Sitting at a brisk 11,152 feet (3400 meters), Cusco is quite high in elevation. Upon arriving in this Peruvian city, chances are you will need to acclimate to the altitude, especially before embarking in rigorous and strenuous activities like trekking to Machu Picchu or hiking to Rainbow Mountain.
In Cusco, there are many things to see and explore; Coricancha (the ancient Incan Temple of the Sun), San Blas and San Pedro markets, the Plaza de Armas (main square), Baratillo Flea Market on Saturdays, the Planetarium, Sacsayhuamán Incan ruins and more.
Undoubtedly you can spend a week in this city, soaking up the Peruvian culture and preparing for Machu Picchu. With all of the activities and time spent in Cusco, likely are you will need some caffeine to fuel your days.
After spending 3 months traveling around Colombia, I set off for the sensational land of Peru thrilled to have one more month exploring South America, I knew I had to spend part of it hiking to Machu Picchu.
Side note: It might seem a little crazy to spend three months in just one country, but Colombia will soon be a very popular travel destination (for good reason) so I needed to experience more of the country in order for Sapphire & Elm to accurately recommend a very curated selection of locations and activities for each of our individual clients.
I hopped on a flight from Bogota to Cusco with the intention of discovering only the southern region of Peru. I wanted to explore Machu Picchu, Rainbow Mountain, Lake Titicaca and the Nazca Lines. I was also eager to find out from locals and other travelers of additional recommendations.
When I arrived in Cusco, my game plan was to acclimate to this new high elevation and to ensure I could get some work done before unplugging for a full day or days at a time.
Additionally since I had been away from my "office" at home, you could say I was a little behind on work tasks. The last month I was in Colombia, I spent 2 weeks in Spanish School in Medellin and was, therefore, spending almost all of my time in class (20 hours per week), in private one-on-one lessons, studying and exploring the many wonderful cultural aspects of Medellin. Then with the remaining 12 days in Colombia, I was furiously visiting four remaining destinations I hadn’t seen yet in order to get a feel for the area, how easy it is to get around, what the town is like, how much time you need minimum to see the town and do the activities, etc. All this left very little time for work on the computer.
Fast forward to Cusco, Peru.
I touched down in the Cusco airport and asked several people working the best course of action getting into the city.
traveler’s tip: Booking a taxi inside of the airport is more than twice the price as the taxis that are waiting just outside of the airport doors. As always, make sure to ask to see their certification.
When I arrived in the city center I was delightfully surprised about how tranquil the city was.
I assumed Cusco would be a massive, sprawling city with skyscrapers and traffic. It was quite the opposite, it felt more like a pueblo.
Buildings were an approachable two stories and cobblestone decorated the streets. Remnants of Spanish colonial reign was evident yet the colorful Peruvian culture was what tugged at my heart.
I immediately felt comfortable in Cusco.
I quickly decided I would spend more than just a few days here exploring the streets, boutiques, markets, and coffee shops of Cusco. It was a city that I could just be in and soak up the new distinct feeling of being in a foreign country for the first time. One of my favorite feelings in the world; a mix of wonder, excitement, nerves, and vulnerability regarding the encounters looming in my near future.
While in this major city with reliable and accessible Wi-Fi, I was determined to allocate substantial time for working on Sapphire & Elm business tasks especially organizing all the details I had learned and experienced while in Colombia. This essential information is what sets us apart in being able to provide our clients with the most unique, authentic and tailored trip.
As a digital nomad, I spend 5, 8, 10+ hours per day on my computer abroad, so I am constantly on the lookout for coffee shops that are suitable for extended hours working. For me, that means;
Fast, reliable Wi-Fi
Tables with nearby outlets and comfortable seating
Aesthetically pleasing so I don't feel like I'm sitting in a stuffy room or wasting precious travel time!
Delicious food and coffee
Lots of bright, natural light
I Google Searched where to go that would fit that description, yet no results ensued.
There were recommendations for coffee chains, cafes with no outlets, restaurants with no other people working leaving me to feel out of place.
For digital nomads or those working professionals who still need to check into work, below are cafes in Cusco when you need to set aside a few hours in order to be productive.
Cappuccino Cafe is one of my absolute favorites in Cusco because of the incredible view!
This cafe is comfortable and spacious with wonderful natural light, reliable Wi-Fi, power outlets near many tables. There are several different spaces and rooms so you should be able to find a nice place to sit.
This cafe is located smack dab in the main square on the 2nd story with stunning views of Plaza de Armas. Unless it’s raining they keep the balcony doors wide open, so bring a jacket it can be very chilly.
Online it said they open at 7, but I arrived at about 7:25 and they were still closed, cleaning and prepping to open. On their door they say they open at 7:30 am.
They let me in at about 8:05, yet luckily they gave me their Wi-Fi while I was waiting outside.
La Valeriana is a lovely café. Shabby chic furniture, beautiful of natural lighting due to floor to ceiling windows, lots of outlets, and a cozy patio with blankets and heaters. This was probably the most recommended cafe from locals after the Choco Museo chain.
TRAVELER'S TIP: Choco Museo is a chain I’ve seen in Colombia and Nicaragua. It offers coffee, chocolate and snacks in a cute little setting. As a chain, you can expect a consistent level of high quality. However, I wanted to skip the Choco Museum in Peru as I had been to them before in other countries as was looking for something more indicative to Peru.
The first time I went, they told me the Wi-Fi didn’t work so I couldn’t stay. So I made it a point to come back another day, it was just too cute to pass up.
I was glad I came back, this cafe is quite cozy yet spacious and warm – I wasn’t bundled up with was a welcome relief from the Cusco bone-chilling cold.
Additionally, they have a 4 toilet bathroom, which is rare! They’re also clean, and with soap, toilet paper, and a hand dryer! The combo of all 3 is VERY RARE!
Cocoliso is both a cafe and clothing boutique. The cafe is feminine with lovely textiles on the seat covers, pillows, etc. yet it was unfinished so one wall and ceiling are unsightly plywood.
There are only 2 outlets at this cafe, one near one table that was cluttered with the staffs’ purses and laptop charger so I couldn’t sit there. The other outlet was next to a quaint little bench and plant, mimicking a living room. However adorable, this setup is not ideal for working all day but was good to sit here for an hour while charging the computer. If you come here, make sure your electronics are fully charged and don't plan to stay past the time it takes for your battery to drain.
The coffee was good, well made. And the chocolate Danish I had was INCREDIBLE! So delicious, was the closest thing I’ve ever had to my favorite pastry, a pain au suis.
No trip to Cocoliso cafe is complete without stopping by the boutique as well!
Café Y Chocolate
Café Y Chocolate is centrally located in Cusco at just one block away from the main square, Plaza de Armas.
It’s a narrow, cozy little place with oversized armchairs, good Wi-fi, and outlets next to all 6 tables downstairs. Upstairs there is an area for lounging and there’s a balcony up there too.
Coffee was yummy, but I ordered a Caprese sandwich and it was a sad excuse for a sandwich.
Went to the bathroom a couple of times over the course of the day (I was there at least 7ish hours) and every time they had no toilet paper….
TRAVELER’S TIP: When in developing countries like Guatemala, Colombia and Peru it is essential to carry around Kleenex or napkins that can be used as toilet paper/hygienic paper. And remember this paper does not get thrown into the toilet, but the waste bin.
I was attracted to D'wasi cafe as it had vegan/non-dairy milk options listed on the chalkboard out front.
The Wi-Fi sign out front is usually a good indication of fast, reliable internet. However, in this instance, the Wi-Fi was slow here when compared to the other cafes I’d been to.
Friendly service and there are lots of outlets. However since the other natural light came through the entry door, it was pretty dark near the outlets.
Museo del Café
Not do be confused with the Choco Museo, Museo del Cafe is a large yet cozy restaurant, coffee shop and coffee museum. To reach this place, walk through a little, lovely art gallery to the courtyard then head upstairs.
Several different spaces and rooms, and a good amount of outlets.
The food INCREDIBLE here. Possibly the best food options, especially for a full meal out of all of the cafes mentioned here - I had some pretty basic, sad sandwiches as Café Y Chocolate and Cuscoffee.
Plus they had the FIRST vegetarian tamale I’ve seen in South America! And I’d been in South America for over 3 months!
Cafe Panam is located in the square just next to the main square, Plaza de Armas.
When you walk into this cafe, you order downstairs and upstairs has several tables and chairs.
They had only a few outlets, next to maybe 3 or 4 tables. So if it's crowded you likely won't get a table with outlets. Again, come with fully charged electronics and don't plan to spend more than 3ish hours.
And the Wi-Fi didn’t work, there was no option to select their wifi network and instead of offering to assist me in finding it, she walked away. With no other option, I had to leave to find another café with Wifi to work at for the day.
The Meeting Place
The Meeting Place Café is a casual joint located in the San Blas area of Cusco.
Tables and outlets in the entry hallway which leads to the courtyard where you order. In the courtyard there are more tables near outlets - so lots of places to sit and work.
Walls painted black so it felt dark even sandwiched between the enclosed courtyard and the exterior.
I sat in the courtyard which was simply decorated with a couple of Peruvian textiles hanging on the walls.
When I was here, the Wi-Fi was unbearably slow that I left almost immediately after I arrived.
While Cuscoffee has a simple, basic almost sterile environment, they do provide good Wi-Fi. It's nothing to write home about but it has the essentials – coffee, outlets, natural light and reliable Wi-Fi.
Outlets next to every table along the wall so great for working/digital nomads.
The latte was not very strong, quite milky. When I arrived around 8:30 the pastries looked quite sad, crumbs left over on glass shelves where plates once were.
It’s located right across the street from D’wali, so you can head in that direction and depending on which of the two feels right to you at the time you don't waste lots of time going between joints.
Other Cafes in Cusco
Starbucks - While Starbucks is a guarantee for reliable Wi-Fi, some outlets, well-prepared food and coffee, I prefer to spend my time abroad in more authentic, local places. The Starbucks is located in the main square, Plaza de Armas, on the second story.
Café Ayllu - I walked by Café Ayllu and it lacked charm but was definitely a local and authentic establishment. This to me is more the place you grab a quick bite, and not necessarily expect to receive the best food.
Dos X 3 – I also walked by Dos X 3 and it was closed at 9:15 on a Thursday morning.
We believe that traveling is an essential part of both personal and professional development; we learn from and are inspired by the novelty of traveling.
New experiences and conversations we encounter while abroad have a huge impact on how we see the world, how we approach problems, projects and relationships.
Yet the more you travel, the more important it is to find places that are conducive to productivity so you can continue to spend more time "out of the office".
Do you think Peru just might be the perfect country your next great adventure?
At Sapphire & Elm Travel Co. I’m proud to have been to the destinations I plan trips to. I don’t plan my clients’ vacations based on vague, outdated, impersonal, or incomplete internet searches, but on personal experience and knowledge.
By traveling to the country ahead of my clients I am able to research and gather insight into the cities, activities, hotels, transportation, what to see, what to miss, and more. This often means I make mistakes in order to save my clients precious time, energy, money and hassle while you’re abroad.