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Our 5 FAVORITE Tours We Did in Cusco, Peru

Our 5 FAVORITE Tours We Did in Cusco, Peru

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Heading to Cusco, but not sure where to start? I don’t blame you – there’s so much to see here! In fact, when Bailey and I first traveled here, our three-day visit ended up turning into a month-long stint. 

But if you’re not quite that flexible, plenty of tours are available here that really allow you to make the most of your time. Cusco is our favorite city in South America, and we have tried and tested more tours here than we can even count. So now, I’m going to share our absolute favorites with you so that you can make the most of your visit to this magical city.

Quick Pick: Our Top Favorite Tour

If you’re ready to book a tour, go for this Day Tour to Machu Picchu from Cusco! Let’s be honest, you HAVE to visit this historic site while in Cusco, and this tour is our #1 favorite for several reasons. They take care of all the logistics, from hotel pickup to train and bus transfers. However, it’s still customizable because you can pick which Machu Picchu routes you want to see and whether you want to upgrade to a glass-roof train.

Prices range from $405-$539 USD and include all transport and admission fees, but plan to spend extra on meals and snacks. Tours last 10-12 hours and run every day. You could even book it for tomorrow if you wanted!

Best Tours in Cusco

1. Day Tour to Machu Picchu from Cusco

Stunning shot of Machu Picchu from a viewpoint above the Inca site
How beautiful is Machu Picchu?
We had so much fun exploring around!

Visiting Machu Picchu is obviously one of the biggest draws for travelers coming to Cusco – it certainly was for us! As we researched, we quickly realized that visiting this legendary site is a bit tricky. So we decided to join this full-day Machu Picchu tour, and our experience was exceptional!

The tour made visiting Machu Picchu seamless. It offers private transport to and from your hotel and gives you options on routes and transportation, so it’s totally customizable! Oh, and I can’t forget to mention our wonderful tour guide, Julio, who was a wealth of knowledge and super fun to hang out with. 

Our day started with a front door pick up (so convenient!) where we were transported to the Expedition Train. This train is pretty basic but comfortable enough for the 3.5-hour journey to Aguas Calientes. After a 30-minute bus ride, we reached Machu Picchu! Here is your chance to make your day customizable, and I highly recommend doing your research before making your choice, it’s all up to your personal preference. 

Machu Picchu is split up into different circuits (aka routes). Read the official descriptions on the Machu Picchu Website, to make planning easier!

The Peru Rail train travels through valley to Machu Picchu
This is one train journey not to miss!

Circuits 1 and 2 are known as the “classic route”, and are the routes most people embark on. The guide will take you through the upper sanctuary (the suburban part of the city) and the lower sanctuary (the agricultural area). You’ll see tons of ruins and get a great insight into this region! This option is $405 USD. 

Circuits 3 and 4 are what we selected! They take it a step further, as you explore the qolqas (stone houses that Incans used as storage), the water channel, the water mirrors, the Temple of the Sun, and the Inca House. The only difference between the two is that Route 3 visits the agricultural area and Route 4 goes to the Sacred Rock. This option is $448 USD. 

Finally, for our most luxurious option, you can ride the Vistadome train, which offers panoramic views and a glass ceiling! This experience is so unique and a great way to see the scenery as you travel. They offer circuits 1, 2, and 4 with this train for $539 USD.

What we really appreciated about this full-day experience is that it took care of so many details for use, such as roundtrip transportation, entrance fees, and the guide, so we didn’t have any surprise expenses. We just had to pay for lunch!

This tour only accommodates 8 travelers, which we loved because we could make a few friends without getting overwhelmed by a large group. Before you take off, read our full guide to visiting Machu Picchu so you’re well prepared!

Related Read: Still planning your trip? Check out our guide to visiting Peru, which covers visa requirements, safety info, and the best things to do!

2. Sacred Valley Day Tour

Moray Ruins in the Sacred Valley, Peru
Moray Ruins in the Sacred Valley, Peru

The Sacred Valley is another top reason why people travel to Peru – and since it’s within close proximity, Cusco is the perfect hub to explore it! The Sacred Valley is huge and there is a lot to see (Machu Picchu is part of it), so we opted to take a tour to try and see as much as we could with our limited time. 

We joined this full-day tour because they made an effort to get away from the typical tourist sites and cap the group size to 8 travelers. This meant we could see more of the stunning valley and have a more intimate experience. 

Our guide picked us up from our hotel in Cusco at 6:45 am and we instantly started learning about Peruvian culture. Our first stop was Chinchero where we saw a farm of guinea pigs and alpacas and a traditional style of weaving. It was a great way to start the day!

Next, we made our way to the Moray ruins. These ancient structures date back to Inca times, and it was fascinating to see such advanced engineering methods for that time period. We then headed to Maras to explore salt ponds that were hundreds of years old. While their age is impressive, the sheer number of them was equally impressive – there were thousands! If you’ve ever seen a photo of the Sacred Valley, it was probably here. 

A panoramic view of the Salineras de Maras salt beds in Peru
The Salt Ponds in Maras are amazing!

The final stop took us to a traditional Peruvian lunch (perhaps my favorite part) and then we went to more ruins in Ollantaytambo. We learned that Ollantaytambo is significant because it was previously Machu Picchu’s entrance. I loved knowing I was standing on important historic grounds – they call it the Sacred Valley for a reason! 

This 12-hour tour includes transportation all day, lunch, and your guide, who was probably the most important part of the day! You will need to pay for entrance fees, so bring about 80 Peruvian Soles ($22 USD) in cash. This tour is $129 USD per person and requires a minimum of 2 per booking. 

3. Rainbow Mountain Afternoon Hiking Tour

Bailey takes a photo with Rainbow Mountain in the background
Finally at the top!
Bailey on the hike up to Rainbow Mountain
We had so much fun!

We went on this afternoon Rainbow Mountain tour and it was one of the most spectacular hikes we did in Peru! As you can see from the photos, this hike is not lacking in scenery. From the painted mountain tops to those sky-high views, this experience has stuck with me for years. 

It is also not for the faint of heart! This trek is 4 kilometers (2.5 miles), and while that isn’t terribly long in distance, the altitude is the kicker. The hike starts at 4,326 meters (14,189 feet) and will reach 5,200 meters (17,060 feet) at the peak. Although it was somewhat difficult, we thought it was completely worth the effort!

Rainbow Mountain is 82 kilometers (51 miles) from Cusco and takes about 3 hours to get there. Joining a tour is definitely the easiest way to get there, find the trail, and ensure you are hiking safely. And while most people go for an early morning hike, we decided to beat the crowds and join this afternoon hike (which means we also got to sleep in later).

The tour was a small group of only 12 people, which made staying together as a trekking group easy. They picked us up from our hotel in Cusco around 8 am and provided a guide, lunch, snacks, and trekking poles if needed, so it was a really inclusive day! 

Daniel and Bailey look over Rainbow Mountain in Peru
Rainbow Mountain is massive!

We were grateful to have our knowledgeable guides to encourage us to keep going and teach us about the history and geology of the area. Turns out, this mountain was covered with snow and ice until about a decade ago – that’s why it’s so popular now!

If hiking isn’t your thing and you still want to experience Rainbow Mountain, you can ride a horse for 70 soles (around $19 USD). You can’t reserve the horse in advance, so none may be available. But since this hike takes off in the afternoon, rather than the peak morning hours, you’re more likely to secure one.

This was truly a full-day experience, as you’ll be gone for about 10-12 hours. It is $89 USD for everything included, except entrance fees, which are 30 soles (about $8 USD) – be sure to have cash. To feel fully prepared, you can read our guide on visiting Rainbow Mountain before you go.

Related Read: If you plan on doing some major hikes, read our blog on trekking in Peru to stay safe and find our favorite trails.

Why We Book Tours with Viator

Viator is a trusted online booking system for tours around the world! We almost always book our tours using Viator for a couple of reasons:

  • Free cancellation on most tours – Most of the tours on Viator allow you to cancel and get a full refund up to 24 hours in advance. This is handy in case plans change, or if booking an outdoor activity, the weather forecast is looking grim.
  • Reserve now and pay later – You can secure your spot on some of the most popular tours well in advance and not pay until closer to the day of the tour.
  • Lowest price guarantee – If you happen to find the same tour at a lower price elsewhere, Viator will refund you the price difference.
  • Pay in your chosen currency – Avoid costly international transaction fees by choosing to pay in your home currency.
  • Peace of mind – When booking with tour operators you find in person on the street or in small booking offices, you are often promised one thing and given another. This online platform holds tour operators accountable with a written description of inclusions as well as the opportunity for customers to leave reviews.

Check out the Viator website here! Or, for more info, read our detailed review about Viator here.

4. Cusco Sightseeing Tour with a visit to Sacsayhuaman Archeological Park

The Sacsayhuamán Fortress in Cusco, Peru
Look at the stonework at Sacsayhuaman!

There are so many great day trips from Cusco that it can be easy to whisk off to another adventure. But we found Cusco to be a fascinating city, with lots of history and culture right at our fingertips. Plus, right outside of Cusco is Sacsayhuamán, another set of ancient ruins that are impressive, to say the least!

We wanted to learn all about both of these things, so we joined this city sightseeing and Sacsayhuamán archeological tour. Throughout our 3.5 hours of guided exploration, we got such a good feel for the city’s history and learned a ton. So as we wandered by ourselves after, we understood the significance of buildings and the culture we were experiencing.  

Our favorite part of the day was touring the Sacsayhuamán Fortress. This is the largest structure built during the Incan Empire and dates back to the 15th century. We were blown away as our guide explained how this massive complex was built by hand – they said it took about 20,000 men! We spent 2 hours here, which I felt was a good amount of time, as there is a lot to take in.

The Cathedral in Plaza de Armas has gorgeous architecture!

We also visited the ancient temple and sacrificial altar of Qenqo, and then the Tambomachay archeological site, where the upper-class Incans lived. Our tour ended by exploring the famous Plaza de Armas in central Cusco and the Qorikancha Temple. 

We saw so much in this city and archeological tour, it was truly a great value for money. It’s also a great half-day activity if you’re short on time and want to deep dive into all things Cusco! I recommend taking it early in your trip to get a feel for the city.

It includes all your entrance fees, transportation from your hotel, and your wonderful guide for $79 USD. The shared tour leaves at 1 pm and has up to 15 people. Or, you can upgrade to a private tour and choose from a few departure times throughout the day. The private tour price depends on your group size, but if you have 5 or more people, it costs $79 USD as well!

5. Peruvian Cooking Class and Market Tour

Ingridients on a cooking class in Peru
This was a highlight and a skill I’ll always have!

One of our favorite ways to dive into culture is by food – and Peruvian food is some of the best! We had so much fun taking this Peruvian cooking class, but it was more than just cooking – we got to visit a local market too!

The tour is led by a chef, so going through the market with a local, and learning about the ingredients and where they are from was such an immersive experience. And we hadn’t even started cooking yet!

After the market, we hit the kitchen and made a starter, two mains, dessert, and pisco sours (Peru’s national drink). I think we snacked and drank more than we actually cooked, but that’s just our style! This tour only allows 12 people to join, so we had a fun time with our group and it was small enough that we got one-on-one attention from the chef (and we needed it!). 

The class runs for 4 hours and you can choose to prepare lunch or dinner, with tours starting at 9 am or 3 pm daily. It includes all ingredients and you get to eat what you made after, plus the chef and their expertise for $59 USD per person. Alcoholic drinks are available for an extra cost.

We had so much fun on this tour, and with over 200 5-star reviews, it is one of the best Cusco experiences you can have! 

Where to Stay in Cusco

the courtyard at Palacio del Inka
This hotel is simply gorgeous! Photo Credit: Palacio del Inka

Before you can jump on any of our favorite tours, you’ll need somewhere comfy to stay! Cusco has tons of accommodation options, ranging in budget and luxury level. Here are our top recommendations, and for those looking for a hostel experience, read our blog on the best hostels in Cusco.

Palacio del Inka, a Luxury Collection Hotel, Cusco – $$$

If you can spend a bit more during your stay, soak up the incredible architecture and location at Palacio del Inka located in the city center. This luxurious hotel offers delightful amenities like an internal courtyard perfect for stargazing, excellent dining options, and onsite staff who go above and beyond. There is also an indoor swimming pool and fitness center for an additional fee. If you’re feeling the altitude, oxygen and coca tea are available by request.

The price tag here starts at around $320 USD per night. You can check availability and book Palacio del Inka online here.

Casa Matara Boutique – $$

For a mid-range option, we love Casa Matara Boutique for its central location – it’s within walking distance to the main square and lots of top attractions. The breakfast here is excellent, the staff is amazing and so willing to help with everything, and the whole place gives off a cozy and charming atmosphere.

Rooms here are around $90 USD a night. To snag this deal, check availability and book Casa Matara Boutique online here.

Selina Plaza De Armas – $

The Selina Plaza De Armas is a budget-friendly option that offers shared dorm rooms, private rooms, or even unique outdoor tent accommodations. It’s only a short walk from Plaza De Armas and the cathedral, so you’re staying right in the action. The hotel also has a beautiful lobby with a glass-covered patio you can relax in.

Dorm rooms are around $30-$50 USD per night, and the teepee tents are under $100 USD. You can book a stay at Selina Plaza De Armas on or through   

Thanks for reading!

Bailey sits on a ledge while overlooking the main area of Machu Picchu Inca ruins in Peru
Thanks for reading!

Well, there you have it, our 5 favorite tours out of Cusco! Each was a unique experience, and while you might not be able to fit all of them into your itinerary, one or two will help you get into Peru’s remarkable culture. We absolutely love traveling through this area and are so excited you get to as well!

If you found this blog helpful, check out our other blogs about Peru or other destinations in South America! We have traveled all over this continent and love sharing our experiences and tips. Here are a few to get you started:

13 BEST Tours in Lima, Peru 

33 BEST Places to Visit in South America

The TRUTH about the Salkantay Trek, Peru: An Honest Review and Guide