Photo Spots Cusco
Sitting high in the Andean landscape, about an hour’s flight from Lima, Cusco is one of Peru’s prime travel destinations. The city is the former capital of the ancient Inca (sometimes spelled Inka) civilization and the gateway to the so-called Inca Trail that includes the lost city of Machu Picchu and the Ollantaytambo archeological site. With its fair share of ancient ruins, stunning Spanish colonial architecture, and natural wonders, Cusco is one of South America‘s most beautiful places. For this reason, this travel blog will present you with the best places to take photos in Cusco, Peru. 🇵🇪
Here at Flytographer, we easily connect people with trusted photographers for fun photo shoots, and we have captured over three million memories worldwide. Today, we asked our local photographers in Cusco to show us around all the very best spots for pictures.
- Sacsayhuamán. A mysterious archeological site where you can glimpse the past with re-enactments of old Incan rituals.
- Historical Centre. The city’s beating heart, where you’ll find a perfectly carved ancient stone and most of the colonial era gems.
- Plaza de Armas. Cusco’s glorious main square is anchored by two stunning churches and surrounded by colonial mansions.
- Maras. A fantastic day-trip destination where you can admire ancient agricultural and mining engineering feats.
- Rainbow Mountain. The second most visited place in the whole of Peru, a multicoloured mountain that’s unique in the world.
Covering an area of over three thousand hectares and sitting at the highest spot in the city of Cusco, Sacsayhuamán is considered one of the most significant architectural works realized by the Incas. No one is exactly sure what the purpose of this complex was, but historians believe the location was both a ceremonial site and a fortress for the Incas to store their weapons and prepare for war. One thing is for sure: in the past, its importance was tremendous, similar to that of the Roman Colosseum. Today, tourists flock from all over the world to marvel at the history, beauty, and grandeur of these ruins.
Visit the great plaza and its three terrace walls and notice how they were built with massive stones – the largest in pre-Hispanic America. The Tower of Sacsayhuamán and the complex of long, narrow rooms next to it are also a must-visit. Some rooms are underground caves, while others overlook the city and its squares. Watch one re-enactment of the Inca ceremonies for a glimpse of how things worked in the past. These magnificent productions are true to their origins and capture the rituals very authentically. The main one is Inti Raymi, or the Festival of the Sun. 🌞
This place is not all about history, though. Sacsayhuamán is also surrounded by wonderful nature and wildlife. In the Quechua language, the name of the complex can be interpreted as “the place where the hawk is satisfied.” In fact, many hawks fly over the area, adding to its epic allure. Since this is Peru, you’ll also find llamas and alpacas in large numbers. 🦙
2. Historical Centre
The Historical Centre of Cusco is a proper living museum with every corner, street, and building telling a story of how the city came to be. No wonder the area is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Visit the Cathedral of Our Lady of Assumption of Cusco, or simply the Cusco Cathedral, the second largest and oldest cathedral in the Americas. This 16th-century marvel has an exuberant Renaissance-style façade, and its interiors are a hybrid of Gothic and Baroque which makes it one of the best places to take photos in Cusco. A mere three blocks away is the bohemian San Blas, an area with the most impressive buildings from the Spanish colonial period. Its cobblestone streets are filled with the craft shops of some of the most famous artisans in the country. That’s also a great place for superb Peruvian food. Ceviche and pisco, anyone? 🐟
While in San Blas, look for the twelve-angled stone, an old stone that belonged to an ancient Inca palace wall. With a fine finish, this precise and perfectly cut rock is an excellent example of Inca stonework mastery. Today, it incorporates a wall in the archbishop’s palace, known for being one of the most Instagrammable places in Cusco. 🤳
The Historical Centre is also packed with luxurious mansions, called casonas, or big houses. Many of them have become museums and galleries. What’s often remarkable about them is their charming courtyards with romantic and utterly picturesque central water fountains. ⛲
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3. Plaza de Armas
Plaza de Armas is Cusco’s central square and has been a hub for religious, social, and political life since ancient times. Sadly, the Incan square that preceded what we see nowadays was destroyed, along with its temples and buildings 😔. However, the spot still exudes a historical allure and grandeur because of the new structures surrounding it, such as the Iglesia de la Compania de Jesús and the Basilica of the Assumption of the Virgin. Patches with flowers and a central fountain make the place even more charming and inviting for taking some pics. It’s hard to miss the colonial mansions with beautiful arcades and balconies that house fabulous boutiques and cafes. Join the locals and sit on one of the many benches of the square, enjoying a snack and people-watching.
A short walk from Plaza de Armas is the San Pedro Market, a colourful and bustling food market that will play with all your senses at once. That’s the best place to find local delicacies, souvenirs, and handicrafts. Here’s a curiosity: the market was designed by Gustave Eiffel, the same architect who built the Eiffel Tower in Paris.
In the Sacred Valley, just an hour’s drive from Cusco, sits the small town of Maras, a great place for a day tour thanks to its two main attractions: the thousand-year-old Maras Salt Mine and Moray, an Inca archaeological site featuring impressive concentric terraces.
The Maras Salt Mine, also known as Salineras de Maras, will blow your mind! On the slopes of a hill, thousands of salt wells form a huge stepped terrace displaying beautiful earthy hues that contrast with the white layers of salt. Who would have guessed that a salt mine could be so photogenic? 🧂😂 But it’s not all about the looks. Still today, these wells are essential for the local economy and the livelihood of the local population.
With its circular agricultural terraces, the Moray archaeological complex is equally impressive in every single way. It’s an excellent place to witness the inventiveness of Incan agrarian knowledge. Evidence shows that the Inca built these terraces as research stations, each with its own microclimate for the experimentation of crops. You can book a private guided tour or explore this site on your own. Either way, you’ll get breathtaking views and lots of photo opportunities in this unique archeological spot.
5. Rainbow Mountain
Hidden amid the deserted landscapes and snow peaks of the Ausangate mountain sits the Rainbow Mountain, aka Montana de Siete Colores, or Mountain of Seven Colors. The name says it all: this beautiful geological formation is naturally painted in multiple hues of yellow, green, red, blue, and purple. A true natural spectacle! 🌈 It all happened because of environmental conditions and the sedimentation of the mountain’s minerals. Rainbow Mountain was recently discovered because the snow that once covered the hills melted, and the site instantly became one of the most Instagrammable spots in Peru and the second most visited attraction in the country, coming right after Machu Picchu.
Going up the mountain takes some effort, but it’s worth every step. On the way, you’ll meet locals that live in small communities, and you’ll see beautiful alpacas and llamas. The panoramic views from the top of Rainbow Mountain are dreamlike and create a beautiful backdrop for one of the best places to take photos in Cusco. As usual, the optimal times for photo sessions are during the golden hours, when the colours of the mountain pop. Consider visiting during warmer months since there’s less chance of rain and snow, and the hike will be easier. 🥾
Tiny disclaimer: most pictures of Rainbow Mountain you see on social media are highly edited to enhance the colours. In reality, the hues are a little softer and more natural. Nevertheless, you won’t be disappointed – this is still a sight to behold. 🤩
Capturing Memories in Cusco
The ancient city of Cusco and its surroundings are a photographer’s wonderland and a dream destination for any traveller. There are so many more Instagram spots you can check out. The Cristo Blanco, for example, is a statue of Christ from which you get a dazzling vista of the city of Cusco and the Andes. Another must-do is a day trip to Aguas Calientes. Besides being the gateway to Machu Picchu, the small town is also known for its hot springs and artisan market. Nature lovers can’t miss the other worthy scenic region, Humantay Lake, about three hours from Cusco – an alpine lake of turquoise waters with snow-capped mountains as a backdrop. 🏔️
For more recs on what to do, read the tips from our community of travellers. To make the most of your time in Cusco, book one of our Flytographers and let them capture all the smiles and memorable moments this mystical Peruvian city will offer you. 📸
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“Max was amazing !!!! I’m so thankful with him, besides being an extraordinary and talented photographer he was being super nice and fun. He speaks Spanish and English My grandpa ,who speaks just Spanish enjoyed it and my boyfriend who speaks just English didn’t feel left out lol We are so in love with the pictures, all the time I’m the one taking pictures of my family and my trips, now I’m so glad we had someone professional able to capture important moments like those. Every single picture tells a story, the quality, the candid shots are everything! When we got the pictures and saw them For every single picture there was an “awwwww” “omg i love it“ It was a great experience, i totally recommend it!”
“Max did an amazing job! I wanted couples photos that captured the energy of Cusco, and Max delivered. He worked hard to get the perfect shots for us, and was very enjoyable to be around. After the session was over, my husband (who absolutely did not want to take pictures) said “that was actually a lot of fun!” I highly recommend Max for your vacation photos.”