Where to Eat, Drink and Sleep in Cusco Peru
Anyone hiking in the Andes ends up spending at least two or three days hanging out in Cusco in order to acclimatize to the altitude. Cusco itself is at a not-so-comfortable elevation of 11,152 feet, and boasts a number of restaurants, bars and attractions.
Getting There and Getting Around
From New York City, we flew direct to Lima and then took a short 1-hour flight over the mountains to Cusco. Word of advice: get a window seat on the left side of the plane. The view flying over the mountains and down into Cusco was breathtaking. Trust me on this one.
Once you arrive in Cusco, there are plenty of taxis waiting. Our hotel had a free shuttle pick-up, so be sure to ask when you book your room. It is about 10 miles from the airport the Plaza de Armas, or city center. A taxi should cost you around 10 soles. Negotiate the fare before getting into the cab – if you don’t like the price the driver gives you, walk away and find another car. Meters are pretty much non-existent. Tipping isn’t necessary unless they help with your luggage, in which case 1-2 soles is appropriate.
Where to Stay
There are many small hotels, hostels and bed & breakfast type places within a short walk from the city center. We stayed at Los Apus Hotel & Mirador, a small hotel that was a 5 minute walk from Plaza de Armas. The staff was friendly and welcoming, the rooms clean, and they offered a free breakfast buffet and complimentary tea every morning. The hotels are used to hikers staying for a few nights, checking out for 4-5 days while they hike, and coming back for another night or two at the end of the trip. Most hotels will hold your extra luggage for free while you are hiking.
Where to Eat
Quite possibly my most favorite thing to do when I travel: experience the local eats. Cusco has plenty to offer, from small mom and pop type places to larger, more expensive restaurants.
- El Cafe de Mama Oli – we ended up eating here 3 or 4 different times over our three days in Cusco. While the tiny dining room doesn’t look like much, they had some of the BEST sandwiches I have ever tasted. Try the chicken, tomato, avocado (turns out Peruvian avocados are incredible) or the chicken-curry-grilled banana-pineapple sandwich. They also have fresh juices and homemade desserts, which were both delicious as well.
- Cafe y Chocolate – you can’t expect me to walk by a place called “Coffee and Chocolate” and NOT walk in, can you?? This adorable little cafe is a great place to stop in and refuel with a cappuccino and slice of cake.
- Greens Organic – features all-organic food in a bright, sun-filled dining room. The inventive salads, whole grains, and fresh juices were a much-needed departure from the heartier fare found in other restaurants.
- Incanto – this was slightly fancier than the other restaurants we visited, but we still fit in fine with our sneakers and fleece jackets. The food was delicious, a cross between Peruvian and Italian, we had the lamb stew with potato gnocci and lomo saltas – a traditional Peruvian beef stew.
- Limo Cocina y Pisco Bar – this Peruvian-Asian fusion restaurant was our first stop post-trek, once we were finally ready to indulge in some alcohol. It served my favorite Pisco Sour of the entire trip, along with plenty of melt-in-your-mouth ceviche.
We didn’t make any reservations, and had no trouble getting into any of them, with the exception of Limo (we went early and sat at the bar).
Where to Drink
Cusco has no shortage of bars. I recommend you partake only AFTER your hike, as alcohol can make altitude sickness worse. Be sure to try the pisco, a clear brandy distilled from white grapes first grown in Peru by the Spaniards in the 16th century. The national drink of Peru is the Pisco Sour, typically made with pisco, lemon or lime juice, simple syrup, egg whites and bitters. I’ve always shied away from drinks made with eggs (the food-safety girl in me) but boy, was I glad I tried it! A few places we explored:
- Republico del Pisco
- Chilcano Pisco Bar
- Limo Pisco Bar
- Ukukus bar – it was tough to find any local pubs in Cusco, with everything seemingly built around tourists, but our new Peruvian friends took us here on our last night in Cusco. We were the only gringos in a bar full of friendly Peruvian’s, and the only people who weren’t able to sing along to the fabulous Peruvian cover band on stage. We danced and danced and danced (pisco sour’s in hand), making it the perfect ending to our trip.
What to Do
The altitude can really take it out of you, so take it easy and not over-plan your first few days in Cusco. My favorite thing to do during the day was to sit in the many square, bask in the sunshine, read, and people watch. When you start to get antsy, check out these local sites:
- San Pedro Market
- San Francisco Market
- Santo Domingo Church
- Cusco Cathedral
I highly recommend wandering outside of the central tourist zone of Cusco, and explore the local area. We stumbled upon many different markets and locals-only spots.
Check out my pinned map for Cusco, including all the spots listed above.
More on my travels in Peru can be found here:
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Alissa Rumsey, RD.
Alissa Rumsey, MS, RD, CDN, CSCS (pronouns she/her/hers) is a registered
dietitian, nutrition therapist, certified intuitive eating counselor, and the author of
Unapologetic Eating: Make Peace With Food and Transform Your Life. Alissa is
passionate about helping people reclaim the space to eat and live,
A twice-a-month round-up of inspirational stories, lessons, practical tips and encouragement for living your most authentic, unapologetic life.