Live Music

Live music is a nearly constant feature of the Cusco nightlife scene, and it’s less about itinerant bands of altiplano musicians in colorful vests and sandals playing woodwind instruments than live Latin rock, pop, and salsa. Live music tends to begin around 11pm in most clubs, and happy hours are generally from 8 to 9 or 10pm.

The coolest place in Cusco for nightly live music has long been Ukuku’s ★★, Plateros 316, second floor (www.ukukusbar.com; tel. 084/254-911). Expect to see a range of acts that extends from bar rock to Afro-Peruvian, and a crowd that comes to get a groove on, jamming the dance floor. A pair of subterranean discos at the corner of Teseqocha and Teqsiqocha stay open until the wee hours of the morning. The names change often, but the sweaty, crowded atmosphere stays the same.

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In San Blas, Km. 0 ★, Tandapata 100 (tel. 084/254-240), is a Spanish-owned joint with a rocker’s heart, a tiny ramshackle place with live rock, Latin, and blues music nightly; “happy hours all night”; and a variety of tapas.

For a traditional folklore music-and-dance show with panpipes and costumes—well, ponchos, alpaca hats, and sandals, at a minimum—you’ll need to check out one of the tourist-oriented restaurants featuring nightly entertainment. In addition to the longtime show restaurant La Retama (Portal de Panes 123, 2nd Floor; tel. 084/226-372), Tunupa, Portal Confiturías 233, 2nd Floor (tel. 084/252-936), offers a good traditional music-and-dance show, as well as a panoramic view of the Plaza de Armas. Plenty of first-time visitors and groups get a kick out of them at least once, though I’m not a fan.

Dance Clubs

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Several late-night dance clubs have come and gone in the last few years, but a few of the old warhorses remain popular. A pretty young crowd, both backpackers and young Peruvians, is lured to the discos by all the free drink cards handed out on the Plaza de Armas. Mama Africa ★★, Portal de Panes 109, 3rd Floor (tel. 084/246-544), boasts sweaty charm and features occasional live music and DJs who spin an international dance mix of Latin, reggae, rock, and techno music for a mix of locals and gringos (each often looking to hook up). Its loungier sister bar, Mushrooms, is one floor down. There are several other nightclubs on or within a few blocks of the plaza, though most have a very thrown-together feel and only last for a year or two before the next thing takes their place.

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.