Many will know Cusco as the stopping-off point on the way to Machu Picchu, but the Peruvian city is a Unesco World Heritage site in its own right and the historical capital of Peru. Here are its best budget hostels, whether you’re looking for a rest ahead of your big trek, or a place to party the night away.
Cusco offers backpackers heading to Machu Picchu a well-beaten path of old-world antiquity and modern hospitality venues. In the historic capital of the Incan Empire, hostels and budget hotels abound to serve the throngs of trekking tourists preparing to scale the majestic Andes and the Unesco-listed cultural site that towers over all. There’s plenty of competition for budget hostels in Cusco – some double up as gin bars, while others also act as affordable wellness retreats. Here’s our guide to the best.
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Plaza de Armas is located on Cusco’s Central Plaza and features the only gin bar in the city, as well as a decent restaurant specialising in Western and Peruvian dishes. The hostel does a thriving trade with locals as well as tourists, but what really sets it apart is the collection of outdoor tipis, which provide an urban glamping experience in the heart of the city. The modern yurts are made from upcycled concrete tubes and organic materials, decorated with locally curated artwork and hotel-quality beds.
Hostal Samananchis enjoys a pristine location in the Andes, near hot springs and Machu Picchu itself. Perfectly convenient (many travellers prefer skipping the tourist-laden town of Ollantaytambo, a maze of bars and souvenir markets), the Samananchis offers modest rooms, with everything you’d expect from a budget hostel of this calibre. The rooms are equipped with a desk, a TV, a private bathroom, bed linen, towels and a wardrobe. Prices include a continental breakfast.
The Grasshopper is just two blocks away from the dizzying expanse of must-see San Pedro Market, a psychedelic swirl of handcrafted textiles, gleaming fruit and veg, and the hanging carcasses of land and sea creatures. The hostel offers you a laid-back hostel from which to experience it, with hand-painted artwork and a cute garden for open-air barbecue nights – plus group outings to nearby sights. The Central Plaza isn’t far away, either.
Just a few blocks from the gleaming Plaza de Armas, this colonial-style villa takes its name from the Kokopelli, a fertility god depicted with a humpback and carrying feathers. Hand-painted murals on the walls continue the hostel’s theme, while landscaped gardens, a communal lodge and a quaint, compact bar make this one of Cusco’s more romantic offerings when it comes to budget hostels.
Decorated in bright, bold colours with a decent-sized communal area and a well-stocked – albeit small – kitchen, Mama Simona is a no-frills hostel centrally located near the city’s main plaza. Offering dorms and private bedrooms, the hostel’s beds are comfy, staff are friendly and the price is cheap and (relatively) cheerful. Although some travellers complain about the lack of vibe, there are swathes of bars just around the corner.
Voted Peru’s best hostel in 2019, Pariwana has everything you need for a memorable stay. Deftly catering to young-ish backpackers, the on-site bar buzzes with travellers enjoying pisco sours and exchanging travel tips. Daytime activities include yoga classes in the garden and hanging out in the friendly communal areas. As the night draws in, things get wilder, with bar crawls, karaoke and drinking games – set in the hostel’s private, Colonial-era courtyard. Dorm rooms are clean and spacious but don’t expect quiet nights.
Magicpacker provides a cozy, easy-going stay right in the centre of Cusco, with a large courtyard and a shaded area where you can relax on a bean bag. Set minutes away from the wild, bustling marketplace of San Pedro and just 10 minutes from the Central Plaza, this hostel offers great value for money. The dormitories are clean and comfortable, and breakfast is included in the price. Staff are friendly and approachable – and keen to offer up suggestions for nearby bars and restaurants.
The name may give it away, but Wild Rover isn’t for the faint-hearted. Here, the emphasis is on partying, which happens all night long. With a reputation for throwing the best tourist parties in the city, it’s perhaps better to think of the Wild Rover as a backpacker drinking resort instead of a gentle place to lay your head after a day out on the trail. If you’re keen to catch up on the game, all major sports are screened on large TVs – and the bar is capacious enough to hold big, roaring crowds. Set five blocks from the Central Plaza, the new-build is located in front of the Plazoleta Santa Ana and there are great views of the city.
This is an updated version of an article originally written by Harry Stewart.
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