Cusco has an airport, with which you can easily reach the city by a domestic flight. For years there has been a dispute about whether a new and bigger airport should be built where international long distance flights can land. Meanwhile the foundation stone has been laid and the completion is planned for 2023. But the controversy continues, because it is feared that even more tourists will destroy Machu Picchu and the holy valley.
Cusco is of course also accessible by bus. But then ideally in combination with a round trip through southern Peru. A bus from Lima would take more than 20 hours and as long as bus you don’t want to travel even in the most comfortable bus.
The last possibility is by train from Puno. This railway line is said to be one of the most beautiful routes worldwide. The trains are equipped with large panorama windows. But this special and 10h long train ride is very expensive and costs a multiple of the bus ride and also more than a flight. So the train ride should not be considered as a transport alternative, but as an experience you would like to do.
When you reach Cusco, you’ve made it. You have arrived at the navel of the world. Navel of the world is the translation of the city name from the language Quechua, the language of the Incas. So it sounds like a very important city and it was and is. In former times Cusco was the capital of the Incas. Today the city can be called the tourist center of Peru.
Cusco has more than 400.000 inhabitants and is located at an altitude of about 3400m. If you come directly from a low altitude, for example from Lima, take it easy and let your body get used to the altitude for 1-2 days.
As one of the biggest and most touristic cities in Peru, there are of course markets with everything your heart desires. Souvenirs without end, delicious fruits and good sandwiches. By the way, did you know that in Peru guinea pigs are also on the menu? I know it’s not everybody’s cup of tea, but if you want you can try it in Cusco.
Of course, a lot of tourism also has its disadvantages, because everybody wants to have a piece of the cake. So you have to expect to be asked 50 times a day if you want to book an excursion, get a massage or have a menu in front of your face. All in all, Cusco is still a fantastic city with a great Inca history that one should not miss.
Cusco is your starting point for trips to the Sacred Valley, Vinicunca Rainbow Mountain and Machu Picchu. But also in Cusco itself there is a lot to see. After all, it was the Inca capital. I would recommend you to take a free walking tour to learn more about the city and the Incas.
There are also good museums like the Qorikancha Museum. Highlights of the Inca architecture, like the 12-edge stone or an Inca wall, which was extended by the Spaniards. The transition from Inca accuracy to Spanish replica can be seen immediately. You can also visit larger Inca sites like the Moon Temple or Sacsayhuamán.
If you are here for a few days and want to see several things in Cusco and the Sacred Valley, the tourist ticket (boleto turistico) might be interesting for you. You can find more information here http://cosituc.gob.pe/
There is also a planetarium. There you get information about what the Incas saw in the sky and you can look at planets through a telescope. Not as familiar as the planetarium in Colca Canyon, but still very nice. More info here: http://www.planetariumcusco.com/en/