Architectural details of Cusco.

architecture Cusco Peru stonework
architecture Cusco Peru stonework


Without the money for Maccu Pichu, the incredible archaeological site singularly responsible for the majority of Peru's tourist industry, I'd mentally prepared myself to dislike Cusco. As a famous colonial city and the only logical point for most people to begin their Incan adventure, I imagined it would be tacky, teeming with wealthy foreigners and generally lacking the "real" whatever I was looking for.


I should have had to eat my hat.


There was an element of everything I'd expected, snippets of English conversation from passers-by jarred in my ears and there were a startling number of shiny, never-walked-in boots clomping around, but as much as I tried to find things to scoff at, Cusco just kept surprising me.

architecture Cusco Peru lion door
art painted tiles Cusco Peru
architecture Cusco Peru balcony
architecture Cusco Peru door

Without an agenda or money to burn on overpriced archaeological attractions, I felt surprisingly content to simply exist in this living museum. Through winding cobbled streets, under archways, up-hill, down-hill, around and around I wandered. Far apart from many big South American cities I've visited, the center felt safe and relaxed.


Every corner I took seemed to lead me to more intricate stone-work, delicately rusted balconies and the kind of sturdy wooden doors you might expect an ancient monster to be kept behind.


Having done research myself, I know that the blogging world has just about every imaginable thing to see and do around Cusco covered. I hope that by focusing on the details I might show you a part of the city you haven't thought about before. 

Cusco Peru street
architecture Cusco Peru stonework
Cusco Peru doors detail

The owner of our lovely and really quite inexpensive hostal, Andrea, showed us how Cusco is laid out in the shape of a puma. Although to me the resemblance seemed tenuous, this theory has gone down in legend and I was interested to find a number of little tributes hidden around the city.

Image from
Image from
Cusco Peru door puma
puma Cusco Peru stonework
puma architecture Cusco Peru balcony

Though generally overpriced and brimming with excitable gringos, I found Cusco to have an unexpectedly friendly atmosphere. Using common sense and avoiding the touts around the main plaza, we found people to be genuinely happy to meet us, interested in where we had come from and unusually helpful with directions.


Groggy from a long day bumping along mountain roads, we arrived in the crowded main bus station a bit overwhelmed. I was very grateful to meet a little lady at one of the food stalls who didn't just point us along right road, but actually accompanied us for the walk until it was obvious that we would find our way to the main plaza. Maybe we were just lucky, but it could be that the residents of Cusco are actually proud of their city's popularity?

architecture Cusco Peru alley
architecture art Cusco Peru painted tiles

Useful information

Cusco is well connected to Lima, Lake Titikaka (via Puno) and other popular destinations. The main bus station is located in the South of the city, so be prepared for a long slog with your bag up the hill. As always be wary of catching a taxi straight from the bus station and check the usual price of your bus ticket before you buy. Use your intuition when someone offers to help you and politely refuse if you feel unsure.

If you are travelling the unusual route to/from Ayacucho or the central highlands take a look at my previous post about this rather long-winded journey (specific travel information at the bottom). There are also photos and information about the Kenko labyrinths just outside of Cusco, which are very impressive and even free to visit.

Our hostal Andrea (Cuesta Santa Ana, 514) had an incredible view over the city, small kitchen, wifi and very friendly owners. Prices are S15 (£3) per person with shared bathroom or more for a private one. You can try contacting them with the information below or just turn up like we did.

For cheap food seek out the huge San Pedro market, buy hot snacks on the street and cook your own meals.

architecture Cusco Peru Plaza de Armas
architecture Cusco Peru Plaza de Armas stonework


Thank-you for reading!

You might also like my earlier post:

To read about our unusual journey through Peru's central highlands check out my series The High Road:


Write a comment

Comments: 10
  • #1

    Agness (Monday, 16 February 2015 13:56)

    Cusco is absolutely beautiful and so mysterious! Wish I could explore it soon!

  • #2

    Becky Padmore (Monday, 16 February 2015 16:39)

    What lovely architecture! There definitely seems to a lot more to this city than people may realise!

  • #3

    featherytravels (Monday, 16 February 2015 17:07)

    Thank-you! It's a really beautiful city. :)

  • #4

    Shikha (whywasteannualleave) (Monday, 16 February 2015 18:02)

    I love it! The detail on the stonework is so intricate and impressive and it looks like such a charming and beautiful place - I would like to go to Peru in the next couple of years I can make it and have actually been just as intrigued with it as I have been with the idea of Machu Pichu - such lovely photos -thanks so much for sharing them :)

  • #5

    Franca (Friday, 20 February 2015 21:49)

    Some of the architecture in Cusco reminds me of some I've seen in the South of Spain in the Andalusia region, especially the tiles. If you have been in that part of Spain, you'll know what I mean.

  • #6

    featherytravels (Saturday, 21 February 2015 15:01)

    Yeah, I do know what you mean actually Franca!

  • #7

    Mary{The World Is A Book} (Wednesday, 25 February 2015 05:53)

    I have always heard great things about Cusco. This is a wonderful and unique perspective of the city though. I love all those Puma references you captured. Those tiles and architecture details are just stunning.

  • #8

    featherytravels (Wednesday, 25 February 2015 14:39)

    Thanks Mary! Yeah, I was really surprised at how much I liked to Cusco as a city- the puma obsession is great too. Haha.

  • #9

    Agness (Tuesday, 02 February 2016 17:28)

    The art and architecture in Cusco are both inspiring and unique. I don't know much about its history, but it must be unforgettable and so interesting. Where exactly did you make it there?

  • #10

    Karina (Thursday, 03 August 2017 09:49)

    I just wanted to thank you for the most interesting blog posts I've found about Peru. I'm going there in a couple of weeks and particularly enjoyed your Cusco section.
    Karina Kofler

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