The ancient Inca capital serves as a base to discover the ruins of Machu Picchu and the Inca cities of Pisac and Ollantaytambo. See how to get to know the main attractions of Cusco in just 2 days!

Historic buildings stand out among the mountains that surround the city of cusco. Despite being small, the destination has many tourist attractions and can be explored for more days without turning into a monotonous trip. If you are passing through cusco, but also want to explore other points close to the destination like Machu Picchu and charming Ollantaytambo, don't worry! It is possible to discover the wonders that the city of Cusco has to offer in a road map fast through the Inca capital.

Day 1: Quick tour of downtown Cusco and the charming San Blás neighborhood

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There are so many attractions scattered through the charming streets and alleys of cusco, that it is possible to know the vast majority in a city tour through the main neighborhoods of the city, central region and the friendly neighborhood of San Blas. Other highlights that should be appreciated are the viewpoints spread between the neighborhoods.

As the destination is known worldwide, the movement of tourists and locals on the streets starts early. At 9 am most shops, tourist agencies and tourist attractions are already open for visitation. So have a hearty breakfast and get ready to walk a lot. The city of Cusco is so charming that even if your legs ask for a little rest, your eyes will automatically lead them to see some unplanned attraction, which will appear in droves during a city tour by fate.

Start the walk through Plaza de Armas and discover the main churches in Cusco. The impressive Catedral del Cuzco and the Templo de La Compañía de Jesus, are located opposite the square and boast impressive baroque architecture. Its facades are so large that they can be seen from several viewpoints in the city. You can also take a quick tour inside the chapels and check out all the details of both attractions.

Plaza de Armas. Photo: Gustavo Albano

To learn a little more about the city's history and see some traces of the people who lived in the region, consider visiting the Inca Museum. The space is housed in a beautiful colonial-style building known as Casa do Almirante, a few meters from the Plaza de Armas (Calle Cuesta Del Almirante, 153). Its wonderful collection includes ceramic pieces, objects, clothes and even mummies from the Inca period. The collection is so large and impressive that the attraction is sure to be among the best museums you'll ever see.

You can stretch the walk and walk along Calle Manta to Plaza San Francisco. On the way, you'll discover other impressive buildings in the city, such as the Temple of La Merced, the Church and Convent of San Francisco, and, on top of that, check out some typical products of the city at Mercado San Pedro.

During the walk you will notice the number of cozy restaurants scattered around the downtown Cusco, the tip is to select the best options and choose the most pleasant one before heading to the San Blás neighborhood. The vast majority of tourists end up choosing some of the options offered on the second floors of the charming buildings around Praça das Armas. La Feria Cocina Tradicional Peruana has a pleasant atmosphere and provides a great tasting experience of the country's typical dishes.

On the way to the San Blás neighborhood, stop by the Santo Domingo Convent and see the impressive construction built over the old Qorikancha temple. Calle Hatun Rumiyoc is famous for containing still preserved archaeological remains of the city. The photos are even more beautiful with the traditional chollas walking with their llamas calmly among the crowd. It is on this street that the enigmatic 12-angled stone is located, an example of perfectionist Inca architecture.   

Let yourself be carried away by the contagious atmosphere of the bohemian neighborhood of San Blás. Its many narrow streets form an elegant labyrinth of white houses that occasionally provide a panoramic view of the city. The Plaza de San Blás concentrates several galleries and stalls colored by traditional souvenirs from Peru: wool blouses, bags, scarves and blankets, all made with colorful fabrics.

San Blas neighborhood. Photo: Gustavo Albano

It is still possible to spend the last minutes of the day at Mirante de San Blás, a small square with benches that has one of the most beautiful views of Cusco. On the way back to the hotel, there is still time to taste a cusqueña, the typical beer of the country or a traditional pisco sour, another well-known Peruvian drink.

Day 2: Discovering the archaeological sites near Cusco

Despite Machu Picchu being the best known of the Inca ruins, the country is full of unmissable archaeological sites and many of them are very close to Cusco. Set aside the second day in the city especially to check out these impressive attractions. The distance is so short that it is possible to meet 4 of them on foot, but as the time of stay in Cusco is short, it is recommended to use the taxi service, which by the way is incredibly cheap.

The journey between the 4 complexes is only 7 km and can be done in less than 5 hours. The ideal is to start with the fortress of Sacsayhuamán, then the Qenqo amphitheater, the ruins of Puka Pukara and the temple of Tambomachay.  

The first stop is a 2 km walk from the center of Cusco and just 10 minutes by car. Sacsayhuaman was built at 3,500 meters above sea level and its construction is entirely made of rocks up to 9 m high. Fascinating engineering, where the large stones are fitted so perfectly that not even a sheet of paper passes between the divisions of the wall. Historians say the area served as an Inca ritual courtyard and fortress.

ruins of Sacsayhuaman. Photo: Gustavo Albano

Qenqo is the second closest ruin to Cusco. The site is just under 2 km from Sacsayhuaman and should also be added to the itinerary. The rock amphitheater features a massive table-like stone. According to scholars, this was the stone that served as an altar for animal sacrifices that the Incas offered to their gods and a funeral table for the mummification of important people.

Puka Pukara is situated between the mountains and fields that rise above the level of Cusco. The complex served as accommodation for the archaeological site of Tambomachay and has an enchanting view of a green area full of llamas. The last ruin is just 500 m away from Puka Pukara and has religious buildings dedicated to land and water. The name comes from the Quechua words Tampu, meaning collective accommodation, and Machay, resting place. This space served as a bathhouse and has an impressive underground hydraulic system that can be seen among the rocks of the ruin.

Tambomachay. Photo: Gustavo Albano

Tip: if your tour is a little faster than expected, you can continue your wanderings through the historic sites close to Cusco and take a stretch to the small town of Pisac. This is the first municipality in the Sacred Valley and offers some delicious restaurant options. Right after lunch, you will be able to visit its incredible ruins and the charming handicraft fair located in front of the attraction.

If you choose to return to the city after Tambomachay, ask the taxi driver to drop you off at the Church of San Cristobal. The building is not the most impressive in Cusco, but it has its charm. The highlight of this stop is the viewpoint with a wide view of the entire city. As you head downtown, regain your energy by sampling the delicious ceviches at Morena Peruvian Kitchen on Calle Plateros.

Viewpoint of the San Cristobal Church. Photo: Gustavo Albano

You can use the last few hours in the city to delve a little more into Inca history and get to know another museum, among the highlights are the Museo de Arte Precolombino, the Museo de Historia Regional and the Museo de Arte Religioso.

» Places to visit in Cusco
» 7 little-known places you need to visit in Peru
» Places to visit in Arequipa, Peru
» Attractions near Cusco: Ruins of Sacsayhuaman

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