Any trip to Peru is incomplete without a visit to Cusco. This mountaintop city is the gateway to Machu Picchu and is the perfect stopover for a few days of adjusting to the altitude prior to your climb. The city also has a lot of character, and offers many more quality dining options than Aguas Calientes, where you stay to visit Machu Picchu. My favorite part of the city was the two boutique hotels that we stayed in, which were both vastly different and absolutely lovely in their own right. Read on for my travel guide to Cusco!
Check out my Instagram hashtag #caro_in_peru for photos from my trip!
Where To Stay
We bookended our trip to Machu Picchu on both sides with stays in Cusco, and decided to stay in different hotels each way because there were so many great options. Antigua Casona San Blas has a bit more of a rustic feel, with a lovely central courtyard with a big fire pit. It was all rich wood and classic Peruvian, colorful accents, with a huge comfy bed and really great breakfast. El Mercado had much more of a modern, playful, and whimsical feel to it. We loved the little bar there, which has an assortment of games so you can play a hand of Uno while you sip your pisco sour before dinner (although be very careful while drinking in the altitude). Both hotels were centrally located and walking distance from the main plaza and dining options.
Where To Eat
Morena Peruvian Kitchen – My absolute favorite meal in Cusco, this lovely dinner spot was both gorgeously decorated and insanely delicious. Request to sit downstairs, and enjoy craft cocktails such as purple corn pisco and do not by any means miss the quinoa stiry fry.
Cicciolina – Sit at the bar at this small plates spot and enjoy an ice cold Cusquena. It’s a bit difficult to find, as it’s on the second floor above a string of shops, so remember to look for the stairs. We also loved the alpaca filet entree here (when in Peru, right?).
What To Do
Plaza de Armas – The beating heart of Cusco, this stunning square should be your first stop when walking around and exploring Cusco. It showcases two gorgeous churches that were built by European missionaries and is rich in architecture and history.
Mercado Central de San Pedro – This incredible local market was hands-down my favorite part of visiting Cusco. The sights, smells, and explosion of activity gave such a great sense of the local people and culture. I highly recommend doing tour of the market with Faces of Cusco, a local travel company that will walk you through the market and give you the inside scoop on the goods there and the people who sell them.