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Cusco + Chinchero, Peru

Updated: May 26, 2023

Guide to make the most of it and to prepare you for the explorations you will do later. We often visit Cusco to start our adventure in the Sacred Valley of the Inca, towards the great city of Machu Picchu, among others.


Cusco, Peru


Everyone suggests staying a few days in Cusco to get accustomed to altitude sickness, which is common in countries along the Andes mountain range. Cusco is the portal that leads to the Sacred Valley of the Incas (Valle Sagrado) and Machu Picchu, this region all rising around 2500 to 4200 meters above sea level.


If you do one of the treks such as the “Inca Trail” or the “Salkantay”, I actually suggest that you get used to Cusco and its surroundings for a few days, you will find your trek more pleasant. Anyway, it is very easy to stay a few days in this region, because it is truly magnificent, almost magical! Please don't immediately rush to Machu Picchu (without taking anything away from this attraction), you will have missed a lot of the most incredible things to see in Peru.


And if you are pressed for time and you don't have 5-7 days to spare before going to Machu Picchu, I really hope that the altitude sickness will not affect you too much. It’s possible… See my separate post on altitude sickness and its effective remedies.


Some attractions of the city of Cusco


All this being said, you are ready to explore Cusco. What I like about this city is its colonial aspect and the color of the stone streets that match the buildings. You will be satisfied only by sightseeing in Cusco. Local pride shines through in its Plaza de Armas (Plaza de Armas), which is definitely the place to see first in Cusco. A little further, there is the San Pedro market, where you can do your shopping of all kinds and also get coca leaf, among other things, and also the Plaza San Francisco, which has a little charm.


Plaza de Armas (Place d'armes) Cusco, Pérou
Plaza de Armas (Plaza de Armas) Cusco, Peru

You will have the opportunity to go to several miradors which will give you a very beautiful view of the city. Indeed Cusco is in the center of a valley like in several cities in South America, I am thinking of La Paz or Medellin which offer great views of the city. We tried every day not to do too much at once, so as not to give each other too much headache. The mirador of Plaza San Cristobal was very pleasant, and, once rested, continue a little higher towards the famous mirador Cristo Blanco, showing a statue of Christ almost identical to that of Rio de Janeiro... But above all, you will be great location for the most beautiful photos of Cusco.


Mirador Cristo Blanco, Cusco, Pérou
Mirador Cristo Blanco, Cusco, Peru

There is also a very popular attraction called "the 12-angled stone" (Piedra de los 12 ángulos), to be honest with you if you don't see it, it's not that bad. What is interesting in fact, with this stone corridor, is to know that the oldest foundations of Cusco are of Inca culture. This is why the city is, in my opinion, tinged with history, wherever you look! Apparently this stone would support the whole monument. We will talk again about the mysteries of Inca architecture in Ollantaytambo or Moray.


Cusco, departure point for several other attractions


Cusco is the best location to book several very popular tours, so you'll probably want to take some time to shop around for them. In 2014, I did the Inca Trail (Camino Inca) trek. It is better to book it in advance on the Internet, because obviously it is one of the most popular treks in the world, with good reason.


It is also the starting point if you want to do the Rainbow Mountain trek (Montañas de los 7 colores / Vinicunca).


Favorite: CHINCHERO


If you want to get off the beaten track and really feel like a foreigner and not a tourist, visit the small village of Chinchero, 50 minutes from Cusco, near Lake Piuray, definitely my favorite near Cusco. You will discover its ruins there which are really spectacular (Centro Arqueológico de Chinchero), we were pleasantly surprised.


Centro Arqueológico de Chinchero, Pérou
Centro Arqueológico de Chinchero, Peru

Money saving tip:

Get the Boleto Turistico del Cusco, which includes entry to 16 tourist sites in the region, including Ollantaytambo, Moray and Chinchero which are definitely worth it. The price is between $22 (valid for 2 days) to $42 (valid for 10 days), depending on your plans. Just ask for it at the ticket office.


We discovered Chinchero thanks to an Airbnb experience, which allowed us to sleep in this village where only Quechua (a popular indigenous language of Peru) was spoken.

We therefore made this extraordinary place our base camp to subsequently explore neighboring towns such as Urubamba and the attractions of Moray and the Salines de Maras (Salineras de Maras). The place is called Cabañas Lago Piuray, if you want to know about this experience. You will definitely feel invigorated by nature and by the beauty of the sunset over Lake Piuray; by the tranquility of the countryside.


Vue des montagne au Lago Piuray, Pérou
View of mountains at Lago Piuray, Peru

A life lesson will be taught to you by observing the women working in the fields; knowing that your host walks more than 3 hours a day to get to work. You will feel several discomforts due to the language barrier (Quechua) but these experiences will change your thinking. The fact remains that we would have really liked to interrogate our 80-year-old neighbor who watched her chickens and a few kittens all day; or with this lady who was spinning llama wool with one hand while walking and trying to engage us in a discussion in the street. It gives a strange impression because we manage rather well in Spanish. This kind of situation has made us more aware of the lands that the Peruvian first nations lost during the Spanish conquest, and that this is an event that is relatively recent. Obviously, impossible to be able to ask them how they felt with all this and satisfy our curiosity, and this is perhaps what is most disappointing when you think of the language barrier.


Chinchero, Pérou
Chinchero, Peru

We expanded our comfort zone by walking to the nearby village called Umasbamba, where the locals definitely wondered what would bring us there. Not much really, except a little authenticity, perhaps. We philosophized about it while drinking a Cusqueña, sitting in front of a tienda. At that time, the owner had been resourceful and kind by getting us two patio chairs so that we could enjoy our purchase, because obviously, there are no bars or restaurants there! We projected this village in ten years. The place is so magnificent, that perhaps an enlightened gringo will decide to base a ''Shanti Shanti'' youth hostel there...? We obviously wished not and hope this place stays isolated from the tourist madness forever so other explorers like us can have the experience we had.



Mirador Cristo Blanco, Cusco, Pérou
Mirador Cristo Blanco, Cusco, Peru







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