2022 Updated Information about the best things to do in Cusco, with a huge option of incredible activities, attractions and day trips!
Spending at least one day in Cusco is one of the best things you can do when visiting Peru. Most people come to Cusco for its proximity to Machu Picchu. However, Cusco has a rich history and the touristy city is more than just a gateway to Machu Picchu. If you’re in the region and short on time, these are some of the best things to do with one day in Cusco.
Many travelers spend much longer than one day in Cusco. The cobbled streets are simply overflowing with incredible things to see, do and experience. You can easily spend weeks here, but for those who are short on time, here are some of the best things to do with one day in Cusco (in no particular order)!
A must-do for anyone going to Cusco is a visit to the Plaza de Armas. Right in the heart of Cusco, Plaza de Armas is the city’s main square. Home to the Cathedral Basilica and the Church La Compañía de Jesús, the square is a historic symbol of the mighty Incan Empire.Today, apart from the beautiful view, the Plaza has a wide variety of restaurants offering both international and traditional Peruvian food. There you can find everything from traditional cuy and alpaca steaks, to pizza, all the way to gourmet burgers and everything in between.
If you are looking for something special or unique as a gift for someone, then consider walking down to San Pedro Market. Although not too far from the Plaza de Armas, the San Pedro Market is a completely different experience.
The thick aroma of spices and food fills the air and draws you into the market. A trip here can take up a whole afternoon, but the time spent exploring the market is well worth the visit.
You can find everything from food to alpaca blankets, fresh smoothies, an infinite amount of fruit, sandwiches, as well as loads of trinkets to take as a gift or souvenir back home.
A visit to Coricancha, otherwise known as “sun temple”, will offer you one of the most interesting sights in Cusco. Coricancha was once a lavish Incan temple that was lined with silver and gold. Interestingly, as the Inca never had a written language there is no correct spelling. Accepted spellings include Coricancha, Koricancha, and Quaricancha.
When the Spanish came, they ravaged the temple of its riches and destroyed it, building a church on top of its ruins. The stark contrast between the Incan temple and the church foundations draws visitors from all places and is one of the best things to do and see in Cusco.
If you are interested in space and all that lies beyond, then stopping by the Cusco Planetarium is a great option when in Cusco.
Astrology played a big role in the lives of the ancient Inca. Not only did they devise a calendar to coincide with solstices, but astrology influenced their ceremonies and even their architecture, examples of this can be seen all over Cusco.
At the planetarium, you’ll learn more about the history between astrology and the Inca. In addition, you’ll also have one of the most amazing views of the stars thanks to Cusco’s high elevation and the low light pollution at the planetarium’s location.
Even if your time is limited, worry not! You can still quickly visit Machu Picchu and discover why it’s one of the Seven Wonders of the World. The visit is made possible by the train that connects Cusco to Aguas Calientes, the gateway to Machu Picchu. The tour starts early in the morning; however, you can expect a full day of breath-taking scenery during your journey.
If you do you have though, we suggest a 2-day tour to Machu Picchu or a trek such as Salkantay Trek.
The stunning rainbow-colored mountain is located just three and a half hours outside of Cusco and has captivated visitors since its discovery. Locals and travelers from all over the world visit Rainbow Mountain (also known as Vinicunca), each year to be amazed by the colorful sediment and capture images of the beautiful landscape.
Although challenging, only one day is required to take on the Rainbow Mountain trek making it the perfect adventure for those short on time.
Operator Rainbow Mountain Travels offers tours to see the beautiful Rainbow Mountain. A highly trusted operator with years of excellent experience. Make sure to check them out if you plan on visiting Rainbow Mountain!
One of the best places to visit and things to do is going by the old Incan fortress Sacsayhuamán. This massive structure of ruins was once a mighty fortress but was destroyed by the invading Spaniards.
The massive stones that remain of the fortress walls give a glimpse of the immensity of the ancient structure. Rich with history, walking through the ruins is a great way to see the Inca and the Spanish colliding worlds.
Often called the bohemian or artisan neighborhood, the San Blas district is full of old-world charm. The area is lined with quaint shops and buildings with stunning architecture.
The area is only a small walk from the Plaza de Armas, so it’s great for spending time in the city if you only have a short time to visit. You’ll find small shops and galleries that line the streets. You can also find a number of gifts and souvenirs, and the product quality is slightly higher than those in the Plaza de Armas.
Make your way up the hill to San Blas Plaza, where you’ll be able to enjoy more delicious food and shopping. A stroll through the neighborhood is definitely one of the best things to do in Cusco in one day.
If you are looking for a fun night on the town, then look no further than Wild Rover. The popular party spot is located on the hill of Cusco and is known as the place to go for a good time and an incredible view.
As one of the best bars in Cusco, the bar is known to get wild, and a great place to get a buzz going before heading out to one of Cusco’s many incredible nightclubs.
Museo de Arte Precolombino or, Museum of Pre-Columbian Art, is found in the San Blas District and a great thing to do in Cusco. With one day, you ‘ll have more than enough time to really explore the many exhibits on display.
The extensive collection of artwork encompasses a time period of 1250 BC to 1532 AD. As one of the best collections of its type, it’s worth the time to stop and see the stunning exhibits.
Being able to spend a week or two relaxing and exploring in Cusco would be truly amazing. However, even if you only have one day in Cusco, you still have plenty of options for awesome activities and tours that you can do. While there are some activities that require you to have transportation, there almost always a solution.
Ready to start planning your trip to Cusco? Make sure to check out our hop-on, hop-off passes going in multiple directions to find your perfect adventure through some of the main destinations and hot spots in Peru, including Cusco.