Cusco (Spelled Qosqo in Quechua and translates to the “belly button of the world”) is a welcoming and charming city. In 1983, Cusco has declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO.
Cusco is located at 3400m (11200 feet) above sea level and has a relatively dry and temperate climate. There are many interesting tourist sites to visit and it is the gateway to Machu Picchu, which was declared in 2007 as one on the seven wonders of the modern world.
Visitors often talk about the altitude sickness they experience. When you travel to places located at a high altitude, like Cusco, there is less oxygen in the air and your body needs to work harder to get air. Every person reacts differently to the change in altitude. If your body does not adapt quickly, you may experience headaches, nausea, stomach pain, and/or shortness of breath your first day. If you feel these symptoms, take it easy, and try not to exert a lot of energy. Eat light meals and drink coca leaf tea or muña which can help you adjust to the altitude and alleviate these symptoms.
Always bring a coat. Even in the summer, the mornings and evenings can get very cold. The weather might be beautiful and very sunny, but it can suddenly change to be very cloudy and windy. Wherever you go, always have layers to put on or take off for the sudden change in weather.
Colorful blankets, paintings, sweaters, scarves, chullos (traditional hats) are everywhere. There are street venders that sell them in the Plaza De Armas (the main square), in San Pedro Market, and in the various fairs, markets, and shops throughout the city. There are also many amazing artisanal markets located in the places you will visit on the tours offered through our agency.
In Cusco it is possible to eat very well and spend very little money. In Cusco, you will find a little bit of all types of food. No matter what type of food you like, you will feel at home because there is such a wide variety of restaurants. Near the Plaza de Armas there are excellent restaurants with beautiful views, but they are a little more expensive because it is such a touristy area. If you want to experience a local restaurant, walk through the small stone streets as you walk up to the San Blas neighborhood or around San Pedro Market. Around these areas, you will find restaurants that Cusqueñans frequently eat in and the food there is very cheap. At many restaurants, you will find “tourist menus” for less than $10. These menus often include soup or another appetizer, the main course (called “Segundo” here), and a drink. In the more touristy restaurants, the portions are usually smaller, but in the local restaurants, the portions are very large. In most restaurants in Cusco, the tip is not added to the bill. If you want, you can leave a tip that you think is fair for the service, usually around 10% (the Spanish word for tip is propane, pronounced propene).
Alpaca and Cuy (our pig from India) are the traditional meats eaten in Cusco and you will find many different dishes in restaurants with them. Chicken is also eaten frequently here and there are many delicious chicken dishes as well. However, if you are a vegetarian do not worry! There are many vegetarian restaurants throughout the city that serve delicious food and even most regular restaurants have a large variety of vegetarian dishes.
It is very easy to find places to exchange your money in Cusco. In Spanish, they are called “Casas de Cambio”. You can find many places located on Avenida El Sol, in the Plaza de Armas, and on Avenida Santa Catalina. You do not need to worry about finding places to exchange money because there are a ton. There are usually 3-13 cent differences in exchange rates between places.
Tourist Ticket (Boleta touristica)
Also known as BTC, this ticket allows you to enter some of the tourist places in the city. There are two different types of tourist tickets: the full ticket (integral) and a partial ticket (parcial).
The full tourist ticket costs 130 soles and is valid for 10 days and allows you to enter 16 archeological and cultural sites in Cusco, including Sacsayhuaman Archaeological Park, the South Valley of Cusco, and the many ruins sites located in the Sacred Valley of the Incas.
It also includes your entrance into:
- Regional Historical Museum
- Museum of Contemporary Art
- Museum of Popular Art
- Museum of Qorikacha
- Centro Qosko de Arte Nativo
- Monument of the Incan Pachacutec
The partial tourist ticket costs 70 soles. It is valid for one day and based on your interests, you can choose between the three available circuit options. If you are only in Cusco for a short time, the partial ticket is a good alternative.