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Ok, so you have decided to travel to Peru for this year's vacation and Cusco will certainly be one of the places to base yourself for a few days. Whether that be strolling cobblestone streets, bargaining at the market for alpaca sweaters, trekking in the mountains, or visiting the myriad of Inca archaeological sites. In this Peruvian city, you'll find a blend of ancient Inca temples combined with 16th-century Spanish architecture. Pack your bags and head to Cusco for a dose of history, vibrant nightlife, and a little hiking in the surrounding Sacred Valley. But what should you pack for a visit to this cosmopolitan ancient Inca capital? Read on for some useful information on what to wear in Cusco.
View over Cusco
Planning for the Seasons
The first pre-packing consideration is the weather. The seasonal temperature shifts aren't drastic in Cusco, but the area does have a rainy season and a dry season. Between April and October, rainfall is minimal or nonexistent. Expect low evening temperatures near freezing from May to August, and daytime highs ranging from 15°C to 22°C. From November through March, Cusco warms up and gets wetter with daytime highs in the same range but cloudy and rainy, and evening lows around 7°C The contrast of temperatures in the dry season is what catches people out, with beautiful clear and hot sunny days with the lethal sun which will burn you before it looks at you. Then, as the sun goes down, so do the temperatures, and from 5 pm you will need a jacket /fleece or jumper.
Lighter Day Wear
Packing Your Bag
When you're packing for your trip to Cusco, Peru, think casual and low-key. Pack your favorite jeans, and leave your party dresses at home. For both men and women, wear casual pants, and leggings, and bring shorts for warm days. Plan to layer up in the morning and evening and layer down during the heat of the day. A T-shirt over a thin, long-sleeve shirt topped with a fleece or a light sweater allows you to stay comfortable when the daytime heat is fierce, yet the temperatures drop to a chilly 8°C in the evening.
Choosing the Right Shoes
Comfortable walking shoes or light athletic shoes keep you mobile for days spent touring the city. For evening outings, an ankle boot keeps you warm and stable on uneven cobblestone streets. When you visit Cusco, you are at an altitude of 3400m and far away from the beach. Bring flip-flops for the hotel, or at campsites but plan on wearing shoes when you go out. If you like wearing heels, a low casual shoe is fine for going out in the evening, but don't wear anything you wouldn't want to wear navigating rough cobblestone streets.
Decent Comfortable Hiking Boots
Keep It Low Key
Traveling is a lot more fun when you blend in and don't have to spend a lot of time worrying about your stuff. Leave valuables at home, and while costume jewelry can make a good substitute for your more precious pieces, anything that looks expensive gets attention from potential thieves. Handbags work for things like sweaters and a bottle of water, but keep your valuables, cash, passports, and credit cards on your body in a money belt or an inside pocket. Local people tend to dress casually and somewhat conservatively and it is rare to see short skirts for example.
While there's plenty to keep you occupied in the city of Cusco, a trip wouldn't be complete without spending a day or two hiking in the Sacred Valley and the surrounding Andean mountains. Bring light, waterproof hiking boots or hiking shoes along with at least two pairs of hiking socks. Pack a light rain jacket even during the dry season for a windbreaker and protection from any rogue rain showers. You will also want a sun hat and a warm wool or fleece hat. If you're planning to hike during the rainy season, add waterproof pants and a change of clothes to your daypack.
Once you are outside of large cities like Lima, you really have to be sure you take everything you need including sunscreen, insect/mosquito repellent, adapter plugs, and converters for electrical appliances.
A microfiber travel towel is another great item to pack – these are designed specifically for trekking: they fold really small so you can accommodate a larger size and they dry really quickly too.
Don’t drink or even brush your teeth in tap water. Consider taking a LifeStraw Filtration Water Bottle.
A bag or soft-sided rucksack is a more practical option than hard cases when traveling around the country, and using packing cubes can help to keep your belongings tidy whilst compressing the volume too.
Combine your bag with a fold-away day sack that will carry your essentials on day trips.
To use electrical gadgets you may need a travel adapter plug, and also a voltage converter if your devices are not designed for the local voltage (220V).
Avoid paying unexpected baggage fees – use an accurate luggage scale to ensure you keep within the weight allowance.
Don't forget to leave room for souvenirs on the way home! Good buys include alpaca clothes, wooden games, silver jewelry, and ceramics. Or look out for Pisco, a traditional Peruvian grappa (buy this in local shops, it's much cheaper than at the airport). Just remember any liquids will need to be packed in your checked-in luggage.
During Cusco´s rainy season, be sure to bring waterproof boots, a raincoat or poncho, and an umbrella. Opt for light fabrics that won't be too heavy when they get wet, especially in the wettest period of the year between January and April.
May to October is the most popular time to visit Peru, as it's the time of the year with the best weather and coincides with vacation times in Europe and The U.S. Packing is a little simpler during the dry season and you can trek to Machu Picchu under clear blue skies wearing just shorts and a t-shirt. However, the higher the elevation, the colder it will get at night. So it's wise to bring warm pajamas and a wool sweater, at a minimum. Don't forget there is an abundance of Alpaca products to buy if you are feeling the cold!
A Note On Packing for Treks
For those of you planning on trekking, including the world-famous Inca Trail, speak with your travel advisor in advance. Most trekkers may like to consider bringing trekking poles to aid walking. For certain activities, you will need more intense hiking equipment, but it is cheap and easy to rent virtually anything in Cusco (and much easier than bringing it all the way from home with you). Camping gear is always provided by tours, except of course for your clothing. Layers are the key and clothing for all types of weather. The Andes has its own weather system and the Cusco region is famous for having all the different climates in one day!
Chilling in Ollantaytambo
Now you know what to wear in Cusco and Machu Picchu you’ll see being fully prepared only requires a little bit of planning. But don’t worry if you forget something, you can always buy most things in Cusco if you forget! Ask us for more information here!