This post is part 3 of 4 in the series Cuzco, Peru City Travel Guide

Cuzco, Peru (spelled Cusco locally) is a UNESCO World Heritage site and a major travel destination because of its Incan history, colonial architecture, and as the gateway to Machu Picchu and the Sacred Valley. It’s no surprise that this Andean city has a mind-boggling number of hotels so it can be hard to choose where to sleep in Cuzco. Use our city travel guide about our favorite hotels in Cuzco (we’ve stayed in each of the hotels in this post) to choose the best luxury hotel in Cuzco, the best boutique hotel in Cuzco, or the best budget hotel in Cuzco.

El Mercado hotel Cusco

The inviting central courtyard at El Mercado boutique hotel in Cuzco, Peru.

You’ll find hotels in all areas of Cuzco. However, the most popular and convenient areas for travelers are the historic center of the city and the San Blas neighborhood just above the center. The following hotels are (mostly) located in those areas.

Our best luxury hotels in Cuzco, Peru

As a top tourist destination in Peru, Cuzco also has many luxury chain hotels to choose from. Here are two top classic luxury hotel options in Cuzco.

JW Marriott El Convento Cusco

The original colonial columns and arches around the courtyard at the JW Marriott El Convento Cusco are just one of the reasons this hotel does not feel like just another Marriott.

The JW Marriott El Convento Cusco avoids feeling like “just another Marriott” in many ways. As the names implies, the hotel is located in the restored remains of a convent. Opened in 2012, after millions of dollars and many years were spent restoring the abandoned structure, the hotel retains charming original elements such as carved stone doorways, stone pillars and arches in the central courtyard, and even a section of the original inlaid pebble floor. The reception desk is where the chapel used to be. In addition, Incan and pre-Incan structures were found under the convent and guests who take the free daily hotel tour can visit a protected area containing a colonial wall from the 1500s, an Incan wall from just before that, a pre-Incan Kilke-built wall dating back 1,500 years, and an intact section of Incan road. Bathrooms have commercial amenities, of course, but there’s also a sachet of bath salts from the Incan Maras salt pools in the nearby Sacred Valley.
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Palacio del Inca Luxury Collection Hotel Cusco

Inside one of the 17 Colonial Suites at the Palacio del Inka Luxury Collection Hotel in Cuzco, Peru.

The Palacio del Inka Luxury Collection Hotel is also full of history from the Incan-built walls that form part of the lobby to the more than 300 colonial painting throughout the hotel to the 17 Colonial Suites which feature orignal elements like carved wooden columns that still have traces of the original gold leaf on them.
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Our best boutique hotels in Cuzco, Peru

El Mercado hotel room Cusco

Design and comfort inside a room at El Mercado boutique hotel.

The El Mercado is so named because it was created in a former market building which dates back to the 1700s. This 32-room boutique hotel near the historic center includes a relaxing central patio with a fire pit. Junior suites and suites have fireplaces and jetted tubs and all rooms are kept toasty by hot water pipes running in the walls. The well-appointed breakfast buffet, included in room rates, features a made-to-order juice bar.
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El Retablo hotel Cusco

The colorful decor at El Retablo boutique hotel is inspired by the Peruvian art form of the same name.

The owners of El Mercado recently opened a second boutique hotel in Cuzco. The El Retablo, above the center toward the San Cristobal church, is named for a colorful Peruvian traditional art form (like a rustic, non-religious tryptic). This place is colorful and lively with live music in the courtyard in the evenings. Rooms have good heaters, 110-volt and 220-volt outlets, and built-in USB outlets. You’ll get a Peruvian chocolate morsel at turndown too.
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Hotel Atiq Cusco

You’ll find many luxe touches at Hotel Atiq in Cuzco.

The nine-room Hotel Atiq is the most upscale boutique hotel in Cuzco with luxe touches like fresh-cut flowers, heated towel racks, 500-thread-count sheets, robes and slippers, and sleek décor by Elena Testino, the sister of famous Peruvian fashion and portrait photographer Mario Testino. Just as stunning is this hotel’s location on the edge of the Qorikancha Incan site, one of the most iconic must-sees in Cusco. Book the hotel’s suite and you’ll have a furnished private patio that looks directly into the site.
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Atoq Hotel Cusco

The Atoq Hotel, in the San Blas area, is the latest boutique hotel to open in Cuzco.

The Atoq Hotel opened in 2018 and it’s a welcome addition to the San Blas neighborhood. The family-owned hotel was built from scratch and offers rooms on three levels, many with spectacular views. Room 301 is a spacious junior suite with great views and a small sitting area. All rooms have good showers and steam heat and English-speaking staff members are very helpful. Rates include pickup from the airport using the hotel’s tried and true driver so you are sure to reach the front door of the hotel.
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Abitare hotel Cusco

Views of the Santo Domingo Church dome from the Abitare Hotel in Cuzco.

Abitare is a 44-room hotel located directly across from Santo Domingo Cathedral and Qorikancha site in the historic center of Cuzco (the dome of the cathedral can be seen from the hotel’s central courtyard and from some rooms). Opened in 2015 in a renovated building which dates back to the 12th century, this hotel offers a wide range of rooms, surprisingly modern décor (light wood, a chic grey and earth tones colors, modern light fixtures, and sleek bathrooms), and serves a buffet breakfast starting at 5 a.m. to accommodate those with early departures.
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Abitare hotel Cuzco

The hotel building is historic, but room decor is very modern at the Abitare Hotel in Cuzco.

 


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Our best budget hotels in Cuzco, Peru

Cuzco is bursting with hostels and budget hotels from grotty to great. If you’re on a budget, but beyond dorms, here are two great options offering private rooms at a good price.

Casa de Mama Treehouse is a quirky find in the lower part of the San Blas neighborhood. There’s no reception area and no full-time staff or front desk. All rooms have a kitchenette, private bathroom, a heater, TV, Wi-Fi, and a full breakfast is included in rates. Every room is different and the place does have a treehouse feel with rooms on three levels around a central tree. We’ve stayed here repeatedly and we prefer the Leo room (all rooms are named after astrological signs) on the second level because it’s a bit warmer and more private. Be aware that it’s not possible to take a taxi to the front door because the entrance is on a set of stairs you will have to walk up from the street below.
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Just beyond the boundaries of the historic center, about a 10-minute walk from the main plaza is the Fiesta Inn Cusco. The place is spotless and rooms include a heater, a flat-screen TV, decent Wi-Fi, and in-room tea service including a water kettle, tea bags, and cups. The included breakfast is great and staff members are very friendly. Book rooms 203, 204 or 205 which are very big and get natural light (other rooms can be a bit small and dark).
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Cuzco travel tips

At 11,152 feet (3,339 meters), Cuzco is definitely a high-altitude town. This means you may feel tired, short of breath (especially when walking along the hilly streets of the city), nauseous, or unable to sleep well when you first arrive. Spend a few days taking it easy, drink a lot of water, drink the ubiquitous coca tea (it works), and your body should slowly acclimatize. The altitude also means that the sun is very, very strong in Cuzco. Wear high SPF sunscreen even on cloudy or cold days.

Cusco tourist street

Tourists and vendors mingle amid stones cut by the Incans.

The high-altitude airport in Cuzco has an extra-long runway so that planes have the space they need to get lift in the thinner air. The altitude also limits the size of the planes that can service the airport which is in a valley surrounded by Andean peaks. Shockingly, this challenging airport doesn’t have an Instrument Landing System, forcing pilots to rely instead on visual landing. This leads to delays any time there’s limited visibility, which is often. There is persistent talk about building a new and controversial airport near the town of Chinchero in the Sacred Valley and closing the city airport. However, few concrete steps had been taken as of this writing.

Peruvian is the only airline servicing the Cuzco airport that does not charge higher fares to foreigners. It’s got a dubious reputation, but that didn’t stop us from flying Peruvian Airlines. The only hiccup was a slight weather delay on the tarmac in Cuzco during which staff asked for 16 (why 16?) volunteers to get off the plane so we could take off. We eventually made it to Lima in one piece…

Got time and don’t want to fly to Cuzco? We recently took a Cruz del Sur bus from Cuzco to Lima (US$59 per person, 21 hours). We booked suite class seats on the first level of the double-level bus which was more than passably clean. Our seats reclined to nearly flat, there were movies on demand, and the small meals served were actually edible.

Cusco fiestas dancing

Traditional dancers in all their glory during a festival in Cuzco.

The month of June is filled with festivals and celebrations in Cuzco which are marked with huge parades featuring bands and costumed dancers who come from around the country to show off in the city’s main plaza. The granddaddy of all the festivals in Cuzco is Inti Raymi which happens near the end of June.

If you’ve come to Cuzco before heading out on one of the many adventures in the area and you need to pick up a piece of gear, fret not. There are a lot of shops selling and renting outdoor gear in Cuzco. If you need to buy clothing or footwear, check the Tatoo store and a store called Cordillera which both stock lots of international brands (Karen bought new Merrell boots at the Cordillera store at the same price they were selling for in the US). There’s also a small and very lightly stocked Patagonia store in Cuzco on the main plaza. For renting gear, head to a small shop called Camping Equipment Rosly in a pedestrian street off the main plaza where a knowledgeable and English-speaking man named Ever probably has what you need. He also does repairs.

traditional dress cusco

Women and girls in traditional dress are happy for tourists to take pictures with them and their irresistible baby animals, for a fee.

You will notice textiles for sale practically everywhere in Cuzco. You will be tempted. Proceed with caution and remember: if the price seems too good to be true, it probably is. You’ll see a lot of products allegedly made from “baby alpaca” (this refers to ultra-fine fibers which are gathered the first time an alpaca is sheared). The running joke in Cuzco is “maybe alpaca” because many vendors on the street and in public markets are selling factory items made from synthetic fibers.

Textile weaving Cusco

A traditional weaver at work in the Centro de Textiles Tradicionales de Cusco.

To find legitimate, high quality, handmade textiles head to Centro de Textiles Tradicionales de Cusco.  Here you can see traditional weavers at work and choose from a wide array of textile items. there’s also a small museum about Peru’s weaving history with displays in English and Spanish. Another source for authentic Peruvian textiles is Threads of Peru, a not-for-profit offshoot of the Apus Peru tour company which is focused on preserving traditional weaving traditions and techniques and supporting the artisans by providing a marketplace for their products. Threads of Peru is an extensive online store (shop from anywhere!), but they also have a small shop as part of the Apus Peru office (Calle K’uichipunku 366).

Complete your Cuzco, Peru trip planning with our city travel guide to restaurants in Cuzco, our city travel guide to the museums and churches in Cuzco, and our city travel guide about an archaeological day trip around Cuzco. And if Machu Picchu is also on your itinerary, don’t miss our 3-part series of posts about travel to Machu Picchu.

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Here’s more about travel in Peru

 


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