How to Spend 3 Days in Cusco
With three days based in Cusco, you have time to explore the city from top to bottom, visit the famous ancient site of Machu Picchu, and even embark on a bonus excursion. Here’s how to do it.
Day 1: Experience the city from morning to night
Begin your day in Cusco among the locals at the bustling San Pedro Market, where you’ll find a huge variety of foods and gifts. Join a morning cooking class, learning about local ingredients before preparing a 3-course lunch. Afterward, set out on a private or group tour of the city’s many historic attractions, including the fortified Incan complex of Sacsayhuaman and the Temple of the Sun (Qorikancha), which showcases the extraordinary engineering skills of the ancient Incas.
At night, Cusco’s buildings take on a new character. Nighttime guided tours provide illuminating insights while leading you through the streets and into little shops selling handicrafts and street food. Alternatively, gaze at the stars at Planetarium Cusco.
Day 2: Head for Machu Picchu
The main draw for many visitors to Cusco is the city’s proximity to Machu Picchu, the sacred citadel constructed in the 15th century when the Inca Empire was at the height of its powers. Skip the hassle of travel planning by booking a package that includes round-trip train tickets from Cusco to Aguas Calientes, round-trip bus tickets from Aguas Calientes to Machu Picchu, and a guided tour of Machu Picchu. You’ll also have time to wander around on your own. Several train options are available, from the luxurious Hiram Bingham Pullman to a local train.
Day 3: Explore surrounding landscapes
Stick around town if you need some downtime—or venture out on another day trip. Go to the Sacred Valley on a private or group tour that visits Pisac, home to Incan ruins and a vibrant Indian market; stroll the archeological sites of Moray and the Ollantaytambo Fortress; or marvel at Maras, where the community harvests salt in a cooperative fashion.
Energetic travelers shouldn’t miss Rainbow Mountain, whose distinct colorful stripes come from mineral deposits. Accompanied by a guide, hike to the summit for sweeping views including snowcapped Ausangate mountain—or rent a horse to take you there. Tours typically provide breakfast and lunch.
When you’re back in Cusco, relax over a traditional Peruvian meal in the artisans’ quarter of San Blas.