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There are incredible places to watch the sunset in the Imperial City of Cusco Peru and the nearby connecting valleys. Of course, a visit to Cusco should also include a Machu Picchu sunset to photograph the golden hour at the most popular site in Peru. From magnificent Inca ruins, charming plazas, to towering mountains, there are numerous places to catch the best sunset spots in Machu Picchu, Cusco and beyond.
Less than an hour from Cusco, find the magical Sacred Valley, or Valle Sagrado. This fertile valley is filled with adorable hamlets, sprawling Archaeological Parks, mystical mountains, and some epic sunset spots. There are even hidden gems to watch the sunset in the little visited Cusco South Valley.
If exploring Peru and the treasures of the Cusco region, don’t miss these incredible sunset spots in Cusco and the neighboring valleys.
Where to watch a Machu Picchu Sunset
Watching the sunset over Machu Picchu is actually a bit tricky. Machu Picchu is surrounded by mountain peaks and the site closes at 5pm before the sun goes down so you can’t technically see the sunset in Machu Picchu. That said, golden hour can be stunning in the mountains and the light as the sun dips is perfect lighting for pictures. Staying at for sunset at Machu Picchu also means that you often get the area to yourself since it is much less crowded than during the day.
The best part of about watching a Machu Picchu sunset is seeing how the light bounces off and the sun rays illuminate the buildings of the city at different angles. The best time at Machu Picchu is late afternoon when the light is softer and the sun shines across the terraces.
We’ve rounded up a few great spots to watch sunset at Machu Picchu (or at least watch the sun go down until the park closes):
Best Spot for Sunset in Machu Picchu: The Guardians’ Hut
Overlooking Machu Picchu, this small hut was ideally located for the guardians to watch over the access points. This is where you can capture the classic postcard shot of Machu Picchu. There is usually a line so you may have to wait a few minutes before you can sit on the flat rock to get your photo taken. However, this is the perfect time to prep your settings on your camera and take a few test shots while you wait.
This is a great spot to capture a Machu Picchu sunset. The golden light and breathtaking views from this vantage point at golden hour are better than the actual sunset at Machu Picchu. We recommend using a wide-angle lens to capture the sun rays bouncing off the sweeping landscape.
One of the best spots to photograph the soft afternoon light is from the terraces. It’s a little tricky to accomplish because people are usually not allowed to go back up to the terraces once they’ve descended to the ruins part of Machu Picchu. However, if you go back up before 4pm, the guards typically let it slide. If you want to photograph golden hour from the terraces, try to get up there right before 4pm and stay for as long as they will let you (usually around 4.30pm).
On the Way to the Sun Gate
There are many vantage points on the hike up to the Sun Gate that make for fantastic photos of the sunset over Machu Picchu. You don’t even need to hike up all the way to the top, you can stop half way and still get some epic shots. If you want to capture soft golden light, keep the hike for the second part of the day so you can catch golden hour on the way down.
Most Epic Spots for Sunset in Cusco
Plaza de Armas Cusco
All travelers passing through Cusco will at one point wander through the inviting Cusco Plaza de Armas. This is one of Cusco’s most famous landmarks and is home to two churches, the Cusco Cathedral and The Church of the Society of Jesus. The plaza boasts a large fountain and plenty of benches to relax and people watch.
At sunset, locals head to the stairs of the Cathedral to watch the sun go down. However, if looking for a less obstructed view, head to one of the busy bars on the second floor of the beautiful colonial buildings. Hanz Craft Beer & Restaurant is one of the best sunset spots in Cusco located in the actual Plaza de Armas.
Just one block away, Plaza Tricentenaria also offers lovely views of the entire Cuzco Plaza de Armas and the encompassing mountains. Find it behind the main Cusco Cathedral.
One of the best places to watch the sunset in Cusco is from Qenqo Chico. This is a large park that is frequented by locals. Find it next to to the popular Inca site of Qenqo, which is part of the beloved Cusco Tourist Ticket.
Unlike its adjacent neighbor, Qenqo Chico is free to visit and requires no ticket. This spacious park has large Inca stones, plenty of green space, a peculiar forest, and one of the best views of Cusco Peru.
Blanco Cristo may seem to resemble something familiar. This “White Jesus” is a small replica of Christ the Redeemer, the famed statue found in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. While this statue is only around 25 feet tall, it offers spectacular sunset views of Cusco. Nearby on the hillside is the impressive megalithic structure of Sacsayhuaman, which is another frequented Inca ruin in Cusco to observe some massive stones.
San Blas Neighborhood
In Cusco, a visit to the hip San Blas neighborhood is a must. This very bohemian district boasts some fantastic coffeeshops, artisan shops, inviting cobblestone streets, modern eateries, well-preserved colonial architecture, and some of the best sunset spots in Cusco.
For a free place to snag a stellar sunset, head to the Plazoleta de San Blas. This plaza is the living room of the barrio and home to a significant church and a fountain. Head to the top of the fountain to watch the sunset.
Alternatively, another popular Cusco sunset spot that is a little higher up is the San Blas Viewpoint (Mirador de San Blas). This sought-after spot is frequented by affectionate teenagers who sneak kisses on the benches. Find many “love locks” hanging from the railing at this mirador.
Limbus Resto Bar
One of the most popular sunset spots in Cusco is found in the San Blas neighborhood at Limbus Resto Bar. Located near the San Blas Viewpoint, this trendy restaurant in Cusco boasts a lovely balcony with epic views of the city. Limbus is known for its extensive cocktail menu, try the “official cocktail of Peru,” a Pisco Sour.
For the best deals, visit during Happy Hour, which is Monday – Wednesday from 15:00 – 18:00. Limbus is almost always packed for sunset, so it’s best to call and reserve a table in advance. Unfortunately, it’s almost impossible to reserve a spot on the sought after balcony.
If you can’t catch a sunset in Cusco from Limbus, try heading nearby to ViewHouse Resto Bar, which has an inviting terrace, a fun cocktail menu, and comes without the crowds.
To have the highest, most panoramic, and one of the best sunset spots in Cusco, climb the towering Cerro Picol, or more commonly known as Pillku Urqu. This is Cusco city’s tallest mountain. Although it’s a little outside of the city center, it’s easy to reach the trail head via public transportation or taxi. The trail head wraps through the Santa Maria Forest, which also has lots of viewpoints if you don’t feel like climbing all the way to the top of Pillku Urqu.
The views from the peak are over 4,400 meters. The trail twists you over 1,280 meters from trail head to the peak. There’s a large cross to specify the viewpoint, however, you can climb even higher across the barren Andes Mountainside.
This is a full day excursion, so plan accordingly. If you are looking to catch a sunset, make sure you have the proper gear or bring camping equipment. There are camping facilities in the forest, but not at peak.
La Torta is a free Inca ruin that is located in the non-ticketed section of the Sacsayhuaman Archaeological Park. While many travelers visit the main site of Sacsayhuaman, there is a whole different section of the park found along the hillsides of Cusco.
The most popular site in this section of the park is Inkilltambo, which was believed to be used for ceremonial purposes and is completely free to visit. It’s worth a wander to have this magical place to yourself.
Nearby, head to La Torta, which literally translates to “the cake.” It looks like a stony tiered wedding cake that is perched perfectly on the hillside.
This is one of the best free places to catch a sunset in Cusco. Many travelers don’t visit the incredible free ruins that are found in the free section of this Archaeological Park.
Best Sunset Spots in Cusco South Valley & Sacred Valley
There are so many sunset spots in Cusco, but some of the most epic places to watch the sun go down are in the nearby valley. These are three top secret sunset spots in Cusco South Valley and the rich and worthwhile Sacred Valley.
Waqrapukara Archaeological Park may be the most epic Inca site you’ve never heard of in all of Peru. While it can be visited as a long day trip from Cusco, it’s best to take camping gear and attempt one of the many 2 day trekking routes to this Inca ruin. Waqrapukara translates to the “horned fortress.”
Waqrapukara can be reached from the Cusco South Valley, but the hike actually leads you to the hidden and stunning Apurímac Valley. This epic Inca site sits at almost double the elevation of Machu Picchu. Yes, Waqrapukara is found at a towering altitude of 4,150 m.
It’s completely free to visit Waqrapukara and there is a complimentary campsite at the foothill of this sacred Inca ruin. There are multiple viewpoints to catch a sunset, especially at the top of the fortress. The unique stone is surrounded by jagged cliffs, Inca terraces, and a magical energy that can only be experienced on-site.
Located behind the village of Urubamba Peru, Saywa Mountain is one of the best sunset spots in the Sacred Valley. On top of this mountainside, find two peculiar ruins that are believed to have connections to the sun. The panoramic views include the village of Urubamba below, Chicón Mountain with its glacier in the distance, and the entire Sacred Valley with its many mountain peaks.
It’s free to visit Saywa and there is a spot to camp next to the Inca pillars, so you can easily watch the sun go down behind the mountains. At night, this mystical mountain has a strange phenomenon and oftentimes you can see it produce its own lightning bolts.
Inti Punku Ollantaytambo
Another incredible spot to watch the sunset in the Sacred Valley is from Inti Punku, or the Sun Gate. This is not the same as the Machu Picchu Sun Gate, the entrance of the famous Classic Inca Trail, but rather an abandoned gate that overlooks the charming village of Ollantaytambo.
The trail that leads to Inti Punku Ollantaytambo follows along the Old Inca Quarry trails. Yes, you are literally walking on the paths that hauled the massive stones that are trademarks of the Incas unique building style. Along the intense trail, have stellar views of the beautiful Mountain Veronica. At the top, find a simple gate containing a few sacred alters. Since this is a 3-4 hour hike up, it’s best to appreciate the sunset by camping just below Inti Punku. At night, it feels as if you can touch the stars from the top of the Andes Mountains.
This incredible Inca site is free to explore and camp at.
Best Sunset Spots in Cusco & the Surrounding Valleys
In conclusion, these are over 10 of the best sunset spots in Cusco, the South Valley, and the Sacred Valley of Peru. The Cusco region is spectacular and boasts a colonial city, spectacular hikes, hidden Inca sites, and magical mountains. There are no shortage of incredible sunset spots in Cusco and the surrounding valleys.
In Cusco, it’s possible to savor a sunset from hip restaurants, scenic viewpoints and plazas, and from the top of little known Inca ruins. Of course in the nearby valleys, climb to the top of the mountains where you will be surrounded by remarkable Inca sites and colorfulpanoramic views.
Don’t miss these extraordinary sunset spots in Machu Picchu, Cusco and the surrounding Secret Valley.
About the author
Megan has been traveling slow for over 10 years and focuses on authentic and budget travel. You can find her savoring a fresh cup of coffee, planning her next big trek in the mountains, soaking in hot springs, and seeking out the most unique travel experiences.