Traveling to or within the country of Peru? Wondering where to stay in Cusco? Interested in exploring and experiencing the center of ancient Incan civilization for both its historic sites and all the modern scene has to offer?
No wonder. Cusco is full of romance, a city set over 11,000 feet high in the sky amid the Andes Mountains of southeastern Peru. It has long been a tourist magnet and has been, since 1983, a World Heritage City.
But given the city has several distinct parts, each of which has its own unique advantages and disadvantages, and is a bustling metropolis over 400,000 strong, you will need some guidance on how to select the right areas in order to make your stay in Cusco as comfortable and convenient as possible.
Luckily, Cusco has an abundance of hotels and hostels of all ranks and orders, and you can find very affordable prices on even four and five-star establishments.
You can find everything from luxury accommodations to rustic, local-style lodgings. Read ahead for key advice on how to decide where to stay in Cusco!
Where to Stay in Cusco: Best Areas
The two prime areas to stay in Cusco are usually considered to be the Plaza de Armas and San Blas, which together are known as the Historic Centre.
These two neighborhoods in Cusco will be looked at jointly and apart, and then we will round it off by examining Sacsayhuaman and the Airport District.
1. Historic Center, where to stay in Cusco for first time
Several neighborhoods in Cusco are encompassed by the city’s Historic Center, most notably Plaza de Armas and San Blas.
The center as a whole is joined to the rest of Cusco by city road 3S, which runs from the Historic Center to the Airport and beyond. Thus, you can easily grab a quick taxi ride from Cusco Airport to the Historic District at a reasonable price.
This is not a residential area but a true “touristy zone,” chock full of hotels, resorts, quaint little shops, dining opportunities, and monuments and landmarks.
There are many old, Spanish colonial style buildings in the area, including the Church of Santo Domingo and the Archbishop’s Palace, aside from Incan remains like the remnants of the temple of Inti, the Incan sun god, or the monument to the great Incan conqueror-king Pachacutec.
Additionally, look for the nearby Casa Concha Museum, with its Machu Picchu artifacts, the Museum of Pre-Columbian Art, the Inca Museum, the Museum of Sacred Plants, and the Quechua and the Regional Historical Museum of Cusco.
You will find alpaca clothing, ponchos, Andean-style jewelry, and all manner of souvenirs for sale in dozens of shops scattered throughout the Historic Center.
And you can also indulge in locally grown Peruvian chocolate, tapas bars, and “exotic” places like an Italian restaurant and an Irish pub.
BEST PLACES TO STAY IN CUSCO HISTORIC CENTER
- ($$$) Palacio del Inka, a Luxury Collection Hotel by Marriott
- ($$) Sonesta Hotel Cusco
- ($) Hawka Inka Hostal
2. Plaza de Armas, best place to stay in Cusco for nightlife
Plaza de Armas is the heart of the Historic Center in many ways, being filled with a wide range of monuments spanning the history of Peru from the Incan kings to the present day. It is laid out in the style of Spanish plazas, with a garden in the center and hotels and other buildings all around.
Just east of the square is a cathedral and full religious complex dating from the 1500s, while just south lies the Museum of Natural History and a Jesuit church.
There are Incan merchandise stores crowded around and near Plaza de Armas, and you will see street vendors peddling local produce and delicacies right in the middle of the square.
The Mama Africa and other nightclubs are in and around the plaza, and you’ll find KFC, Peruvian cuisine, ceviche bars, and arcades all plying for your attention – quite a motley mix of entertainment and cultural experiences!
The best hotels in Plaza de Armas are right on the edge of the plaza itself and near the heart of the action. You could save a little by opting for a less prominently placed accommodation, but even the high-end establishments are pretty cheap, so why not splurge?
BEST PLACES TO STAY IN PLAZA DE ARMAS
- ($$$) JW Marriott El Convento Cusco
- ($$) Hotel Plaza de Armas Cusco
- ($) Hostal & Apartments El Triunfo
See also: Best things to do in Cusco
3. San Blas, where to stay in Cusco in a cool and charming area
As you enter San Blas, you find yourself on higher ground, which is why this area in Cusco is referred to as “The Balcony.”
There are more residential areas in this part of the Historic Center than in Plaza de Armas, so you could even consider finding an apartment or house to rent for longer stays.
The cobblestone streets and colonial homes of San Blas are truly charming, and there are many hotels to choose from. And as it’s still near most of the tourist action of Cusco, it’s a great place to stay.
If possible, try to stay in Cusco near the plaza of San Blas, where you will be near the Temple of San Blas, built in 1563, various art galleries, and some artisan and craft shops.
This spot also offers the Coca Museum, the tourable Casa Merida, famed Peruvian restaurants, a French food buffet, and a place catering to vegetarians and vegans called “Green Point.”
Finally, staying in Cusco near San Blas plaza can be a good choice on the weekends since a fair takes place there every Saturday, with food stalls, song and dance performers, and all.
BEST PLACES TO STAY IN CUSCO IN SAN BLAS
4. Sacsayhuaman – San Cristobal, where to stay in Cusco on a budget
On the northern outskirts of Cusco, another good choice of where to stay in Cusco is Sacsayhuaman, an area centered around the ancient Incan fortress of the same name.
Also nearby this area is the statue of Cristo Blanco (The White Christ), the B and O Art Museum, and the Museum of Sacred Plants.
You should consider arriving here via a rental car, tourist agency transport, or by walking the pathway from Don Bosco Street to Sacsayhuaman, while taking in this pathway’s panoramic views of the city.
This is not one of the top places to stay for tourists, but most people bother to at least visit the area. You can’t get a hotel right next to the fortress, but there are hotels and hostels just south in San Cristobal.
It’s a bit out away from Plaza de Armas, so naturally, given the distance from the historic centre, San Cristobal is one of the best places to stay in Cusco on a budget.
BEST PLACES TO STAY IN CUSCO NEAR SACSAYHUAMAN
- ($$$) Palacio Manco Capac by Ananay Hotels
- ($$) Hotel Encantada Casa Boutique Spa
- ($) Hostal Qolqampata
5. Near Cusco Airport, cheap accommodation in Cusco
The Airport District is huddled around Cusco’s Alejandro Velasco Astete International Airport in a neighborhood technically called “Wanchaq.”
This area is residential for the most part but with accommodations here and there along 3S road on the way to the Historic Center.
If you stay in this area, be sure to visit the Wanchaq Market on Huascar Avenue and the Tio market near 28 July Avenue.
The colonial-era Temple of San Sebastian and the Chapel of the Lord of Wimpillay are also major attractions nearby. There are tons of good eateries along 3S highway and on Via Expresa, including a pizza joint, taco restaurant, and a sushi bar.
The ability to rapidly get to and from the airport upon arrival and departure is obviously a huge advantage of staying in Wanchaq, though it does mean more driving around to hit all the tourist stops during your stay in Cusco.
BEST PLACES TO STAY IN CUSCO AIRPORT AREA
We have covered the major areas in Cusco where visitors would do well to stay over, and given some attractions and motivations for choosing each area. A final word: consider spending part of your time in Cusco in different zones of the city to get the most out of it!
If you are interested in the best areas to stay in Cusco, you may also be interested in where to stay in Lima