How to spend one day in Cuzco

How to spend one day in Cuzco

This is one of my regular mistakes. I keep thinking it will be alright to spend just one day in this city and once I’m there I discover, that there are tons of things to do and I instantly regret my decision. I made this mistake in Arequipa and I did the same for Cuzco. One day in Cuzco isn’t nearly enough, but if you have a full day, there are the necessities that you just have to visit.

One day in Cuzco

Cathedral in Cuzco

Let’s begin! First of all, when I say one day I mean the whole day, if you have just afternoon, just pick one of the following places to visit. And don’t stress your self. You can always come back and there is no shame in that. Cuzco is generally quite a big city and it used to be the capital of Inkas. To be honest, I heard about first when I got there. So it is completely fine to not go through all of it.


Ruins of sun temple in Cuzco
Ruins of sun temple should be definitely one of the things to visit if you have only one day in Cuzco.

Of as I call it, the thing I thought is just monastery. Qorikancha is actually ruins of old Inka temple. It is one of the main attraction, so definitely go there. Here is the thing about it. Spanish used to colonize South America by tearing their sacred places down and building Christian churches and monasteries on top of them.

This is one of the greatest examples. The colonial monastery that you will enter is huge. There will be a lot of people standing in front of the entrance, offering guiding services, but to be honest, it is not necessary. Just buy a ticket and get the brochure that they are offering, that is more than enough.

There are arrows everywhere to show you where you are supposed to be going, which is a great help. The first couple of rooms are the ones about Spanish colonization and about monastery itself. So you get the information about how did they build it and what kind of saints is this for.

But later on, you will go around this view to the outside garden. I’m actually not sure if you are allowed to go to the garden, at the time when I was there, it wasn’t open for tourists. But anyway, even from the view you can see that there are the ruins of the Inka temple. From this point, you will get to see an exhibition about Inkas and what they did. Also about their temple and how they were predicting things from stars.

I would strongly advise coming here in the morning. I came there at 4 and since the monastery is quite big, I kinda run through it.  But two hours should be enough, maybe even the one hour if you are not interested in the history pep talks.

Historical center

Plaza de Armas in Cuzco
Plaza de Armas in Cuzco

There is this main square with two or three big churches. Or historical buildings, I’m not sure, I didn’t have time to go to all of them and if you are planning to spend one day in Cuzco you won’t have time either. Anyway, choose a building that is more interesting to you and walk through it. I went to the church of the Society of Jesus. Quite a strange name. It is also a sigh that is always open and quite easy to visit as there is only one room to see.

But this church is really gorgeous. Very spacious and also very old. It is another site that was built on ruins of Inka temples. But this time you will hear only about the church itself.

If you are not interested in this church, on Plaza de Armas, you can also visit the local Cathedral. You will recognize it because it has these big stairs in front of it where most of the people are chilling.

Certainly, Plaza de Armas is great for having lunch and other meals since there are a lot of restaurants around. Especially if you are not keen on eating local food, you can find here a lot of restaurants that will suit you.



It is also called Saqsaywaman,   Sacsayhuamán, Sacsayhuaman, Sacsahuaman, Saxahuaman, Saksaywaman, Sasawaman, Saksawaman, Sacsahuayman, Sasaywaman or Saksaq Waman. Or as I would call it, the thing that starts with Sa and I’m not sure about the rest. I’m pretty sure they will know better there. Anyway, for this particular attraction, you will need to get a taxi, because it is a little bit far away from the city center. Saqsaywaman is also another ruins. These ruins are still open for archeologists, but you can still go there. There is an exhibition about pottery and more. For visiting this place you would need about 2 hours, so prepare yourself for that. This should be part of your one day in Cuzco especially if you are not planning to visit the Inka valley, where are even more of these archeological findings.

Alternatives for one day in Cuzco

One of Cuzco churches

About 30 minutes of taxi drive from Cuzco, there is Tambomachay, also Inka ruins with additional waterfall and aqueducts.

Close to this place is something called Puka Pukara, which are supposed to be other ruins. But this time not of a temple but of a military fortress.

But if ruins already ruined your day, here is a great alternative and you don’t even need to go outside of the city. For a little bit of shopping visit st. Pedro market. You will find there all kinds of souvenirs or snacks.

There are also two museums that should be remembered, especially if you want to know more about Inka culture. Inka museum is very folky and has a special vibe as there is still a lot of women around dressed in traditional clothing. And then there is a museum of precolumbian art, which to me is more interesting since it has actual art pieces.

General info to your one day in Cuzco

Postcards from Cuzco
Postcards from Cuzco, funnier than you think, just make sure you actually writing the right person address and don’t send this to grandma as I did.

Here is a bunch of things you might want to know because I got surprised by them as well. First of all, Cuzco is huge, so unlike in Paracas or Huacachina, you might want to use a taxi a bit more than before.

Cuzco is also in very high altitude, similar to Puno and Lake Titicaca. So if you are planning to go to Rainbow mountain, but feeling a little bit sick in Cuzco, wait here for a couple of days. This is not a problem for Machu Pichu though since Machu Pichu has actually lower altitude than Cuzco.

The former capital of Inka can be quite expensive. Especially if you are tourist, and that is mainly because there are so many visitors that it doesn’t pay off to keep the prices low.

Cuzco is very far from the sea, so don’t eat here the salat from raw fish. However, guinea pigs are very popular here.

Another good to know thing is that it will get really cold after sundown, so pack some warm clothes.

And enjoy Cuzco!

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