As the top tourist destination in Peru, where virtually every visitor seems to pass and stay a few days, Cusco has developed a remarkable cornucopia of lodgings, with hundreds of hotels, inns, and hostales of all stripes and prices. More continue to sprout, and few seem to close. Although the sheer number of offerings, particularly at the midrange and budget levels, means that you can pretty confidently land in Cusco without a reservation (outside of popular festivals like Inti Raymi and Fiestas Patrias at the end of June and July) and find a decent place to stay, many of the better and more popular hotels at all levels fill up throughout high season and even in shoulder months. In my opinion, it's better to firm up a reservation as soon as you know your dates of stay in Cusco.
Most of the city's most desirable accommodations are very central, within walking distance of the Plaza de Armas. The artsy San Blas neighborhood is also within walking distance, although many hotels and hostales in that district involve some steep climbs up the hillside. (The upside is that guests are rewarded with some of the finest views in the city.) Some visitors may want to avoid hotels and inns too close to the Plaza de Armas; that zone's crowded bars and discos, many of which are open until sunrise, tend to produce throngs of rambunctious and usually inebriated young people who stumble downstairs and howl at the moon or bellow at the people who just rejected them inside.
Hot water is an issue at many hotels, even those that swear they offer 24-hour hot showers. Many hotels and inns will arrange free airport transfers if you communicate your arrival information to them in advance.
Cusco possesses only a couple of truly excellent high-end hotels (though there are several new ones on the way), and few good hotels at the next tier. In Cusco, an eternal backpackers' delight, there remains a glut of accommodations at the moderate and budget levels. However, several hostales have more atmosphere and are likely to provide a better overall experience than more expensive -- and more institutional -- hotels. Prices listed below are rack rates for travel in high season; unless otherwise noted, rates do not include taxes or service charges. During the low season (Nov-Apr), prices often drop precipitously, even at midrange inns and backpacker hostels -- sometimes as much as 50% -- as the glut of hotels fights for a much-reduced number of visitors.
Several of the hostales reviewed below are cozy, family-run places, but travelers looking for even greater contact with a Peruvian family might want to check out the very inexpensive inns belonging to the La Asociación de Casas Hospedaje (The Association of Hospitality Houses), which operates a website (www.cusco.net/familyhouse) with listings of guesthouses with one or more rooms available for short- or long-term stays.
Despite the amazing number of accommodations strewn across the city, Cusco can get very crowded in high season; particularly if you're in town during the Inti Raymi festival (late June), July, and August, finding a place to rest your head can be headache inducing.
No Sleeping In -- Most Cusco hotels have annoyingly early checkout times -- often 9 or 9:30am -- due to the deluge of early morning flight arrivals to the city. At least in high season, hotels are very serious about your need to rise and shine (and many travelers are up and out very early anyway, on their way to Machu Picchu or trekking excursions), but you can always store your bags until later.
Hostal Marani -- This relaxed and inviting, inexpensive boutique hotel has a mission similar to Niños Hotel. Families can learn about the programs of the HoPe Foundation, which funds schools and hospitals in the region.
Hotel Rumi Punku -- This family-owned hostal has a pretty, flower-filled colonial courtyard, gardens, and a historic Inca wall. There's plenty of room for the kids to run about behind the massive Inca portal.
Niños Hotel -- The very definition of a family-friendly hotel, this one was built to allow Cusco street kids to become part of a family. Profits go to care for another 500 needy children. The restored colonial house is one of the most charming and best-maintained small inns around. Reserve well in advance. Families should inquire about a second location and the excellent-value apartments for longer stays.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.