Cuzco | Top five best walking routes in Cusco

Top five best walking routes in Cusco

2024-05-22

Dubbed Incan Rome, Cusco is one of Peru’s most prized destinations: it is visited by as many as 1,5 million tourists each year.

Even though many visitors travel onwards to see the architectural marvels of Machu Picchu and the beauty of the Inca Valley, they all spend some time here.

As a result, there is clearly a need for a comprehensive guide to the most spell-binding walking and cycling routes in Old Town Cusco, for you to see as many Cusco landmarks as possible during your Cusco city break.

So, here are the top four walking routes in downtown Cusco, and a bonus for cycling lovers.

Before we start, we would like to list a few sample Peru tour programs that cover the entire country including visits to Cusco and surroundings, the below itineraries are offered regularly by Voyagers travel and include hotel stays, guides and transportation, best part is they are customizable:

Table of content
 

Cusco downtown walking tour

 

First comes the tour of the city’s downtown offering really gob-smacking views. Targeted at those who are short on time, the one-day itinerary features the Cathedral of Cusco, San Pedro’s Market, Iglesia De San Domingo, Tupac Amaru Square, and signature sites like De Guzman Church.

Start your tour of Cusco Old Town, a former Center of the Cuzco Empire, with a visit to the city’s historical kernel around Plaza de Armas, and its magnificent Cathedral, built on the foundations of the sacred Inca Temple, demolished by the Spaniards; then walk around the main square, on which the cathedral is situated. Here you can find the 1765-built Church of the Society of Jesus, sitting diagonally from the Cusco Cathedral, and featuring one of the world’s most magnificent interiors, and smothered in gold leaf. It is open from 9 am-11.45 am and from 1 pm to 5.45 pm daily except on Sunday, when it closes at 11.45 am for the day.

Photo: tose

To add to the magnificent cathedral and churches, you can also marvel at the beauty of the plaza’s fountain and the monument of Pachacutec, an ancient Incan ruler; or have a peek at the Andes, visible from some parts of the square.

Even though most of the buildings around it are colonial and look really old, they were in fact built on the places of stunning imperial palaces that would have been too grand and alien for Spanish colonial taste.

Here, near the Plaza de Armas were located the Inca palaces of Pachacutec and Viracocha, and many state ceremonies and events took place here.

After the tour of the central square, make your way down Mantas Street to the splendid Basilica Menor de la Merced, lying right across from the green Plazoleta Espinar, an ancient place of worship, complete with fountains, murals and statues and open every day except on Sunday from 8 am to 12 pm, and from 2 pm to 5 pm.

Then make your way to the Contemporary Art Museum, right in front of which, on Plaza Cusipata, is the meeting ground for free tours of Cusco, one of the best ways to unveil all Cusco’s secrets, accompanied by a local for free.

Having explored the area around the municipal cathedral, make your way further down Mantas to Plaza San Francisco, home to one of Cusco’s grandest museums, the Museum of Catacombs, and then set out for a shopping spree at San Pedro’s Market, one of the best places in Cusco to purchase fresh meat, fruit, snacks and even clothing.

To get here just follow C.Santa Clara from Plaza San Francisco to the crossing with Casparo, where you can enter the market.

Plaza San Francisco | Cusco | Peru
Photo: rjankovsky

Next, return to the starting point through the maze of picturesque lanes around the scenic Cusco bazaar, and take the kinetic Ave del Sol, to get to one of Cusco’s most sacred sites, Coricancha ruins, now home to Santo Domingo de Guzman’s Church.

Even if the Spaniards built the cathedral, it is the ruins of an ancient Incan temple that they demolished to make way for the colonial place of worship.

You can delight in both the monumentality of ancient Incan architecture and the truly exotic Spanish eclecticism, and even venture inside, for a tour, with the cathedral open from 6 am to 8 pm, daily.

Then proceed down Ave del Sol to Iglesia Monte de Sion, a scenic prayer house, and then retrace your steps on Ave del Sol, and bear right onto Av. Garcilaso to take a stroll to Tupac Amaru Square, best visited over the weekend for a visit to the weekend-only craft market, or a promenade around the surrounding areas, perfect for exploring lesser known parts of town.

Don't miss out on the equestrian statue of the great ancient Incan ruler, Tupac Amaru and the nice cafes scattered around, and don't forget that on weekend you can attend a football game at Estadio Inca Garcilaso de la Vega, one of the best things to do on a Cusco city break.

Also note that if you have enough stamina you can fit in a tour of the Regional Historical Museum of Cusco, open from 9 am to 5 pm, daily, and featuring a breathtaking melange of Incan art and colonial painting.

Authentic Cusco Tour

 

Just as impressive as a hike on Corcovado in Rio, you can go on a tour of some authentically Cuscan landmarks.

On it, you can visit Christo Blanco, or White Christ looking over the town and serving as the patron of Peru’s second largest town; Sacsayhuaman archaeological sites, authentic Cusco landmarks, and Coricancha Inca Site, also dating back to the Inca Empire, of which Cusco was the capital. 

Cristo Blanco | Cusco | Peru
Photo: catshiles

First, make your way to the Coricancha ruins, serving as the foundation for Santo Domingo de Guzman’s Church.

Demolished by Spaniards it is only the foundation that survives from the Inca Empire’s main temple, yet it remains one of the few rare examples of refined Inca architecture, and what is more, it served as a central piece of the whole cityscape: Cuzco was built in the shape of a Leopard, an Incan holy animal, whose tail was considered the most sacred part. So to emphasize the sacred nature of Cusco’s Coricancha Temple it was put up in the part of town that from on high looked like the Leopard-city’s tail.

After a tour of the cathedral’s stunning interior, and a peek at the humongous stones used in the construction, prepare for a city hike to Sacsayhuaman.

Return to Plaza de Armas, from where you can take Palacio-Pumacurco Street, running all the way to Da Bosco, a thoroughfare skirting the majestic Sacsayhuaman.

Climb to the top, and gaze at the splendor of the magnificent ruins featuring three distinct terraces and dating back to the later period of the Inca empire, when in the early 15th century, the emperor Pachacuti and his successors erected this magnificent citadel.

Sacsayhuaman | Cusco | Peru
Photo: Leonid Andronov

Keep in mind that to enter you need to cough up 160-sol for a ticket, valid for a 10-day period. As a reward, you can profit from one of the best photo vantage points in town.

The next stop is the Protector of Cusco, White Jesus, whose white outstretched arms embrace the town. The statue, erected on Red Hill, and offering a really mind-blowing vista, is a gift of gratitude for a warm welcome from Arab-Palestinian immigrants who arrived here in the wake of WW2, fleeing conflict to settle down here.

To get here return to Plaza De Armas and make your way to the statue of White Christ. Proceed southward along Palacio, all the way uphill, for you to reach the top of Red Hill, one of Peru’s best places to take selfies, on which the statue of Jesus is situated.

Note that the statue can be visited throughout the day but is best visited during sunset hours, also note that it may be best to grab a power battery, some water and sunblock for Cusco’s has one of the world’s highest levels of UV light.

Cuzco organic food and wine tour

 

Homeland of Quinoa, one of the world’s healthiest superfoods, Peru stands to profit from the organic craze which has been spreading like wildlife.

Even though Peru has just started to catch up with the rest of the world, it does not mean that it has been a slow learner.

To explore Peru’s emerging organic food and drink scenery, head on a tour of Cusco’s main gastronomical hidden gems: namely, a local vegan Mecca, an exquisite wine store and one of the best organic smoothie parlors in the whole of Latin America.

If you are interested in Peruvian gastronomy, Voyagers travel offers a 9 day tour focused on Peru’s culinary scene.

Take a vespertine stroll around Cusco, and head for lunch. Until recently, many travelers would have plumped for the most common fare in Cusco, namely Lomo Saltado (Stir Fried Beef)or other Peruvian meat delicacies, now there are many more choices for travelers, with vegan and organic options trending up and fast.

On your Cusco organic food tour, first head to Chia Vegan Restaurant, situated at 133 C.Carmen Alto.

Chia Vegan Restaurant | Cusco | Peru


Here you can tuck into ambrosial vegan tacos and delight in the mouthwatering vegan curry.

Afterwards, pop by a nearby church, the stunning Iglesia San Blas, with a nice green spot, Plaza de San Blas and proceed to Tandapata Street, a narrow street, great for a downtown walking tour.

Then, when you feel peckish again, make your way to another locale with a really delectable fair: Qura, one of the city’s best smoothie bars. Situated right downtown, on Calle Arequipa, is a great spot to start another walking tour, that of Cusco downtown. When in Qura, don’t miss out on an avocado toast, washed down with red fruit smoothie and really slap-up portions of delicious poke.

Qura | Smoothie Bar | Cusco | Peru


For a vegan dinner and mouth watering organic produce go to Greens, the local bobo’s most beloved watering hole, known for authentic fare and great tipples, situated on kinetic Santa Catarina Angosta.

Other places to dine or wine in include Orgaanika, at 134 Ataud, for healthy Peruvian fare, or Cantino Vino Italiano, known for a great selection of delectable Italian wines, and ambrosial featuring meat and cheese, for those who can’t resist their carnivorous urge.

Planetarium tour

 

Even though the Incan civilisation all but perished as a result of colonialism, some bits of its heritage have remained unscathed.

For example, just like the Incas of old, many Peruvians are still obsessed with the sky, stars and planets.

Part of the reasons is the unique location of many Peruvian cities, explaining why so many ancient observatories can be found amongst ancient Inca ruins: head on a tour of Planetarium,one of Cusco’s prime landmarks, to see how well located the city is for stargazing.

Here you can succumb to the beauty of the universe on your 5-hour Cusco star-gazing tour.

The tour starts at Plaza des Armas, from where you will be taken to the Cusco observatory. Here you can not just gaze at the stars but learn the basics of Inca astronomy, and even have a wholesome Peruvian dinner, washed down with a punchy Pisco Sour cocktail, before being taken to your hotel for a good night’s sleep.

Plan your visit to Cusco with Voyagers Travel

 
Visit Cusco with us
 

These are just a few ideas and inspiration for travelers planning a vacation to the Peruvian Andes. At Voyagers Travel we are happy to help you with your plans, just reach out and setup a phone call and we will craft an itinerary for you. Our insider knowledge will allow to include off the beaten path attractions as well as must visit highlights. You will be able to combine Cusco with many other attractions in Peru for a well planned and carefree vacation.

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