Cusco: We’re Home?


For the first time in ages, maybe ever, I didn’t manage to get my “We’re Home” post published during our long stay. Normally I like to do the “We’re Home” post about halfway through the stay but between work, sightseeing, and being underwhelmed by Cusco, it has been easy to procrastinate. However, there is plenty to celebrate and record about our time in Cusco.

Arrival and Airbnb

Though it seems like forever ago, we had a really good travel day moving from Arequipa to Cusco. The airport lounge in Arequipa was adequate, our LATAM airlines flight was on time and took only an hour, and the view of the Andes from the plane window was lovely. We arrived in Cusco around 9 a.m. and after retrieving our luggage took a taxi to a cafe in the neighborhood with our Airbnb. The cafe had a good size and menu so we were able to stay until our Airbnb was ready (three hours ahead of schedule!) at noon. 

Our host here in Cusco is one of our favorites ever and the apartment suits us well. It’s a two-bedroom, two-bathroom on the 8th floor with a beautiful view of the hills south of Cusco. The host was kind enough to dismantle the second bed so we could turn that room into Chad’s office. The wifi works great and the kitchen is okay. The only downside is it’s a little chilly. But we’ve been very happy and comfortable here. Our host also has a travel company and so helped book a couple of our tours. It’s also one of the most affordable Airbnbs we’ve ever stayed in, which is saying a lot after all the inflation of the past couple of years. I’m really glad we chose this place.

Boleto Turistico

We had a slow start with sightseeing because we’d ended our time in Arequipa with our two-day Colca Canyon tour and had lost another workday to travel and settling in. And, like Arequipa, Cusco was in the tail end of its rainy season, meaning showers nearly every afternoon. After five days here we finally took an Uber to the historic center to take in a museum and see the old town. 

That day I got a crash course in Cusco tourism, learning that most of the museums and sights can only be seen with a “boleto turistico” (tourist ticket), of which there are many partial options, each good for two days and costing 70 soles (about $19) per person, or the “integral” ticket for 130 soles ($36) that covers all the attractions but is only good for 10 days. The “integral” is clearly a much better value so we committed to seeing what we could in 10 days even though we still had a full 30 days remaining in Cusco. It actually worked out pretty well because we were already planning to do a full-day Sacred Valley tour the following week which would include four of the attractions covered by the ticket.

Apparently some of the sites sell to boleto turistico but not the museum we started with so we had to walk a few rainy blocks to the tourist information office for our purchase. Then back to the Regional Historical Museum of Cusco, which was actually quite good. It is located in the historic home of the celebrated writer Inca Garcilaso de la Vega. It featured some interesting artifacts from the Inca and pre-Inca culture, a room about Garcilaso himself (interesting guy), and a fair bit of art from the Viceroyal period. By the time we finished the museum the rain had let up enough to allow us to get familiar with the historic center and we enjoyed a great Peruvian meal at a restaurant called Yaku. We were off to a good start.

Two days later, we got up early on a Saturday morning and took an Uber to the Saqsaywaman Inca ruins overlooking the city. These were included on the boleto turistico, as were three other sets of Inca ruins on the same road, Qenqo (a temple), Puka Pukara (the red fort), and Tombomachay (Inca baths and water temple). Though the afternoons in Cusco were raining, the mornings were beautiful and that Saturday was no exception. We had an amazing time exploring the Saqsaywaman ruins, which are quite extensive. 

Afterwards, we took a taxi we found outside to Qenqo. He offered to take us all the way to Tombomachay, which is the farthest from town, and suggested we could walk to the other sites from there. But I wasn’t quite sure of our plans yet and assumed we’d continue finding taxis outside each set of ruins. That proved not to be the case. Luckily after Qenqo we were able to walk back down the hill to find the taxi driver and negotiated a rate with him (around $20) to take us to the other two sights and wait at each one, then drive us down the hill into Cusco after. That worked out really well and the ruins were all worth seeing. I learned later from our host that more tourists visit Saqsaywaman than Machu Picchu since it is easier to reach (technically walkable from Cusco, though it’s like an hour uphill so I’m glad we did Uber). There are apparently public buses that pass along the ruins but they’re not super-frequent and I’m glad we didn’t have to figure that out.

I’ll talk about our Sacred Valley tour in a separate post. The final attraction we saw with our boleto turistico (on the last day possible!), was the museum for Qorikancha, the Inca temple of the sun that was taken over as a Catholic church. Qorikancha itself is a separate ticket since the Catholic church still owns it, but we paid our 15 soles each to do that too. Interesting history but not a highlight of our time here.

Other Experiences

I’ll make separate posts for our two-day Machu Picchu trip and our full-day private tour to Rainbow Mountain. The only other major activities we did in Cusco was taking in a professional soccer match, roaming around the San Blas neighborhood, and visiting the Museo de Arte Precolombino, which is associated with the Museo Larco we liked so much in Lima. We’ve also enjoyed lots of Peruvian food and fusion food, including more nikkei and trying Thai-Peruvian fusion.

The soccer match was especially unforgettable. There are at least three top league teams in Cusco and they share the Estadio Inca Garcilaso de la Vega. We wanted to see the oldest of the teams, Club Cienciano, which has a claim on being the oldest club in South America but I couldn’t verify that. It is called Ciencino (Scientists) because it was founded in 1901 by students of the Colegio Nacional Ciencias del Cusco. 

The match we chose was against their hometown rivals, Deportivo Garcilaso. It was a very intense match and our seats gave us a front row seat to the passion of Peruvian football fans. Honestly they were quite negative toward their own team (which lost 2-0) and the rival team too. We’ll never forget the jeers and whistling. Luckily there was lots of police presence and a huge fence with barbed wire separating the fans from the pitch, so no chance for things to get too out of hand. I never felt unsafe, just a little uncomfortable with all the anger. Generally it was a family-friendly atmosphere and the match itself was more exciting than the 0-0 Boca Juniors match we attended in Argentina.

I’m a little embarrassed to admit that the neighborhood of San Blas wasn’t really on my radar until we met our friend from the Colca Canyon tour there for drinks after seeing Qorikancha. We met at a bar in San Blas and he told us he was staying nearby and how much he liked the area. It is just above the centro, so is reached though a series a steep hills and steps. But the nice thing is, at the top there are no cars and it is very charming. We returned to San Blas several times for drinks with a view and great restaurants, including two good nikkei meals (though our first nikkei experience in Arequipa remains our favorite).

The Museo de Arte Precolombino was our favorite Cusco museum and a great compliment to our visit to the Museo Larco months ago in Lima, which was our first outing there. We love that kind of symmetry in our trips. The museum was just the right size and the explanations of the pre-Inca and Inca art and artifacts were excellent. And of course we followed our museum outing with drinks with a view and nikkei food in San Blas. And a brief tasting of two other Peruvian liquors, cana alta (which is like rum) and matacuy (which they call an Andean elixir).


While Cusco is definitely on the bottom half of the list of favorite places we’ve stayed for four weeks or more, we’ve had a very nice time and the sightseeing has been incredible. And between the price, the space, and the fast wifi (plus our great host) I would call this one of our best Airbnbs, despite it being a bit chilly. That’s worked out well as we both continue to be very busy with our work. We won’t be sad to leave Cusco but it’s been a good experience overall.

Airbnb Review – My husband and I had a wonderful 5-week stay in this apartment. Daniel is a fantastic host – great communication before and during our stay, very accommodating, and he helped us book some wonderful tours. We loved being in this more residential part of Cusco with great stores nearby. Taxi to and from the center was easy. Wifi was fast and reliable for streaming and video calls. The view from the living room and bedroom windows was the best part. Kitchen was typical – we added a couple of items and were able to make simple meals.

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