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How to Spend 4 Days in Cusco: Detailed Itinerary

Written by Sam Corporations January 22, 2024

How to Spend 4 Days in Cusco: Detailed Itinerary

In this Cusco itinerary, we’ll help you plan the best way to spend 4 days in Cusco, exploring this unique city and the beautiful Sacred Valley that surrounds it. If you have more or fewer days in Cusco, we’ll also provide a few possible itinerary modifications. If you’re planning to explore Peru’s Sacred Valley and visit Machu Picchu, Cusco is the perfect home base for a couple of days.

Nestled high in the Andes Mountains, Cusco’s rich history and ideal location as an adventure hub of the region make it the perfect spot to base yourself for a few days exploring the Sacred Valley. Because of its central location, Cusco provides easy access to many great day trips.

With so many amazing ways you could spend your time, deciding on the perfect Cusco itinerary is a challenge.

In this article, we’ve constructed the ideal itinerary if you have just 4 days in Cusco. We hope this outline will save you some time and hassle as you plan your Cusco itinerary!

Cusco Itinerary in 4 days | Overview

Without further ado, let’s get into it! Below is a brief outline of our 4-day Cusco itinerary. Keep scrolling to find more details about the plans for each day.

  • Day 1 | See the highlights of Cusco
  • Day 2 | Venture from Cusco to Ollantaytambo, stopping at Maras and Moray
  • Day 3 | See one of the 7 modern wonders of the world: Machu Picchu!
  • Day 4 | Day hike to Huchuy Qosqo

Cusco Itinerary map

The map below displays the location of each activity included in our Cusco itinerary for 4 days.

Cusco Itinerary Day 1 | See the highlights of Cusco

You’ll spend the first day of this Cusco itinerary exploring the city and getting acclimated. If you’ve had a long flight into Peru, the first day is a great chance to rest up for a busy couple of days.

Where to stay in Cusco

We stayed in two hostels in Cusco that we loved and are perfect for this 4-day Cusco itinerary. Both are reasonably priced and located in the center of town, just a few minutes from Plaza de Armas, San Blas, and the San Pedro market. We can’t recommend these hostels enough!

  • Hostel Pariwana | This popular hostel has racked up all kinds of recognition for being one of the best hostels not only in Cusco but the entire world. As they say, it’s a champagne lifestyle on a beer budget! With a great location, friendly staff, and tons of space to hang out and relax, Hostel Pariwana is our top recommendation for budget travelers.
  • TATA Hotel Boutique | When our plans unexpectedly changed during our time in Peru and we couldn’t get a room at Hostel Pariwana, we found ourselves at TATA Hotel Boutique and it couldn’t have worked out better. Smaller and much quieter than Hotel Pariwana, TATA Hotel Boutique was exactly what we needed after some unfortunate changes to our travel plans. The staff could not have been more accommodating, the rooms were immaculate, and the price is low!

Get coffee and explore Plaza de Armas

Start your first morning with a stroll through Plaza de Armas, a bustling square located at the heart of Old Town Cusco. The square is lined with various shops, restaurants, and cafes.

If you’re staying at Hostel Pariwana or TATA Hotel Boutique it’s about a 3-minute walk to Plaza de Armas. First things, first: grab a coffee! There’s a really cute little coffee shop called Cafe 109 that sits on the second level over looking the square. Grab a piping hot cappuccino and pastry and enjoy the hustle and bustle of Plaza de Armas from a distance while you get caffeinated for the day.

At the head of the square sits the Cusco Cathedral, built at the site where the Incan palace Quishuarcancha used to stand. Construction of the cathedral began in the mid 1500’s and took over 100 years to build using stones carried from the Sacsayhuamán citadel. Today it is recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage site.

From Plaza de Armas you have a lovely view of the mountains that surround Cusco, with little red-roofed houses clinging to the hillsides. It’s truly one of the most beautiful city squares we’ve ever seen.

Visit the Sacsayhuaman Ruins

Now that you’ve gotten your coffee fix, it’s time to dive into Cusco’s unique history!

Perched on a steep hill overlooking Cusco, the Sacsayhuaman fortress was built by the Incas and likely used to host religious ceremonies and/or store valuables, like food, armor, precious metals, and more. From Plaza de Armas, its about a 20-minute walk uphill to the ruins.

While the ruins are impressive themselves, the view overlooking the city of Cusco from Sacsayhuaman is worth the visit in and of itself.

In order to enter Sacsayhuaman, you will need to purchase a Cusco Boleto Turistico. You can purchase your Boleto Turistico in advance or at the entrance to Sacsayhuaman.

Have lunch at the San Pedro Market

They say the best way to get to know a culture is through the food, and after visiting the San Pedro Market, we’d certainly agree!

When you’re ready to dive head-first into Peruvian culture (or your stomach’s rumbling), head to the San Pedro Market, located just a few minutes from Plaza de Armas. Here you will find a chaotically beautiful assortment of vendors selling various textiles, souvenirs, local produce, cheeses, meats, and more.

The market also includes a huge selection of food vendors, where you can eat anything from the classic Peruvian dish Lomo Saltado to freshly made juices, another specialty in Peru.

We’ll be honest, the market can feel quite overwhelming, but nonetheless, it a ca n’t-miss on any Cusco itinerary! The assortment of smells, from sweet mango juice aromas to the putrid scent of meats that may have sat out a few hours too long, the sounds of yelling voices trying to entice shoppers to their booths, and the vibrant array of colors and items to look at is a feast for the senses.

We visited the market a few times, but our favorite dish there was the salchipapas (fried sausages and potatoes) served over rice with a delicious sauce and fried plantains on top. It sounds and looks (see photo above), a little strange, but we promise it’s delicious! Plus the meal was plenty for two and cost only about $7 USD.

Explore San Blas and see the 12-angle Stone

Picture a maze of narrow cobblestone streets with quaint, colorful homes packed in tightly on all sides and small, local artisanal shops on each corner.

This is San Blas, Cusco, which is, in our opinion, the most picturesque neighborhood in the heart of the ancient Incan capital. You could spend days simply wandering around the labyrinth of undulating streets, finding small surprises, bursts of color, and local shops or restaurants around each corner.

If you’re spending 4 days in Cusco, a visit to San Blas is a must!

One of the most popular things to see in San Blas is the 12-Angle Stone. The 12-Angle Stone is one of those things that doesn’t sound all that exciting until you understand its history.

Made of green diorite, the 12-angle Stone is part of the now-destroyed Incan Palace of Hatunrumiyoc. What makes this particular stone so unique is that it contains, you guessed it, 12 angles! The Incas were masterful craftsmen, constructing massive walls with stones cut to fit perfectly together without using mortar that remains perfectly airtight to this day.

Have dinner and drinks at Limbus Restobar

To wrap up day one of this 4 day Cusco itinerary, grab dinner and drinks with the best view in town at Limbus Restobar.

With amazing cocktails and one of the best views in Cusco, if you’re looking to grab a drink you really can’t beat Viewhouse Resto Bar. The restaurant lives up to its name, featuring a bar and seating area with stunning views overlooking the city. Watching the city light up as the sun sets behind the mountains is quite a spectacular sight.

In addition to the views, the cocktails at Viewhouse Resto Bar are unique and delicious. I ordered a cocktail (which unfortunately I can’t remember the name of), that came with a candied pepper and a side “shot” of local beer. It was honestly one of my favorite cocktails of all time!

Cusco Itinerary Day 2 | Travel to Ollantaytambo

On day two of our Cusco itinerary, you’ll make your way to Aguas Calientes, the main hub for visiting Machu Picchu, with a few fun stops along the way.

All you need to KNOW about Ollantaytambo Town - Sam Corporations

Where to stay in Aguas Calientes

On the second night of our Cusco itinerary, you’ll actually want to stay in the small town of Aguas Calientes, which is the only place from which you can visit Machu Picchu.

Now, we know you came here for information on how to spend 4 days in Cusco, but let us explain! If you’re visiting Cusco for the first time, visiting Machu Picchu has to be on your itinerary: you can’t visit Cusco and not go to Machu Picchu!

That being said, it’s not practical to visit Machu Picchu as a day trip from Cusco. While technically it is possible, transportation logistics are a bit complicated and you’ll spend most of the day traveling. As such, we recommend taking your time traveling from Cusco to Aguas Calientes, which sits at the base of Machu Picchu.

There’s plenty to see along the way, so you can easily make a day out of the journey, with stops such as the Maras Salt Mines, Moray ruins, and the little town of Ollantaytambo. We’ll give you all the details you need to know next!

Below are a few recommendations on great places to stay in Aguas Calientes:

  • Panorama B&B | Conveniently located close to the Machu Picchu bus station with lovely views down the valley.
  • Mistico Machupicchu Eco B&B | A solid budget option featuring balconies with views of the valley, a little further from the hustle and busy of Aguas Calientes.

Visit Maras and Moray

To get to Aguas Calientes, you’ll need to take a train from the small town of Ollantaytambo. To get there, you can either take a direct bus from Cusco, or make the most out of the trip with a few stops along the way.

The stunning salt mines of Maras and the mysterious ruins of Moray are located somewhat on the way to Ollantaytambo from Cusco and are a great way to break up the journey. This is what we did, and we can’t recommend it enough.

To make the trip to Maras and Moray, you can either join a guided trip or do it yourself by hiring a taxi for the day. Hiring a taxi is surprisingly inexpensive. We paid just 200 soles for a taxi from Cusco to Maras, Moray and finally ending in Ollantaytambo, a journey that took a total of about 5 hours.

History of Maras - Sam Corporations

However, keep in mind you’ll need to know a little Spanish to communicate with your driver and be very clear on where you are trying to go. There is also a small town called Maras, so you’ll want to be explicit that you want to visit the salt mines (“Salineras de Maras“). We confused our taxi driver and ended up having to pay a little more for him to take us to the Maras salt mines.

The journey is a little complicated, so we’ve compiled a full guide to visiting Maras and Moray with everything you need to know.

Continue to Ollantaytambo

After visiting the Maras Salt Mines and Moray ruins, you’ll continue to Ollantaytambo, a drive that takes about an hour and traverses some rough and bumpy roads. Plan to spend a couple hours in Ollantaytambo, exploring the cute little town and the nearby Ollantaytambo ruins.

Take the train to Aguas Calientes

Book your tickets to Aguas Calientes | PeruRail or IncaRail
Your final destination on day two of our Cusco Itinerary is Aguas Calientes. To get there, you will need to book a train ticket from Ollantaytambo.

Keep in mind that this route is primarily used to get to Machu Picchu, which means that tickets do sell out so be sure to book well in advance.

Cusco Itinerary Day 3 | Machu Picchu

Day three is the pinnacle of our 4 day Cusco itinerary. After all, it’s likely the main reason you’re traveling to Cusco: to see Peru’s famous wonder of the modern world, Machu Picchu!

Visit Machu Picchu

From Aguas Calientes, there are two ways to get to Machu Picchu:

  • By foot | It’s a steep 2 mile climb with about 1700 feet of elevation gain to reach the entrance to Machu Picchu.
  • By bus | The roughly 30-minute bus ride is offered only by the bus company, Consettur. You can purchase tickets online here.

Regardless of whether you hike or take the bus, you’ll need to have reservations to enter Machu Picchu. When you purchase tickets, you’ll select a designated entrance time and route through the ruins.

During the peak season, these tickets sell out far in advance for the best time, so you have to purchase tickets online before you leave to ensure entry. Tickets costs approximately $40 USD and may be purchased online here.

Hike Huayna Picchu

When purchasing tickets to Machu Picchu, we highly recommend selecting one of the circuits that includes access to hike Huayna Picchu, that tall pointy mountain that towers over Machu Picchu!

Not only does the summit of Huayna Picchu provide the absolute best views of Machu Picchu, but you’ll be able to escape some of the crowds, get your heart pumping while climbing some of the steepest stairs we’ve ever seen, and explore a whole separate set of ruins that people who only visit Machu Picchu never get to experience!

Return to Cusco

Foot traffic through Machu Picchu is one way and you have to follow a specified route, which inherently limits the total amount of time you’ll spend there.

After a couple hours exploring Machu Picchu in the morning, begin the journey back to Cusco to end day three of your 4 day Cusco itinerary. Once again, you’ll have to walk or take the bus back to Aquas Calientes, take a train to Ollantaytambo, and then take a bus or taxi to get back to Cusco.

We’d recommend staying again at either Hostel Pariwana or TATA Boutique Hotel. If you want to travel light on the way to Machu Picchu, they’ll even store your extra bags for you.

Cusco Itinerary Day 4 | Huchuy Qosqo Day Hike

On day 4 of your Cusco itinerary, there are several amazing day trips from Cusco that you could choose from. Our recommendation is to do the Huchuy Qosqo day hike because it’s easiest to access and requires the least travel time.

Huchuy Qosqo Day Hike

Often overlooked in favor of the Sacred Valley’s more famous ruins, Huchuy Qosqo is an Incan archeological site located north of Cusco near the town of Lamay that remains off the beaten path of most tourists.

The Huchuy Qosqo trek begins near the small town of Chinchero and traverses nearly 10 miles one-way to Lamay, passing by the Huchuy Qosqo ruins along the way. Unlike many hikes in the area, the Huchuy Qosqo trek is only about an hour’s drive from Cusco, making it perfect for a day trip.

Why Should I hike the Huchuy Qosqo Trek

Other options for day four of your Cusco Itinerary

If an all-day hike doesn’t sound like your cup of tea, here are a few other ideas on how to spend your fourth day n Cusco:

  • Explore the Pisac Ruins and wander through the artsy town of Pisac
  • Take a day trip to a stunning high alpine lake, Laguna Humantay
  • Visit the now Insta-famous Rainbow Mountain
  • Spend another day relaxing and exploring Cusco

Modifications to this Cusco itinerary

If you have fewer than 4 days in Cusco, we’d recommend first taking out day 4. If you have only two days, you really only have time for a quick trip to Machu Picchu.

If you have more than 4 days in Cusco, we’d recommend tacking on a day trip to Pisac, Laguna Humantay, or Rainbow Mountain. You could also build in an extra rest day with more time to explore the city of Cusco after your trip to Machu Picchu.

Cusco Itinerary | FAQs

How many days do I need in Cusco?

Because there are so many amazing things to do near Cusco, you could easily spend 10 days to 2 weeks in Cusco. However, if you have less time, 4 days is enough time to see the highlights. With 4 days in Cusco, you can spend a day exploring the city, visit one of the modern wonders of the world, Machu Picchu, and embark on a day trip into the Andes Mountains.

While this article will focus on how to spend 4 days in Cusco, we’ll also offer a few Cusco itinerary suggestions if you have a little more or less time in the area.

If you have more than a week to spend in Peru, we recommend you check out our 10-day Peru itinerary, which covers all the highlights of the Sacred Valley.

Should I buy the Cusco Boleto Turistico?

If you’re planning to spend 4 days in Cusco, you will almost certainly want to purchase the Cusco Boleto Turistico, which grants you access to many of the archeological sites in Cusco and the Sacred Valley.

For more details, we’ve put together a complete guide to the Cusco Boleto Turistico with all the information you need to know.

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