Explore the gateway to the Incas in Cusco, Peru

Machu Picchu
My boyfriend and I are planning a trip to Peru in October to trek the Inca Trail. We have been told that we need to be in Cusco at least three days in advance of starting the trek to adjust to the altitude. Do you have any advice on things to do in Cusco over the three days?

My boyfriend and I are planning a trip to Peru in October to trek the Inca Trail. We have been told that we need to be in Cusco at least three days in advance of starting the trek to adjust to the altitude. Do you have any advice on things to do in Cusco over the three days?

Firstly, let me start by saying that three days in Cusco will fly by. As the gateway to the infamous Inca site, Machu Picchu, Cusco is almost always included in the itinerary of any traveler exploring South America. Cusco sits at an elevation of 11,200 feet (3,400 metres) and the altitude can become a problem for unsuspecting tourists who are not prepared for it. Arriving in Cusco at least three days before embarking on your trek will allow you to avoid headaches, nausea and the other nasty symptoms of altitude sickness and will give you plenty of time to relax and enjoy this historic city.

The good news is that Cusco is a compact city and can be easily explored on foot. Its focal point is Plaza de Armas, a landscaped square in the heart of the city. Translated as “Square of the warrior”, this breathtaking square is the perfect place to begin your walking tour. It is home to two of the city’s main attractions, the main cathedral and the Church of La Compañía, both of which warrant a visit. Don’t miss the “12 Cornered Stone” just off the square. The wall is a famous feat of Inca engineering – you won’t even be able to fit a blade of grass between the stones!

Finish off your day with a trip to one of Cusco’s many restaurants. Jack’s Café, which is a 10 minute walk from the square, is a favourite with Westerners for its menu. Cusco is infamous for its nightlife so ask your host to point you in the right direction and enjoy a night on the town.

On day two, I would recommend taking a trip outside of the city centre. The walled complex of Sacsayhuaman can be found in the northern outskirts of the city and is believed to date back to approx. 1100AD.  The site is at an altitude of over 3,700m and is on the UNESCO World Heritage List. It is often referred to as a fortress and the views from here are breathtaking.

Finally, the highlight of any trip to Cusco is a visit to the ancient city of Machu Picchu. Your reward for completing the four day Inca trail will be arriving at this historic site as the early morning sun rises. For the non-trekkers amongst us, there are plenty of tour options available for visiting Machu Picchu, so just pick one to suit your pocket and schedule.

Where to stay

Hotel Monasterio (*****)

Prices start from €292 per room per night on Hotels.com

*Prices are subject to availability at the time of booking

Hotel Monasterio is a tranquil hideaway at the heart of bustling Cusco among all the top cultural attractions, markets, lively restaurants and cafes. This former monastery, built on old Inca walls, is rich with charm and history. Local antiques and 16th-century paintings decorate magnificent interiors that include a gilded baroque chapel

Terra Andina Hotel (****)

Prices start from €58 per room per night on Hotels.com

*Prices are subject to availability at the time of booking

This converted colonial mansion is just 200 metres from Cusco Train Station and four blocks from the city’s main square. All of Terra Andina’s rooms feature pure cotton linen, cable TV and free Wi-Fi.

Hotel Unumizu (***)

Prices start from €50 per room per night on Hotels.com

*Prices are subject to availability at the time of booking

Hotel Unumizu is located just 800 metres from the Plaza de Armas and 600 metres from Wanchaq Train Station. Guest rooms are comfortable and modern and the hotel offers rooms with free Wi-Fi and plasma TV’s.

Casa Andina Private Collection Cusco (****)

Prices start from €145 per room per night on Hotels.com

*Prices are subject to availability at the time of booking

Located in central Cusco overlooking Limacpampa Square, Casa Andina has traditional courtyard facing bedrooms complete with free Wi-Fi. The hotel is only a short walk from Plaza de Armas and Koricancha.

*All prices are subject to availability at the time of booking

For more information and travel tips on planning your holiday visit www.Hotels.com or call 1800 55 3338 to wake up happy on your holiday!