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How To Spend 48 Hours In Cusco


Modified: December 28, 2023

by Rani Mcgarvey



Welcome to Cusco, the enchanting city nestled in the heart of the Peruvian Andes. With its rich history, vibrant culture, and stunning landscapes, Cusco is a must-visit destination for travelers seeking an authentic experience.


Once the capital of the mighty Inca Empire, Cusco is steeped in ancient history and archaeological wonders. From exploring the well-preserved ruins of Machu Picchu to wandering the cobblestone streets of the historic center, Cusco offers a captivating journey through time.


But Cusco is not just a city frozen in the past. It is a thriving metropolis that seamlessly blends tradition with modernity. As you navigate the bustling markets, sample exquisite Peruvian cuisine, and engage with the warm-hearted locals, you will discover the vibrant soul of Cusco.


In this guide, we will take you on a 48-hour journey through the highlights of Cusco. Whether you’re a history buff, an adventure seeker, or a culture enthusiast, this itinerary will ensure you make the most of your limited time in this remarkable city.


Let’s dive into the enchantment of Cusco and discover all the incredible experiences it has to offer.


Day 1: Exploring the Historic Center

Your adventure in Cusco begins in the historic center, a UNESCO World Heritage site packed with colonial architecture, charming plazas, and ancient ruins.


Start your day by visiting the iconic Plaza de Armas, the main square of Cusco. Marvel at the stunning architecture of the Cathedral Basilica, a breathtaking example of Spanish Renaissance style. Take a moment to soak in the atmosphere and admire the intricate craftsmanship on display.


Next, make your way to the Qorikancha, also known as the Temple of the Sun. Once the most important Inca temple, it was later transformed into a Spanish church. Explore the fascinating blend of Inca and Spanish architecture as you learn about the spiritual significance of this sacred site.


From there, venture into the San Blas neighborhood, known for its bohemian vibe and artistic flair. Wander through the narrow streets lined with charming boutiques, art galleries, and cozy cafes. Don’t miss the chance to visit the San Blas Church, famous for its intricately carved wooden pulpit.


After a morning of exploration, treat yourself to a delicious lunch at one of the many local restaurants in the area. Sample traditional Peruvian dishes like ceviche, lomo saltado, or ají de gallina. Pair your meal with a refreshing pisco sour, Peru’s national drink.


In the afternoon, visit the impressive Sacsayhuaman fortress, located just outside the city. Marvel at the massive stone walls and panoramic views of Cusco below. Take your time to explore the intricate Inca stonework and imagine the grandeur of this ancient structure.


As the sun starts to set, head back to the historic center and climb up to the overlooking vantage point of San Cristobal Church. From here, you’ll be rewarded with a breathtaking panoramic view of the city aglow with golden hues. Capture the magical moment with your camera and create lasting memories.


End your day with a leisurely stroll through the vibrant San Pedro Market. Immerse yourself in the sights, sounds, and aromas as you browse through the colorful array of fruits, vegetables, textiles, and handicrafts. Make sure to indulge in some local treats like churros or empanadas.


With the first day in Cusco coming to an end, take some time to relax and recharge for another exciting day ahead.


Day 2: Exploring the Sacred Valley

On your second day in Cusco, get ready to explore the breathtaking beauty of the Sacred Valley. This fertile valley, cradled by towering peaks and dotted with ancient Inca ruins, is a true testament to the ingenuity and engineering prowess of the Inca civilization.


Start your day early and make your way to Pisac, a charming town known for its vibrant artisan market and impressive Inca ruins. Explore the market, filled with colorful textiles, ceramics, and jewelry crafted by local artisans. Don’t forget to haggle for the best prices and bring home a unique souvenir.


Afterward, hike up to the Pisac ruins, perched on a mountainside overlooking the valley. Marvel at the terraces, temples, and intricate stone carvings that make up this archaeological wonder. Take in the panoramic views of the surrounding mountains and valleys, and let yourself be transported back in time to the heyday of the Inca Empire.


From Pisac, continue your journey to the picturesque town of Ollantaytambo. This well-preserved Inca fortress provides a glimpse into the strategic military and agricultural planning of the Inca civilization. Climb the steep terraces and explore the massive stone walls, appreciating the precision and skill with which they were constructed.


After exploring the ruins, take a leisurely stroll through the cobblestone streets of Ollantaytambo. Admire the Inca-inspired architecture and visit the local market, where you can sample delicious Andean snacks or buy handmade textiles.


In the afternoon, head to the town of Urubamba and indulge in a traditional Peruvian lunch at one of the local restaurants. Try a classic dish like rocoto relleno or alpaca steak, and savor the flavors of Peruvian cuisine.


After lunch, make your way to the town of Chinchero, known for its traditional weaving techniques. Visit a local textile cooperative and learn about the intricate process of creating textiles using age-old methods. Marvel at the vibrant colors and intricate designs, and perhaps even purchase a handmade piece as a lasting memento.


As the day draws to a close, take a moment to reflect on the awe-inspiring beauty of the Sacred Valley. From the ruins to the markets to the picturesque towns, this day will leave you with unforgettable memories and a deeper appreciation for the rich cultural heritage of Peru.


Where to Stay

When it comes to choosing accommodations in Cusco, you’ll find a range of options to suit every budget and preference. From luxurious hotels to cozy guesthouses, here are some of the top recommendations for where to stay in Cusco.


If you’re looking for luxury and comfort, consider staying in one of Cusco’s top-notch hotels. These establishments offer spacious rooms, excellent amenities, and impeccable service. Many luxury hotels are located in historical buildings, providing a unique blend of modern comforts and colonial charm. Some popular options include the Belmond Hotel Monasterio, Palacio del Inka, and JW Marriott El Convento Cusco.


For a more budget-friendly option, there are plenty of mid-range and boutique hotels to choose from. These accommodations often feature stylish décor, comfortable rooms, and convenient locations near the city center. Some recommendations include the Tierra Viva Cusco Plaza, Casa Andina Classic Cusco Plaza, and Hotel Rumi Punku.


If you prefer a more intimate and local experience, consider staying in a guesthouse or bed and breakfast. These charming accommodations are often family-run and offer personalized service. You’ll have the opportunity to connect with the local culture and get insider tips from the friendly hosts. Some popular guesthouses in Cusco include La Feria Boutique Hotel, La Casa de Mayte, and Casa de Campo.


Another option to consider is renting a vacation home or apartment. This can be a great choice for families or larger groups, as you’ll have the convenience of a fully-equipped kitchen and living space. Websites like Airbnb offer a variety of options ranging from cozy apartments to spacious villas.


When choosing your accommodations, it’s important to consider the location. Staying in the historical center of Cusco allows for easy access to major attractions, restaurants, and shops. However, if you prefer a quieter atmosphere, there are also accommodations available in the surrounding neighborhoods where you can still enjoy the beauty of Cusco while being a bit removed from the bustling city center.


Whichever option you choose, be sure to book your accommodations in advance, especially during peak travel seasons. Cusco is a popular destination, and availability can be limited, especially for top-rated hotels.


With a variety of accommodations to choose from, you’re sure to find the perfect place to rest and recharge after a day of exploring all that Cusco has to offer.


Where to Eat

Cusco is a culinary paradise, offering a wide range of gastronomic delights that will tantalize your taste buds and leave you craving for more. From traditional Peruvian dishes to international cuisine, here are some top recommendations on where to eat in Cusco.


If you’re looking to indulge in authentic Peruvian cuisine, head to the San Pedro Market. This bustling market is not only a feast for the eyes, but also a haven for food lovers. Sample the local street food vendors that offer a variety of dishes such as anticuchos (grilled skewers), ceviche (marinated seafood), and empanadas. Don’t forget to try the traditional Peruvian drink, chicha morada, made from purple corn.


For a memorable dining experience, make a reservation at one of Cusco’s renowned restaurants. Chicha by Gastón Acurio is a must-visit, offering innovative twists on traditional Peruvian dishes in a modern setting. Another popular choice is Limo, which combines Peruvian flavors with Asian influences. If you’re craving vegetarian or vegan options, Green Point is a fantastic choice, serving up creative and delicious plant-based dishes.


For those seeking a taste of international cuisine, Cusco has plenty of options to satisfy your cravings. Jack’s Café is a beloved spot known for its hearty breakfasts, tasty burgers, and freshly baked goods. If you’re in the mood for Italian food, Trattoria Adriano serves up mouthwatering pasta dishes and wood-fired pizza. And if you’re craving sushi, Kion Sushi Bar offers a wide selection of fresh and delicious sushi rolls.


Don’t forget to try the local specialty, roasted guinea pig, known as cuy. This traditional dish is a delicacy in the Andean region and can be found in various restaurants in Cusco. One popular spot to try cuy is Inka Grill, where they specialize in traditional Peruvian dishes with a modern twist.


For a truly unique culinary experience, consider taking a cooking class in Cusco. Here, you can learn to prepare traditional Peruvian dishes using fresh, local ingredients. Classes often include a visit to a local market to learn about the different ingredients used in Peruvian cuisine, followed by hands-on cooking instruction and a delicious meal to savor.


When dining in Cusco, it’s important to keep in mind that the tap water is not drinkable. It’s advisable to drink bottled water and avoid consuming raw fruits and vegetables that may have been washed in tap water.


With its diverse culinary scene, Cusco offers something to satisfy every palate. Explore the local markets, indulge in Peruvian delicacies, and savor the unique flavors that make Cusco’s food scene truly remarkable.


Must-See Attractions

Cusco is a city filled with captivating attractions that showcase its rich history and cultural heritage. From ancient ruins to colonial architecture, here are some must-see attractions in Cusco that you won’t want to miss.


Machu Picchu is undoubtedly the top highlight of any visit to Cusco. This UNESCO World Heritage site is an architectural marvel and one of the New Seven Wonders of the World. Take a train or hike the Inca Trail to reach this breathtaking site and explore the well-preserved ruins of this ancient Inca citadel. Marvel at the intricate stonework, stunning terraces, and panoramic views of the surrounding mountains.


The historic center of Cusco itself is a treasure trove of attractions. Start by exploring the Plaza de Armas, the main square, with its impressive Cathedral Basilica and the Church of La Compañía de Jesús. Wander through the narrow, cobblestone streets of San Blas and admire the colonial architecture, art galleries, and handicraft shops. Don’t miss the opportunity to visit the Qorikancha, the Temple of the Sun, to witness the incredible fusion of Inca and Spanish architecture.


Just outside of Cusco lies the fortress of Sacsayhuaman, a remarkable archaeological site. Marvel at the massive stone walls and admire the intricate craftsmanship of the Inca stonework. From its elevated position, you’ll also be treated to panoramic views of Cusco.


Another must-see attraction is the Sacred Valley, a picturesque region dotted with ancient Inca ruins and traditional Andean villages. Visit Pisac to explore its impressive ruins and vibrant artisan market. In Ollantaytambo, discover well-preserved Inca terraces and fascinating archaeological sites. Maras is famous for its intricately formed salt pans, a unique sight to behold.


For history enthusiasts, a visit to the Museum of Pre-Columbian Art is highly recommended. Located in a stunning colonial house, this museum houses a remarkable collection of pre-Columbian artifacts, including ceramics, textiles, and metalwork, giving insight into the ancient cultures that thrived in the region.


Finally, take the time to visit the colorful neighborhood of San Pedro and explore its bustling market. Discover a vibrant array of fruits, vegetables, spices, handicrafts, and traditional Peruvian street food. Immerse yourself in the lively atmosphere and get a taste of the local culture.


These are just a few of the many must-see attractions in Cusco. Each one offers a unique glimpse into the city’s fascinating history and extraordinary natural beauty. Explore these gems and create unforgettable memories of your time in Cusco.


Getting Around

Navigating Cusco and its surrounding areas is relatively easy, with a variety of transportation options available to suit your needs. Here’s a guide on getting around in Cusco:


Walking is one of the best ways to explore the historic center of Cusco. The city is compact and pedestrian-friendly, with many attractions located within a short distance of each other. Walking allows you to soak in the charm of the cobblestone streets, discover hidden gems, and have a more intimate experience with the city.


Taxis are a convenient mode of transportation in Cusco, especially if you’re traveling with luggage or if you’re short on time. Official taxis are usually safe and can be found at designated taxi stands or hailed on the street. It’s always a good idea to negotiate the fare upfront or ensure that the meter is used. Ride-sharing services like Uber and Didi are also available in Cusco, providing an additional option for convenient and reliable transportation.


If you’re looking for a more immersive and eco-friendly way to explore the city, consider renting a bicycle. Several bike rental shops in Cusco offer a range of bicycles for different skill levels. Cycling allows you to venture beyond the city center and discover hidden trails, ruins, and breathtaking viewpoints.


For longer journeys or to explore the surrounding areas, public transportation provides a cost-effective option. Buses and colectivos (shared vans) operate between Cusco and nearby towns and attractions. They can be crowded but offer a unique opportunity to interact with locals and immerse yourself in the Peruvian way of life. Make sure to inquire about the schedule and the specific destination before boarding.


If you’re planning to visit Machu Picchu, you can choose to take a train from Cusco to Aguas Calientes, the gateway town to the iconic ruins. The train journey offers stunning views of the Andean landscapes and is a comfortable and convenient option. Alternatively, for the more adventurous, you can opt to hike the Inca Trail or choose one of the alternative trekking routes available.


It’s important to note that Cusco sits at an altitude of over 3,000 meters (9,800 feet), so it’s advisable to take it easy and acclimatize to the altitude before engaging in strenuous activities. Drink plenty of water, avoid excessive alcohol consumption, and listen to your body’s needs.


With its compact size and the variety of transportation options available, getting around in Cusco is a breeze. Choose the mode of transportation that best suits your needs and get ready to explore all the wonders this captivating city has to offer.


Essential Tips for Visiting Cusco

Planning a trip to Cusco? Here are some essential tips to make your visit smooth and enjoyable:


1. Acclimate to the Altitude: Cusco sits at a high altitude, so it’s important to take it easy upon arrival. Allow yourself a day or two to acclimate before engaging in strenuous activities. Drink plenty of water and avoid excessive alcohol consumption to help prevent altitude sickness.


2. Pack Layers: The weather in Cusco can be unpredictable, with chilly mornings and warm afternoons. Pack layers of clothing to accommodate the changing temperatures throughout the day. Don’t forget a good pair of walking shoes as well for exploring the city’s cobblestone streets.


3. Stay Hydrated: Due to the high altitude, it’s important to stay hydrated. Drink plenty of water throughout the day to avoid dehydration and altitude-related discomfort. It’s advisable to carry a reusable water bottle with you and fill it up as needed.


4. Dress Respectfully: When visiting religious sites or entering churches in Cusco, it’s important to dress modestly and respectfully. Avoid wearing revealing clothing and be mindful of cultural norms when visiting sacred sites.


5. Take Precautions with Food and Water: To avoid stomach issues, it’s best to consume bottled water and eat at reputable restaurants. Avoid street food that may not be properly cooked or prepared. If you’re unsure about the food safety, stick to hot, freshly cooked meals.


6. Protect Yourself from the Sun: The sun in Cusco can be intense, especially at higher altitudes. Apply sunscreen with a high SPF, wear a hat, and use sunglasses to protect yourself from harmful UV rays. Don’t forget to reapply sunscreen throughout the day.


7. Carry Cash: While credit and debit cards are widely accepted in many establishments, it’s always good to have some cash on hand, especially when visiting smaller shops, markets, or when paying for transportation. Don’t forget to notify your bank before traveling to ensure smooth transactions.


8. Respect the Culture: Cusco is a city rich in culture and traditions. Respect local customs and traditions, and ask for permission before taking photos of individuals or religious ceremonies. Engage with the local community respectfully and be open to learning about their customs and way of life.


9. Plan Ahead for Machu Picchu: If you plan to visit Machu Picchu, it’s advisable to book your tickets in advance, especially during peak travel seasons. The number of daily visitors is limited, so securing your ticket beforehand is essential. Additionally, consider hiring a knowledgeable guide to enhance your experience and learn more about the history and significance of this iconic site.


10. Stay Mindful of Altitude Sickness: Altitude sickness can affect individuals differently. If you experience symptoms such as headaches, dizziness, or shortness of breath, rest and take it easy. Drink coca tea, a traditional remedy, and consider using oxygen tanks or medication if necessary. If symptoms persist or worsen, seek medical attention.


By keeping these essential tips in mind, you’ll be well-prepared to navigate Cusco’s unique challenges and make the most of your visit to this remarkable city.



Cusco is a city that captures the hearts of all who visit. From its rich history and cultural heritage to its stunning natural landscapes, Cusco offers a truly unforgettable experience. Whether you’re exploring the ancient ruins, immersing yourself in the vibrant markets, or indulging in the delicious cuisine, there is something for everyone in this enchanting city.


From the moment you set foot in the historic center, you’ll be transported back in time. The cobblestone streets, colonial architecture, and Inca ruins serve as constant reminders of the city’s illustrious past. As you navigate the charming neighborhoods and interact with the warm-hearted locals, you’ll discover the true essence of Cusco.


Venture beyond the city limits, and you’ll find yourself immersed in the natural wonders of the Sacred Valley. From the majestic fortress of Sacsayhuaman to the terraced ruins of Pisac and the picturesque town of Ollantaytambo, the Sacred Valley offers a breathtaking journey through the ancient Inca civilization.


As you explore the abundance of attractions, be sure to savor the delicious flavors of Peruvian cuisine. From traditional dishes like ceviche and lomo saltado to international delights to satisfy any palate, Cusco is a culinary paradise.


But Cusco is more than just its attractions and cuisine – it’s a city that leaves a lasting impression on the soul. It’s the warmth of the people, the vibrant colors, the mystical air, and the indescribable energy that make Cusco a truly special place.


So, pack your bags, lace up your walking shoes, and embark on an adventure of a lifetime in Cusco. Let the city captivate you with its history, enchant you with its culture, and leave you with memories that will last a lifetime. Cusco awaits, ready to take you on a journey you’ll never forget.