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How to Spend TWO DAYS in Cusco, Peru: An Ideal 2-day Itinerary

How to Spend TWO DAYS in Cusco, Peru: An Ideal 2-day Itinerary

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One of the highlights of traveling in Peru is visiting the stunning city of Cusco. From the friendly people to the outstanding food, Cusco is a dream.

While many people travel here to hike Machu Picchu, there are plenty of other fun things to do in Cusco even if you’ve only got a few days.

While volunteering in the Amazon, we spent weeks getting to know this historical city, and after coming back multiple times, we want to share our favorite activities for a two-day stay. So, if you’re excited to spend time in Cusco, read on for our ideal itinerary to enjoy two days in Cusco.

Don’t have time to read the full article? Cusco is an amazing city and some of our favorite things to do here include visiting Sacsayhuamán on this sightseeing tour, shopping at the local markets, and seeing Cusco at night while enjoying pisco sours. A visit to Cusco wouldn’t be complete without visiting local ruins either!

Day 1

Sacsayhuamán Fortress and Cusco City tour (morning)

The Sacsayhuamán Fortress in Cusco, Peru
This place is so cool to see, the stonework is fantastic!

Starting day 1 in Cusco on the outskirts of the city at Sacsayhuamán. It’s one of the best day trips from Cusco and it’s one of the closest.

This Inca fortress was built during the reign of Emperor Pachacuti during the 15th century and stretches over 12 square miles (31 square km). These ruins are particularly impressive because the stones here were carried from areas over 12 miles (20 km) away. And they weren’t loaded onto a truck either. These stones, often weighing over 100 tons, were moved using ropes, pulleys, and sheer strength.

Aside from the massive weight of these colossal rocks, they were extremely wide and tall, ranging in height from 6.5 feet (2 meters) to 29.5 feet (9 meters). Historians believe it took over 20,000 men around 90 years to construct Sacsayhuamán.

While there are plenty of mysteries surrounding how and why the Inca built these ruins, there is no denying the craftsmanship that went into these structures. Each stone was hand-carved to fit perfectly between one another. While the majority of these sites were destroyed during the Spanish invasion, the pieces that remain tell a story of artistry and skill, and Sacsayhuamán remains one of the greatest architectural achievements of the Inca Empire.

The ruins are about 1.5 miles (2.5 km) from the Cusco Main Square also known as Plaza de Armas. If you’re traveling by car, it’ll take about 10 mins to get to Sacsayhuamán. Alternatively, it’s about a 20-minute walk. Make sure to bring your camera because this site is on top of a hill that offers outstanding views of Cusco below.

There is an entrance fee of about $20 USD, and this ticket will get you into the nearby ruins of Qenqo, Pucapucara, and Tambomachay as well, so it’s a great deal. Sacsayhuamán is open every day from 7 am to 5:30 pm.

One of our favorite ways to immerse ourselves in a new place is by going on a tour. If you feel the same way, we recommend taking this half-day sightseeing tour which includes entry to Sacsayhuamán, a visit to nearby temples, and a guided walk through the main square in Cusco where you’ll see the oldest surviving painting at Cusco Cathedral. We recommend taking the private tour at 8:30 am, that way you can enjoy the other activities we’ve prepared on this itinerary.

Private tours cost $119 USD each for two people or cheaper if you have more people. The price includes round-trip transportation from your Cusco hostel or hotel, a guide, and all entry fees. It also has the option to buy now and pay later with 24-hour free cancellation when you book on Viator here.

Rucula Peruvian Restaurant (lunch)

Rucula Peruvian Restaurant meat dish
It’s fancy Peruvian food. @Rucula Peruvian Restaurant
Rucula Peruvian Restaurant meal with a view of Cusco
@Rucula Peruvian Restaurant

After a busy morning exploring Sacsayhuamán, it’s time for lunch at Rucula Peruvian Restaurant.

We love this restaurant and think it’s one of the best Peruvian restaurants in Cusco. It’s located close to the main square, so it’s another easy place to walk to.

Rucula takes Peruvian food seriously and prides itself on using local produce to make exceptional dishes, which are as colorful as they are delicious. On top of having some out-of-this-world food, everyone working there is so welcoming, which makes for a really lovely atmosphere. Rucula is a bright space with traditional art displayed all around the room.

If you need help deciding what to order, we recommend starting with the Papa Rellena. It’s a potato stuffed with beef, eggs, and vegetables, and it is full of flavor. We got the Seafood Rice and the Strip Roast Stew which was slow-cooked and so perfectly tender. Both dishes were unreal!

Rucula also has vegetarian and vegan options and is very helpful with any dietary restrictions as well. There are plenty of items that are unique to this region like the alpaca burger, if you’re looking for a little adventure in your life (food-wise anyhow). Also, make sure you leave room for dessert! We got the Cheesecake de Lucuma and it looked almost too good to eat, but that didn’t stop us from devouring it.

Appetizers and desserts are around $8 USD and most of the main dishes are around $15 USD. You can’t beat those prices, especially given the high quality and freshness of the ingredients. There is also a bar so you can toast to your first day in Cusco.

One thing we want to mention is that there are stairs in the restaurant, so this facility is not wheelchair accessible. If you’d like to sample the menu, they do offer takeaway orders.

Rucula Peruvian Restaurant is open from 11 am to 10:30 pm every day, and we suggest making a reservation so you don’t miss out on this gem.

Related Read: If you’re already planning a return trip, check out our guide on trekking in Peru.

Go shopping (afternoon)

Local handmade goods at a street stall in Cusco, Peru
We bought so much stuff in Cusco!

One of my all-time favorite things to do in Cusco is go shopping! There are so many unique items here and they are so colorful too.

After enjoying your delicious lunch, we recommend walking around the city to visit the artisan markets and street vendors. I personally still wear the alpaca sweater I got during my first visit, and you’ll find a lot of alpaca wool items like blankets, bags, and clothing. They make great gifts for your friends (and yourself!).

Head over to Plaza San Blas for some unique crafts. There are usually weekend markets where you can find hand-painted dishware and silver jewelry. Often artists are making their crafts right on the street, so it’s a great place to people-watch and purchase some local goods.

Less than a 10-minute walk from the Main Square is Avenida el Sol. This is another main street in Cusco and is known for being an artisan hub so it’s a great place to find local souvenirs like paintings, alpaca-wear, colorful bags, and so much more.

Oh! It’s also pretty commonplace to haggle here. So if you want something, don’t be afraid to negotiate with the vendors. Just remember that as tourists, there’s always going to be a bit of a markup.

Most shops and artisan markets are open Monday to Saturday from around 10 am to 6 pm. Some of the popular stores have longer hours, and occasionally you’ll find some places open on Sundays, but we recommend buying your haul during the other days just in case.

Hike up to the Cristo Blanco Statue (afternoon)

View from Cristo Blanco Statue on a beautiful day in Cusco, Peru
How nice is the view!

Before our next adventure, we recommend dropping off your newly purchased items at your accommodation and putting on some comfy walking shoes.

Next, we’re headed on a short hike to get to the Cristo Blanco Statue. It’s about a 30-minute walk from the Plaza del Armas, and while it’s not a difficult hike, it is uphill so we recommend bringing some water and maybe some sun protection with you.

The Cristo Blanco Statue is 26 feet (8 meters) tall and offers protection over Cusco with its symbolic outstretched arms. Given as a gift from the Arab-Palestinians in 1945, this statue is a symbol of gratitude to Peru for granting them shelter during World War II.

This statue stands on top of Pukamoqo Hill, which has some incredible views of Cusco. The placement here is also significant because legend says this hill is sacred as the Incas planted land here from the four regions of the Empire. The Inca were very ceremonious people, and they often held rituals at places like Pukamoqo and the Sacred Valley.

Visiting here is free and you can come at any time. We think the best time to visit is at sunset though, because the statue lights up and offers an unbeatable view of Cusco. Come for the statue, stay for the views!

Go out for a Pisco Sour (night)

Two Pisco Sours on a table in Peru
I must say, we took a liking to pisco sours – maybe a little too much!

After a busy day of sightseeing, we think it’s time to relax and enjoy Peru’s national drink – the pisco sour.

The pisco sour dates back to the 1920s when it was created at a bar in Lima, Peru. The foundation for this beverage is pisco, which is essentially an unaged brandy made from fermented grapes that has a unique flavor. Some compare it to Grappa and others to Tequila, but it’s definitely worth trying for yourself.

The pisco sour is a cocktail made with pisco, simple syrup, lime juice, egg whites, and Angostura bitters. We really like them and drinking pisco sours quickly became one of our highlights of Peru. But hey, partaking in the national drink of Peru is a great way to celebrate your first day in Cusco! Just remember, we’ve still got one more day to go.

If you end up enjoying this drink as much as we did, you might enjoy taking this Pisco Sour lesson while in Cusco. On top of learning how to make this scrumptious cocktail, you’ll also go on a tour of the city and enjoy dinner at a local restaurant. This tour costs $99 USD and goes from 6 pm until approximately 9 pm. If you’re on the fence due to your limited timeframe, rest assured that you can cancel within 24 hours by booking this Cusco night tour on Viator here.

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.

Day 2

Wander the streets and see Inca Ruins (morning)

The Twelve-Angled Stone in Cusco, Peru
It blows my mind that they carved these stones so perfectly!

One of the reasons Cusco is one of the best places to visit in Peru is the large number of ruins around the city. Since Cusco was the capital of the Inca Empire, it makes sense that it’s home to so many of these ancient sites, and we love walking around to pay homage and learn about the culture of this ancient civilization.

If you prefer in-person learning while visiting ruins, we suggest this half-day tour. Your guide will take you to different sites and discuss the temples and rituals that were performed in each place. This tour also includes a visit to an alpaca sanctuary where you can learn about the wool used to create local goods. It costs $40 USD and we suggest selecting the 10 am option, which will require you to rearrange this itinerary a bit, but it’s worth it so book this tour ahead of time so you don’t miss out.

If you’d rather explore Cusco on your own, we have included some of our favorite spots to visit below. They are all within walking distance of each other, so it’s a great way to enjoy a Cusco morning on foot.

Calle Loreto  

Just a three-minute walk from Plaza del Armas is Calle Loreto. You won’t need too much time to stroll down this narrow street but we recommend taking note of the intricate walls that are made of hand-carved stones from the Incas. It’s amazing how they mastered this craft with none of the tools that we are so accustomed to today.

Twelve-Angled Stone 

Another 0.25 miles (400 meters) away is the impressive Twelve-Angled Stone. This stone is significant because it was used to form part of a palace wall – and yes, it does have 12 angles. These walls were formed so precisely that not even a piece of paper can fit between them, and they have held up for hundreds of years.

We recommend visiting this site earlier in the morning as it’s a popular tourist attraction. That way you can take a photo without a crowd of people being in the way.

Kusicancha 

Walk another 6 minutes and you’ll arrive at Kusicancha. This was a former Inca neighborhood with courtyards and houses, most of which were destroyed during the Spanish invasion. Those that weren’t ruined were turned into colonial structures. However, Kusicancha is unique in that it has been partially restored so people can wander around this area and experience what Cusco might have been like during the Inca Empire.

Qorikancha Temple  

Our last stop is about 5 minutes away and is a must-see while in Cusco. Qorikancha housed many temples, including one of the most sacred temples of the Inca Empire, the “Temple of the Sun.” The name Qorikancha roughly translates to “walls of gold,” which makes sense as the walls and floors were covered in layers of gold and filled with treasures during this time. Sadly, most of these treasures were removed and sent to the King of Spain, and Qorikancha was largely destroyed.

The Spanish built the Santo Domingo Church on top of this historical site, but the foundations of Qorikancha are still visible. It was common practice to destroy Inca architecture and build Spanish structures on top of these areas during the invasion, and Qorikancha is another example. It’s only about $4 USD to enter, and Qorikancha is open Monday through Saturday from 8:30 am to 5:30 pm.

Related Read: To learn even more while traveling around Peru, read about our favorite tours in Lima.

Museo de Arte Precolombino (morning)

Museo de Arte Precolombino 
Some of the clay artifacts are really detailed!

After visiting some of Cusco’s famous ancient ruins, we’re heading over to the Museo de Arte Precolombino (MAP) to learn more about the people who comprised the Inca Empire.

There are hundreds of pre-Columbian artifacts made by Inca men and women at this museum. These pieces are made from natural materials like gold, shells, and wood and are separated into different rooms by the material used. The religious, spiritual, political, and cultural significance of these pieces continues to educate us on the importance of the Inca Empire.

The artwork here is internationally recognized as being the best of its kind, and the MAP is working to promote the education of Inca culture through art to preserve the history of ancient Peru.

Museo de Arte Precolombino Cusco is located in the city center, within walking distance from the main square. There are audio guides available in English, Spanish, and French, and a gift shop with local Peruvian items for purchase as well.

This museum is open every day from 8 am to 10 pm and charges only about $5 USD for admission. Places like the Museo de Arte Precolombino are why Cusco is one of the best cities to visit in all of South America.

KUSYKAY Peruvian Craft Food (lunch)

Peruvian inspired salad at KUSYKAY Peruvian Craft Food
@KUSYKAY Peruvian Craft Food
Meal at KUSYKAY Peruvian Craft Food
@KUSYKAY Peruvian Craft Food

We’ve seen ruins and beautiful works of art, and a quick 3-minute walk will take you to the location of our midday destination – KUSYKAY Peruvian Craft Food.

We think KUSYKAY is one of the best Peruvian restaurants in Cusco. But if you want a second opinion, just check out their outstanding reviews! The food here is delicious, and honestly, I don’t think there’s a mediocre item on the entire menu.

We stopped here for a quick bite to try their ceviche, and it did NOT disappoint. I mean, Peru is known for ceviche, but this was next level. This particular ceviche was made with trout and giant squid pork rinds along with corn and sweet potatoes, and I am counting down the days until I can eat it again.

On top of the amazing food, the staff are so friendly here and are eager to offer their recommendations if you have trouble deciding. We even got a complimentary tea and dessert, which was such a nice gesture.

While we’d typically support getting one of everything here, our next item on the agenda is a cooking class. So, for this itinerary, we’re going to suggest eating a lighter meal since we’re going to have a lot more food on the way.

Cooking class (afternoon)

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

For a fun way to take a piece of Cusco home with you, we loved this Peruvian Cooking Class!

Your Peruvian chef guide will meet you at San Pedro Central Market to help find the best ingredients to prepare your meal. He’ll also talk about the importance of local produce to make the best regional dishes.

The chefs are amazing and it’s clear how passionate they are about their Peruvian food. I was nervous to cook, but our chef was so kind and helped make the experience less intimidating so I could just relax and have fun.

For this class, you’ll make an appetizer, a main dish, and a dessert. You’ll also get to try drinks like Pisco and chicha morada which are local specialties. Plus, you’ll impress all your friends back home with your Peruvian cooking skills! It’s a win-win!

This amazing experience costs $59 USD per person, and we suggest choosing the 3 pm option which will give you just enough time to enjoy our final activity of the day. You can book this Peruvian cooking class here.

Related Read: Peru has some of our all-time favorite foods. We love going on food tours in Lima and eating all the local specialties.

Cusco Tunupa Restaurant Folk Show with Dinner (night)

Cusco Tunupa Restaurant Folk Show with Dinner
So cool to see the traditional dance!

After a fun two days in Cusco, we think you deserve to celebrate your journey by going to dinner and a show.

We imagine you might be tired of walking at this point, so we’ve got you covered! By booking this dinner option, you’ll get hotel pick-up and drop-off, a 3-course meal, and enjoy a 1.5-hour folk show filled with Peruvian music and dancing at Tunupa Restaurant in central Cusco.

The food, described as “Novo-Andean cuisine,” is absolutely delicious, and spending your last night here is a great way to wind down and enjoy live entertainment in a comfortable space. Also, the restaurant offers some of the best views of the city, so it’s a great chance to reflect on your busy two days in Cusco before traveling home.

Tickets cost $49 USD per person, which includes your meal, local show, and round-trip transportation, but there is a minimum of 2 people needed to make a reservation. You can get tickets for this folk show and 3-course dinner right here.

Where to Stay in Cusco, Peru

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

We recommend planning to stay at least a few days in Cusco because of all the things to do in the city and leaving enough time to explore the Sacred Valley and Machu Picchu. There are plenty of options for accommodations, from reasonably priced hostels to more luxurious hotels, depending on your budget. These are the places that top our list of recommendations!

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 HostelWorld.com or through Booking.com.   

Thanks for reading!

Bailey and Daniel take a photo on the Salkantay Trek in Peru
Thanks for reading!

That’s a pretty packed two-day itinerary if we do say so! We hope we’ve given you some ideas so you can have an amazing time in Cusco. We absolutely love this city and always look forward to coming back.

If you’ve read this far, we hope you enjoyed our blog and will consider looking at some of our others. We’ve traveled all over Peru and around South America, and our passion is sharing our stories with you! If you’d like to read more, we’ve selected some articles that might interest you below:

How to Spend ONE DAY in Lima, Peru: 24-Hour Itinerary

22 BEST Things to do in Arequipa, Peru

Colombia Travel Guide: Everything to Plan Your Trip