 1531, thus marking the beginning of the end for the Inca. For a captivating re-telling of the Conquest and collapse of the Inca Empire, join any of our tours for a comprehensive history on Inca heritage and culture.

IFollowing the years after the fall of the Inca Empire in 1533, the Spanish took control of Cusco. Many Inca palaces and temples were toppled. However, the most interesting part of the history of Cusco, is the number of heritage buildings whose foundations are from original Inca architecture. Also, after the devastating 7.0 magnitude earthquake of 1950, the majority of Inca construction survived. Whereas, the earthquake mostly turned Spanish colonial architecture to rubble. Historical buildings are now a very interesting blend of Inca foundation and the rest of the building is Spanish-style churches and Casonas. Santa Clara Monastery, the Archbishop’s Palace, and Palacio Nazarenas (formerly a convent, now a 5-star hotel) are examples of buildings with long sections of Inca walls that are on display to admire today.

Things to Do

Plaza de Armas

The Plaza de Armas is the cultural heart of Cusco. In Inca times, the square was called Huacaypata, and it was the main stage for the Inca Empire’s most important rituals. It has a lot of historical significance to Peruvians because Tupas Amaru and other independence heroes were executed here. Today, the Plaza de Armas exemplifies the city’s hybrid architecture where pre-Columbian, colonial, and modern histories are layered one on top of the other. Lining the plaza are several restaurants and bars which are perfect for spending a relaxing afternoon people-watching as you adjust to the altitude.

Plaza de armas de Cusco - Orange Nation
San Blas Neighborhood - Orange Nation

San Blas Neighborhood

The picturesque Plazoleta San Blas is home to San Blas Church and a quaint collection of whitewashed adobe buildings embellished with cobalt blue balconies and red-tiled roofs. This is the heart of Cusco’s bohemian neighborhood, which has existed as a zone for artisanry since the time of the Inca Empire. Today, it remains the preferred residence of local artists who open their workshops to visitors eager to see their religious sculptures, gold and silver metalwork, woodwork, and more.

Cusco Cathedral

The history of colonial Cusco goes hand-in-hand with its churches, and none is more iconic than the Cusco Cathedral. It was built on the site of an Inca palace, using stones from that palace and Sacsayhuaman. Construction for the church began in 1560 and was completed nearly 100 years later in 1656. Inside, there are many works from the famed Escuela Cuzqueña (School of Religious Art), including a painting of the Last Supper, attributed to the native artist Marcos Zapata, which features a traditional Andean plate of cuy (guinea pig) on the table.

Cusco Cathedral - Orange Nation
Coricancha Cusco - Orange Nation


Santo Domingo Church encloses one of Cusco’s most impressive Inca ruins, the Coricancha or Temple of the Sun. According to chronicles written after the Spanish conquest, it was the largest and most opulent temple in all of South America, filled with gold, silver, and precious jewels. Inca oral traditions indicate that the temple, dedicated to the worship of Inti, the sun god, was built during the reign of Manco Capac in the 12th century atop a pre-existing temple. Beginning in 1536, Santo Domingo Church was built upon the ruins of the Coricancha, but tantalizing vestiges of the former Inca temple were kept intact. The most intriguing feature is an exceptionally well-crafted semicircular wall that’s visible from Avenida El Sol.


The Sacsayhuaman ruins are on a hill overlooking Cusco. It rises in front of a vast esplanade the length and width of four football fields. The original Inca-built walls were 10 feet (3 meters) taller. On the topmost platform were three circular towers. The gargantuan scale of Sacsayhuaman’s zigzagging, terraced walls will make your jaw drop, even more, when you realize they represent just a fraction of the original site.

Sacsayhuaman - Orange Nation
Tambomachay - Orange Nation


Tambomachay is known as “The Bath of the Ñusta (Inca Maiden)” or just the “Inca Baths.” The site was built around 1500 AD and consists of four levels of terraces built into the side of a hill. From the top platform, an underground spring emerges from a hole and cascades down the terraces through finely carved channels. On the last level, the channel splits into two streams that then pour into a stone basin. This exquisite example of Inca hydraulic engineering is a prelude to the sixteen fountains you’ll see at Machu Picchu.


Qenko is an example of a huaca, a naturally occurring rock formation modified into a temple. These holy places can be found everywhere in the Andes, and many of them have been used for millennia. Qenko is remarkable for its size and the intricacy and quantity of its carved features. On the ground level, a tunnel leads into a natural chamber. The cave’s sides and surfaces were polished into walls, niches, and a table. A shaft of light enters through a crack in the rock wall and is said to illuminate the table on full moon nights.

Qenko - Orange Nation
Museum of Pre-Columbian Art (MAP) - Orange Nation

Museum of Pre-Columbian Art (MAP)

Museo de Arte Precolombino occupies a beautiful colonial house and displays nearly 400 pieces borrowed from the extensive repository of the Larco Museum in Lima, considered one of the most excellent museums of pre-Columbian culture in the world. The collection includes artifacts spanning nearly three millennia of Peruvian history (1250 BC to 1532 AD) and from diverse pre-Columbian cultures including the Nazca, Mochica, Huari, Chancay, and Inca. Visit the MAP Café, located in the courtyard, to enjoy a gourmet lunch or dinner in an elegant setting.

Inka Museum

Museo Inka showcases the history of the Inca civilization through various displays of ceramics, textiles, mummies, jewelry, qeros (drinking vessels), and more. Learn about the mythical origins of the Inca Empire, the history of pre-Inca and Inca settlement in and around Cusco, and the different ecological zones from the jungle to the high altitude plains that were connected by ancient trade networks.

Inka Museum - Orange
San Pedro Market - Orange Nation

San Pedro Market

Mercado de San Pedro has gained popularity with foreign visitors, but the market continues to be an excellent way to observe daily life at the market in Cusco. Among the sights you’ll see are locals eating lunch at their favorite kiosk and food stalls. The vendors sell an eclectic mix of souvenirs, including alpaca sweaters, embroidered cups and ponchos. They also have ethnic super grains, wheels of cheese and carts with fresh fruits and vegetables. Basically, San Pedro Market has it all. Best part is that it´s clean and the crowds never get overwhelming.

Cusco Planetarium

The Inca Empire placed profound importance on astronomy. The observations they made in their natural environment, like those up in the sky, were deeply rooted in their spiritual beliefs and day-to-day activities. A visit to the Planetarium Cusco is an opportunity to learn about Inca constellations and the southern night sky. If the weather permits, you can observe the star studded sky over Cusco through a telescope. The planetarium is a family-run project located in an Andean style house with adobe walls up in the surrounding hills next to Sacsayhuaman about a 10-minute drive from the Plaza de Armas.

Cusco Planetarium - Orange Nation


The Cusco Tourist Ticket (or boleto turístico del Cusco) gives you access to a variety of Inca ruins and museums. The popular Full Ticket is valid for ten days and includes entry to sixteen attractions, including Sacsayhuaman, Qorikancha, the Museum of Pre Columbian Art, and many more. Also included are archeological sites in the Sacred Valley, exclusing Machu Picchu.


Cusco has a booming restaurant scene offering both local delicacies and international classics. Here are some of our favorite places to dine out in the Cusco and sample the range and breadth of Peruvian cooking.


Chicha is the restaurant of Peru’s celebrity chef Gaston Acurio. The extensive menu includes many enticing regional foods, but pay extra attention to the section dedicated to Cusquenian dishes. Top your lunch or dinner at Chicha with a dessert called Chocolate Balloon with baked apples covered in caramel moose, ice cream, and toasted almonds.

Location: Plaza Regocijo 261, 2nd floor, Cusco


Cicciolina is on the second floor of a restored colonial home around the corner from the Cusco Cathedral. This charming restaurant serves an inventive menu of international favorites and Novo Andino (New Andean) dishes. Lamb Ragu and Causa de Cuy are among a long lineup of recommendations.
Location: Calle Triunfo 393, 2nd floor, Cusco


Pachapapa is an excellent spot to come for a cozy, sitdown meal in San Blas. Enjoy Peruvian classics, like aji de gallina, and hearty lamb, steak, and chicken dishes, as well as some Italian options. If you sit out on the restaurant’s interior courtyard, you can see your made-to-order pizza or calzone emerge from the wood-fired oven.
Location: Plazoleta San Blas 120, San Blas, Cusco


Limo specializes in Peruvian-Japanese cuisine (called Nikkei) and delicious pisco cocktails. In addition to a full sushi bar and ceviche, Limo offers non-seafood Peruvian favorites like arroz chaufa (Peruvian-Chinese fried rice), alpaca steak, pork adobo, and more. Ask for a table by a window overlooking the Plaza de Armas.
Location: Portal de Carnes 236, Plaza de Armas, Cusco

Morena Peruvian Kitchen

Morena Peruvian Kitchen serves generous portions of traditional Peruvian cooking with a modern twist. Try classic dishes like chicharron (deep-fried pork) and lomo saltado, and one of the fresh smoothies or juices. The contemporary restaurant is perfect for a casual lunch or dinner.
48-B Calle Plateros, Cusco

Cultural Events

In modern-day Cusco, whether it’s the processions of Easter Week or the Inca celebration known as Inti Raymi, no public event is complete without performances of folkloric music and dance that recall the oldest traditions of the Andes and hundreds of years of Peruvian history.

January – New Year’s Eve

When: Dec 31 – January 1

Christmas and New Year’s Eve in Cusco is an exciting time. For New Years, thousands of locals and foreigners pack the Plaza de Armas. After the clock strikes midnight, fireworks go off and a wild outdoor party ensues.

February – Cusco Carnival

When: moveable dates (40 days before Easter Sunday)

A city-wide water fight breaks out on the first Sunday of Carnival, and any person out on the street is a potential target for drenching, and in the spirit of Carnival, anything goes.

March / April – Semana Santa (Easter Week)

When: moveable dates

Events throughout Semana Santa in Cusco provide a remarkable example of how Catholic observances are infused with Andean elements. The week begins with a procession for Taytacha Temblores or “Lord of Earthquakes,” one of Cusco’s revered patron saints, and concludes with eating twelve typical dishes said to represent the twelve apostles. Learn more about celebrating Easter in Cusco and around Peru.

May / June – Qoyllur Rit’i

When: moveable dates Sunday – Tuesday

Ascension Day, the same week as Corpus Christi)
Qoyllur Ri’ti, or the Snow Star Festival, is an amalgam of old and new, but with Andean symbols and practices playing a central part. For the festival, an estimated 10,000 pilgrims from Andean villages arrive at Sinakara chapel at the base of the Ausangate.

June – Corpus Christi

When: moveable dates (nine weeks after Easter Thursday)

Corpus Christi is a visually stunning procession of the patron virgins and saints from Cusco’s different neighborhood churches. Approximately 50,000 people gather on the Plaza and surrounding streets to watch this holy tradition.

June 24th – Inti Raymi

When: June 24 (each year)

Inti Raymi is a paramount festival in Cusco that honors the Inca sun god, Inti. The main procession event takes place on June 24, but the days before and after are also filled with festivities.

July 28th and 29th – Peru’s Independence

When: July 28 – 29 (each year)

The date of Peru’s independence is celebrated with great fervor throughout the country. In Cusco, you’ll see the red and white flag waving everywhere. There are daytime parades and folkloric dance performances and fireworks at night.

December 24th – Santurantikuy Fair

When: Dec 24 (each year)

The Feria de Santurantikuy is a unique Cusco tradition where people come to buy and sell objects and adornments for nativity scenes in the Plaza de Armas. Artisans from around Cusco and from as far away as Puno come to display their wares rendered in techniques ranging from silver and tinwork to embroidery.

The best tours in the imperial city of Cusco

1 Day Humantay Lake Tour - Orange Nation

1 Day Humantay Lake Tour

1 Days - 0 Night

Salkantay Treks

This full-day trek will take you and a small group to Humantay Lake, nestled below the famous Salkantay Mountain. Hike to one of Peru’s most magical lakes and be surrounded by the impressive Salkantay and Humantay Peaks. Enjoy a hot breakfast upon ...

From: USD 70 per person

Rainbow Mountain Trek 1 day

Rainbow Mountain Trek 1 day

1 Days - 0 Night

Rainbow Mountain Treks

Appreciate the natural Rainbow-like colors of the recently discovered Rainbow Mountain Trek, hiking through some secluded communities, in which you may interact with the indigenous people who are still keeping their ancient culture alive! You will s...

From: USD 97 per person

Cusco City Tour

Cusco City Tour Half Day

1 Days - 0 Night

Classic Day Tours

Cusco was the capital of the Inca Empire called Tawantinsuyu and is a living museum overflowing with our country’s history and culture. You can see the different stages of history from ancient times to the conquest up to modern days. There are nu...

From: USD 127 per person

Mountain Bike tour to Moray and Maras Salt Mines Day Tour

1 Days - 0 Night

Special Day Tours

Go for a bike ride off the beaten track and enjoy the fresh air stunning scenery of surrounding mountains, fresh air in while pedaling through the Sacred Valley to visit the unique agricultural terraces of Moray and the Salt Mines of Maras. ...

From: USD 57 per person

Sacsayhuaman and Pisac 1 Day Tour

1 Days - 0 Night

Special Day Tours

This day tour visits the famous archeological site of Sacsayhuaman, three more archeological sites near Cusco and the ancient town of Pisac! Sacsayhuaman with its impressive Inca military construction protected the northeastern part of Cusco from inv...

From: USD 179 per person

South Valley Tour: Tipon, Piquillacta and Andahuaylillas

0 Days - 0 Night

Classic Day Tours

This half day South Valley tour takes us to the unique archeological site of Tipon where we enjoy the impressive irrigation system of created by the Incas, then to Piquillacta where you discover the huge urban planning of the Wari culture. Next, we c...

From: USD 147 per person

Tour To Chinchero, Moray And Salt Mines Half-Day

0 Days - 0 Night

Classic Day Tours

This half day tour visits Chinchero, Moray & Maras Salt Mines. We will enjoy the stunning scenery of the Andes Mountains and the Sacred Valley. Visit the picturesque town of Chinchero and its colonial church, the agricultural Terraces in Mor...

From: USD 175 per person

Sacred Valley Tour with Moray and Salt Mines Included!

1 Days - 0 Night

Classic Day Tours

The Sacred Valley is a treasure trove of timeless ancient Inca archeological sites and stunning natural landscapes that will simply take your break away.  As you can imagine, agriculture presented a massive challenge for the Incas because of the cra...

From: USD 45 per person

Sacred Valley & Short Inca Trail

SACRED VALLEY + ATV TOUR (Pisac + Moray + Maras + Ollantaytambo)

1 Days - 0 Night

Classic Day Tours

The Sacred Valley is vast and stretches for miles with many small indigenous towns, Camelid farm, secluded weaving villages,  and ancient Inca Ruins including Pisac, Ollantaytambo and Urubamba. The tour starts at the massive Pisac ruins with its imp...

From: USD 150 per person

Travel Tips

Plan Ahead

Traveling to Peru in the peak season (June, July, August) requires a lot of planning several months in advance. This includes booking hotels in Cusco and Aguas Calientes (Machu Picchu), flights to/from Cusco, train tickets to/from Machu Picchu, Huayna Picchu tickets (limited to 400 and sell out weeks in advance) and Inca Trail permits if applicable.

Altitude Sickness

Altitude sickness is a common health concern for travelers arriving in Cusco. Acclimation varies widely by individual, but many people adjust within 24 to 48 hours. Minor symptoms include headache, fatigue, insomnia, and loss of appetite. Severe reactions to high elevations are rare and hard to predict.

Before you travel, ask your doctor about medications to prevent altitude sickness. During your stay in Cusco, keep hydrated, avoid heavy meals, and try the local remedy, coca leaf tea. If you’re planning to trek to higher elevations, plan to spend a few days acclimating in Cusco before beginning the journey.

What to Pack

Cusco day excursion checklist:

  • Bring a daypack with snug straps
  • Carry a bottle of water and stay hydrated
  • Camera or phone with charged batteries
  • Sweatshirt or jacket in case the temperature cools off
  • Extra soles to purchase any souvenirs that grab your attention or for tipping (at your discretion)

Dry season packing suggestions:

  • Wear light, comfortable clothes while you are out touring. Long-sleeve shirts and pants are recommended for extra protection from the sun.
  • Bring a wide brim hat, sunglasses, and sunblock. The sun is quite intense at Cusco’s high elevation.
  • Pack a cozy fleece or jacket. Temperatures in Cusco change drastically from day to night, especially during the peak dry season from June until August. If you need extra warmth, buy a handknit hat, mittens, and scarf at Mercado de San Pedro.

Rainy season packing suggestions:

  • Wearing the right clothes to stay dry can make the difference between an enjoyable experience and a wet, miserable one. Stick to wearing jeans indoors, and opt instead for long pants made of synthetic, quick-drying fabric while outside in the rain.
  • Pack an umbrella to using during day tours. Or, if you prefer, wear a rain poncho.

Best Place to Stay in Cusco

The best area to stay in Cusco is in the historic downtown, which has countless restaurants, museums, Inca ruins, and other top attractions within easy walking distance. Some of the city’s most charming hotels are an uphill walk from the Plaza de Armas in the San Blas neighborhood, which might not be the best option for anyone with physical limitations or concerned about overexerting themselves in the high elevation. Cusco accommodation ranges from backpacker party hostels, AirB&B, and comfortable hotels that include complimentary breakfast. Check out our preferred places to stay in the Hotels section above.

Getting Around Cusco

Walking is the best way to get around the historic center of Cusco. You can stroll from one side of the historic center to the other within 15 to 20 minutes. Around the Plaza de Armas you’ll find Cusco’s top attractions, restaurants, and nightlife options. The area around the main plaza is mostly flat, but the streets become steeply inclined when you walk toward the San Blas, San Cristobal, or Santa Ana neighborhoods.

How to Get from Cusco to Machu Picchu

Cusco is a 4-hour train trip from the Machu Picchu Station in Aguas Calientes. To catch the train in Cusco, you need to drive to the Poroy Station about 20 minutes from the city’s Plaza de Armas.
Travelers can also trek to Machu Picchu. Trekking packages are arranged so that you are picked up from your hotel in Cusco and then driven to the trailhead in the Sacred Valley. The iconic 4-day Inca Trail starts from KM 82 along the railway tracks in the Sacred Valley and is a 27 mi (44 km) journey on foot all the way to Machu Picchu’s Sun Gate.


You should spend at least two days exploring Cusco attractions in the city and its surroundings. If you are short on time, take a guided tour on the first day for a nice introduction to the city’s history and standout attractions like the Plaza de Armas, Coricancha Sun Temple, and Sacsayhuaman. On your second day, spend free time in Cusco exploring the city at your own pace as you adjust to the high elevation. Cusco is also a fantastic base, if you wish to travel to places like Puno, Bolivia or the Puerto Maldonaldo side of the Amazon Jungle.

Cusco is located at 11,155 ft (3,400 m) above sea level and altitude sickness is a common health concern. The elevation of Cusco is much higher than Machu Picchu (7,970 ft, or 2,430 m) and the Sacred Valley (6,730 – 9,800 ft, or 2,050 – 3,000 m).

Cusco is considered one of the safest cities in Peru. Standard travel precautions apply, and, like anywhere else in the world, you want to avoid making yourself a target for petty theft.

Some important safety precautions include:

  • Don’t carry large sums of money with you during the day. Carry what you’ll need for the day and leave cash and personal documents in your hotel room’s safety deposit box.
  • Don’t wear expensive or flashy jewelry.
  • Keep electronic devices tucked away in a purse or backpack or your hand.
  • Don’t hang bags on chair backs and take your wallet with you when you go to the bathroom.

Cusco has plenty of options to grab a souvenir. Most shops in the city’s historic center are concentrated on the main streets that branch out from the Plaza de Armas and Plaza Regocijo. Alpaca wool hats, gloves, and sweaters are among the most popular items to buy at local markets like San Pedro. If you’re looking for high quality authentic alpaca clothing and textiles, try Centre de Textile Tradicionales del Cusco (Avenida El Sol 603) or Kuna (Portal de Panes 127, Plaza de Armas). For silver jewelry, visit Esma Joyas (Calle Triunfo 393) or the established brand Ilaria (Portal Carrizos 258). For artisan goods, the streets Tandapata and Carmen Alto in Barrio San Blas are a great place to lose yourself in vintage and boutique shops. The best option for trinkets and textiles is the Centro Artesanal Cusco at the very end of Av. El Sol.

The easiest way to explore the Sacred Valley from Cusco is on a guided full day tour that picks you up and drops you off from your hotel. The principal stops include the archeological sites in Pisac and Ollantaytambo, as well as Moray and Maras Salt Mines. Sacred Valley is also a great place to venture on a solo day trip for some independent exploration.

For travelers short on time, a guided Cusco tour is the best way to take in the highlights of South America’s oldest continuously inhabited city. Group tours usually begin in the afternoon, visiting the Coricancha (Temple of the Sun) and the Cathedral. These two sites provide an introduction to the drama of Cusco’s history through its architecture, from the rise of the Inca Empire to its defeat by Spanish conquistadors and the building of a colonial city atop the ruins. Then drive into the countryside to see impressive archeological sites, including Sacsayhuaman.

Rainbow Mountain, or Vinicunca as it’s known by locals, has become a popular hike in the Cusco region. It’s possible to visit Rainbow Mountain in one (very long) day from Cusco or you can divide the trip into a two-day itinerary. While the hike isn’t very difficult and doesn’t have many steep inclines, Vinicunca is in a high elevation region (the highest part of the trail is 17,060 ft or 5,200 m) and you should spend time acclimating before starting the hike.

In Cusco, there are money exchange offices around the Plaza de Armas and on Avenida El Sol. Some hotels also offer this service. To exchange US dollars or Euros to Peruvian soles, you’ll need crisp bills with no blemishes of any kind. We recommend asking atleast 3 different places, sometimes they don´t always offer the same rate. Money with tiny rips, marks, and other defects will likely be rejected.

Cusco’s Alejandro Velasco Astete International Airport is located 3 miles (5 kilometers) southeast of the historic center and the Plaza de Armas. The Cusco airport code is CUZ. International travelers arriving in Peru almost always land in Lima, the country’s capital, and then take a 1.5 hour direct flight to Cusco. From the Cusco airport you can also fly to other popular southern Peru destinations including Puerto Maldonado (Amazon), Puno (Lake Titicaca), and Arequipa.

Flying is the most popular way to get to Cusco and onward to other destinations.

Flight times from Cusco include:

  • Cusco to Puno flight: 55 minutes non-stop.
  • Cusco to Puerto Maldonado flight: 1 hour non-stop
  • Cusco to Arequipa flight: 1 hour non-stop
  • Cusco to La Paz flight: 1 hour 10 minutes non-stop (Peru to Bolivia)
  • Cusco to Lima flight: 1 hour 30 minutes non-stop

Cusco is the jumping-off point not only for Machu Picchu, but other destinations in Peru:

  • Cusco to Aguas Calientes: ~ 4 hours by train
  • Cusco to Arequipa: ~ 340 mi (500 km) (9 hrs by car)
  • Cusco to Iquitos (Amazon): ~ 2 hours by plane, not possible to drive
  • Cusco to La Paz (Bolivia): ~ 400 mi (650 km) (12 hrs by car or a 2 hour direct flight)
  • Cusco to Lima: ~ 715 mi (1,150 km)
  • Cusco to Machu Picchu: ~ 4 hours by train
  • Cusco to Ollantaytambo (Sacred Valley): ~ 40 mi (60 km) (1hr 30 min drive)
  • Cusco to Pisac (Sacred Valley): ~ 21 mi (34 km) ( under an hour drive)
  • Cusco to Puerto Maldonado (Amazon): ~ 300 mi (480 km)
  • Cusco to Puno (Lake Titicaca): ~ 250 mi (400 km) (10 hrs bus or an hr flight)
  • Cusco to Rainbow Mountain: ~ 90 mi (140 km) ( better to do a tour)

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Christian B

10/10 Amazing experience

If you’re thinking about which agency to use, look no further- Ray and Jimmy went well above and beyond and made this a memorable, safe, fun, and professional experience.

Ray is the most knowledgeable guide I’ve ever had in any country for any excursion - during both the Short Inka Trail and the actual tour of Machu Picchu, Ray’s expertise shined through in his ability to give us a detailed background on every aspect of the history, climate, nature, flora, animals.. anything!

Likewise, Ray and Jimmy were truly the friendliest, kindest hosts that I could have imagined our group having.

Thank you both so much and I will definitely book with you again if (when) I come back!

Jan 2023 • Friends
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Matt A

Awesome experience!!

Did the 2 day Inca trail with Ray and Jimmy they were great and knowledgeable. Ray not only guided us along trail to Machu Picchu but also was an excellent photographer and taught us the history. It was a group of 10 and we had a great time. Even everything going on in Peru, we always felt in good hands.

Jan 2023 • Friends

Short Inca Trial (2-Day)

This tour was the perfect experience for our (group of 10) short trip to Peru. The trail was sometimes challenging, but the views and history made it all worth it. Ray and Jimmy were our guides and imparted sooo much knowledge about the history of Peru, Inca, and beyond. I would definitely recommend!

Jan 2023 • Friends
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Daniela Rabito

It was perfect! On the first day we had a great time exploring the Sacred Valley and see the main attractions and learn about the history of this beautiful place.

I would definitely recommend the short Inka trail, I think it was the best way to get to know Machu Picchu and the surrounding area. We arrived at Machu Picchu when most of the crowd was gone and it felt really special.

Abril 2023
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Brittany Skulkety

You won’t regret booking with this tour company, especially if Liz Montesinos is your guide. My boyfriend and I did the 4 day Sacred Valley, Machu Picchu and Rainbow Mountain (private) tour. The tour covered everything; from transportation, hotels, meals, tickets and entrance fees, to stops at local places we would’ve never known to go or check out. We did a private tour because for us we felt this would help us get the most out of our time and experience in Peru

Dic 2022
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Best mix of adventure, history and nature: Sacred Valley & Short Inca Trail to Machu Picchu

4-day trekking option seemed too intense for us, but we still wanted to experience the entrance to Machu Picchu through the ancient Inka trail, so we opted for Orange Nation’s combination of Sacred Valley & Short Inca Trail to Machu Picchu. I couldn’t be more happy about our decision.

Dic 2022
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We booked and paid the deposit to Orange Nation / Sam travel for the 4 day Inca Trail and Machu Pichu trip back in 2019. But we couldn't travel in 2020 and 2021 - but the company honoured our agreement and so we came back in 2022.

Dic 2022
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Brittany Nicole
icono recomment - Orange Nation recommends Orange Nation Peru

You won’t regret booking with this tour company, especially if Liz Montesinos is your guide. My boyfriend and I did the 4 day Sacred Valley, Machu Picchu and Rainbow Mountain (private) tour. The tour covered everything; from transportation, hotels, meals, tickets and entrance fees, to stops at local places we would’ve never known to go or check out. We did a private tour because for us we felt this would help us get the most out of our time and experience in Peru. This tour had so many incredible things and places packed into 4 days.

September 16, 2022
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Ray Besos
icono recomment - Orange Nation recommends Orange Nation Peru

My girl and i did the Machu Pichu trek tour with Orange Nation. It was seriously the most amazing experience that we'll never forget. Gorgeous views! The long trek was worth the amazing view. The tour guide was friendly and very knowledgeable. We considered other tours but chose Orange Nation because we liked the idea of smaller groups and this was definitely worth it. I will be using Orange Nation again next year when I come back to Peru!

November 29, 2018
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Juliet Julz
icono recomment - Orange Nation recommends Orange Nation Peru

Wow, what a wonderful trekking experience! My trip to Peru was amazing thanks to this awesome tour that i took with Orange Nation. I did multiple tours with this company. I'm a solo traveler and everyone in my group was always still friendly and did not make me feel left out. I loved going off the beaten track with this company. It's much better to pay extra to go off the path for the quality experience of this amazing guided tour They definitely helped guide us and gave us a quality experience with a small group and paid special attention to each one of us. I highly recommend using Orange Nation for your next tour in Peru!

November 29, 2018


cook of our food - Orange Nation

Orange nation

Has one of the most outstanding meal services. Our chefs have been highly trained to prepare the best peruavian and International food our treks. You should be prepared to not only have a superb trekking experience, but also a culinary one. "The food has been the highlight for all our hikers"

Chefs Orange Nation

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