You’ll go on a guided tour of Korikancha, Sacsayhuaman and the cathedral, but Cusco – jewel of the Andes and gateway to Machu Picchu– warrants further exploration on your own.
Sometimes described as the gateway to Machu Picchu, Cusco – the erstwhile Inca capital – is a bona fide tourist destination in its own right, boasting centuries of Inca and colonial history. It’s a wonderful place, with some of the most important Inca and Spanish buildings in Latin America, amazingly picturesque alleyways, and a thriving shopping and dining scene. All of our guests will go on a guided tour of Cusco’s main sites, which includes the Koricancha (the Inca sun temple), the main cathedral and the incredible Inca fortress of Sacsayhuaman, but we’d highly recommend using your free time to further explore this Andean gem. Read on to find out more about the fun sites and activities that the city has to offer?
If you have a sweet tooth, there is no better place to be than Cusco’s very own Chocolate Museum (ChocoMuseo). A highlight of the museum is its on-site factory, which specializes in crafting artisanal chocolate from the very best Peruvian cacao beans. Not to mention the café which serves everything from Mayan hot chocolate to pisco-based chocolate liqueurs with a kick like a llama. If time allows why not sign up for a workshop and learn to make your own chocolate? Besides sampling an array of delicious sweet treats in the chocolate factory, you can discover more about the history of cacao or go on a plantation tour. The Chocolate Museum is a family-friendly outing that everyone will love. Calle Garcilaso 210, Cusco.
Discover the fascinating world of pre-Columbian art at the MAP Museum in Cusco. Situated on an excessively charming plazoleta a few blocks from the main square, this museum boasts a magnificent collection which is comprised of over 450 works stretching back thousands of years. With elegant ceramics, dazzling gold creations, intricate shell jewelry and mesmerizing wooden sculptures, the range of artefacts is truly mind-boggling. The museum is conveniently arranged in chronical order to take visitors on a journey through Peruvian history which proves once and for all that the Incas were only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to Precolumbian civilizations. The museum is a not-to-be-missed opportunity to explore Andean mythology. Plaza Nazarenas 231, Cusco.
With its vibrant colors and array of smells, the San Pedro Market is a captivating experience that will awaken all your senses. You’ll see women adorned in traditional attire selling nuts, fruit, and popcorn while the local shops are a great place to buy souvenirs or an alpaca jumper. If you’re looking for fresh fruit juice or a tasty local meal (opt for the place with the longest line), San Pedro is your guy. Try out salchipapas (fried sausages and potatoes) or a cheese empanada. Friendly but heated bargaining and ubiquitous pachamama dolls complete the authentic Andean experience. Tupac Amaru, Cusco.
Forget the airport store, do your souvenir shopping and support truly local weavers in the process by visiting the Center for Traditional Textiles! This non-profit organization was founded in 1996 by local weavers to preserve Cusqueño textile traditions as well as to create an income for indigenous craftsmen and women. This fair-trade initiative is an excellent opportunity to promote ethical tourism, and the practicality and beauty of the textiles seals the deal. The shop is also home to an excellent weaving museum, but if you want to watch a weaving demonstration or even enroll for a course, we’ll gladly arrange a transfer to their HQ in Chinchero, 45 minutes from town. Av. Sol 603, Cusco
Escape from the tourists and enjoy a meal with the locals at La Cusqueñita This picantería-style restaurants serves up hearty mountain fare, traditional chicha (a corn drink that is made in alcoholic and virgin forms) as well as live entertainment. The brainchild of a local politician and academic, its captivating dance shows and authentic ambience sets it apart from other more touristy establishments. Av. Centenario 800.
Cusco is a really special place for many of the SA Expeditions team. Many of us live, or have lived, in this magical Andean city so it goes without saying that we’ve blogged a fair bit about it over the years.
4 Cusco Festivals Worth Planning Around
Cusco Through the Ages
Shopping for Souvenirs in Peru
An Introduction to Cusco Peru
Whether you’re passing through Cusco to visit Machu Picchu or you’re spending some extra time in the city, Cusco will grab you by the collar and demand your full attention. It really is one of the most bewitching places you’ll ever go. Check out our Cusco and Machu Picchu tours here or speak to a Destination Expert about crafting your own customized itinerary.
Credit to Flickr user Marguerite for the cover image of this blog.