While Cusco is primarily a base camp for those going to the infamous Machu Picchu, it’s also a vibrant destination in itself. But first, let’s talk a bit about the beauty that is Machu Picchu.
- We did a tour to get to Machu Picchu, which was stupid. Don’t do a tour. You can catch a van going the few hours through twisting mountains from Cusco to Aguas Caliente, the colorful town at the base of Machu Picchu. The van will actually drop you at the hydroelectric plant, and from there you walk the couple miles into Aguas Caliente. There’s also a train, but the walk is easy and pretty and free so why wouldn’t you? Just follow the train tracks into town!
- In Aguas Caliente are countless hostels and hotels. I’d recommend getting into town one day then going up to Macchu the next to give yourself some time to rest. We only spent one night here, but I could have spent another day exploring.
- You can either hike up Machu Picchu or take the bus from Aguas Caliente to the top. I’m usually all for hiking, but that is a hike. We bussed it up and hiked back down.
- If you’re all about getting passport stamps, I believe you can get it stamped at the entrance to Machu.
- You won’t need the whole day to see Machu Picchu, a few hours tops. But definitely find a spot away from the crowds, and spend some time just sitting and relaxing while you’re up at the top. Because it really is something else.
Other things I did and loved in Cusco:
- Spend some time exploring the historical district of Cusco around the Plaza de Armas.
- Stay at the Loki Hostel! Resembling a fortress of sorts, this hostel has a great atmosphere, a hectic bar, cheap food, and a ridiculous bunch of people working as bar staff. It’s just a great time and you won’t want to leave.
Things to eat in Cusco:
- Green Point has some PARTY-FOR-YOUR-TASTEBUDS-good vegetarian food that herbivores and omnivores alike will love.
- Cafe Morena Peruvian Kitchen is just real good food. Real. Good.
- Try the street food! Any of the main squares will have a number of vendors set up selling chicken and rice dishes. Way cheap, way tasty.
Get in, around, and out of Cusco:
- You can catch an overnight bus from most major cities (Arequipa, La Paz, even Lima). Learn all about Peruvian busses in this post.
- If you’re heading to or coming from Lima, while there is a (loooooong) bus, there are also affordable inter-country flights.
Things to note:
- Cusco sits at a pretty high altitude of 3,400 meters. If you’re from an area of lower elevation, you’re more prone to altitude sickness which can really knock you out of the game. Try to avoid flying straight to Cusco from lower elevation, take it easy on your first few days in town, and be sure to stay hydrated (i.e. don’t party too hard while you’re here).