Cuzco (also “Cusco” or “Qosqo” in Quechua), located in the southern Sierras, is a fascinating city that is the capital of the Inca Empire.
Cusco is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is one of the most visited cities in Peru as it is the largest and most comfortable city from which tourists can visit Machu Picchu Sacred Valley of the Incasand other Inca locations in the region. There are so many incredible things to do in Cusco.
Cusco is a beautiful city with well-preserved colonial architecture that testifies to a rich and complex history. The city itself is the center of the indigenous people Quechua culture In the Andes, and just walking the streets, you can see the layers of history. Spanish colonial buildings erected directly on top of the Inca walls line the plaza as the modern tourist nightlife flourishes in their midst.
The city is surrounded by a number of ruins, the most impressive of which is Sacsayhuaman, the site of the battle of 1536, where dozens of Pizarro’s men stormed uphill to fight the Inca forces. Nowadays, Cusco is known for its indigenous people, often seen walking the streets in traditional clothing, and its extensive nightlife, which is dominated by tourists.
Relatives read: Where to go in Peru? Next to Machu Picchu
Activities in Cusco, Peru
Don’t rush through Cusco!
It is an amazing city and it will take you more than two days to see the city on your own. This doesn’t even mention full-day side trips to Machu Picchu or the Sacred Valley.
Here are some travel tips for things you might want to see or do.
- Go around the Plaza de Armas;; The square has churches, shops, restaurants and bars and is a great place to spend an afternoon. The historic center of Cusco is beautiful, but you have to deal with all the street vendors and vendors of cheap paintings and other souvenirs. They are everywhere in and around the Plaza de Armas. They spoil the experience a little.
- Try this out Plaza de San Franciscowhich is a few blocks north of the center and is a great place to stop at one of Cusco’s many great cafes.
- play Sapo, a traditional bar game played in Chicharias across Peru. The game consists of throwing small coins called fichas on a table to which a bronze sapo (toad) is attached. You will get points to make it into holes on the table and a ton of points to make it into the sapos’s mouth. Best to play while drinking Chicha (Corn beer, traditionally fermented with saliva) on a local dive. Ask old men to show you the correct form of throwing as it can be difficult to master.
- Talk to local Shopkeepers, curators, waitresses and bartenders. They usually speak a little English if your Spanish is not good and are generally happy to share interesting information about the city that is not in travel guides. This is also a great way to find the best places to try cuy, alpaca, and Chicha.
- Once you get used to the altitude, go for a to run! This is a very humbling experience as the hills and thin air challenge even people in excellent shape. It’s also a great way to explore the local area. Go east or south of the square to the safest places. If you are a woman who is currently exercising, you may receive a few cat calls as is common in much of Latin America.
- Walk Wildwater Rafting but not in the Sacred Valley of the Incas, where the water is heavily polluted and the rapids are relatively tame. Instead, go upstream Chuqicahuana or Cusipata Sections of the Rio Urubamba /. Vilcanota Where the water is much cleaner and the rapids up to class 5 are great fun depending on what time of year you travel.
- To attempt inflatable canoeing on the Piñi Pampas Section of the Rio Urubamba Here you can paddle down your own canoe, fun but not hectic, class 1 and 2 rapids.
- When you have more time, try and Rafting the 3 or 4 days Rio Apurimac – the real source of the Amazon and one of the ten best rafting rivers in the world. Class 3 – 5 all in the most amazing 3000 m deep gorge. Go with the experts as accidents have occurred and you will pay for what you get in Peru. Saving a few bucks can seriously affect the quality and safety of your trip.
- To have a Downhill mountain bike tour either via the Chincheros plains, past Inca ruins and down through the spectacle Mara’s salt pans or the 75km downhill from Abra Malaga to Santa Maria and on the totally awesome Santa Teresa hot springs (Easier and cheaper access to Machu Picchu from here too) Go to the experts again – there are plenty of cheap bikes out there that aren’t up to the job at all.
Buy at markets in and around Cusco, Peru
If you want cheap, cheap tourist stuff, visit one of the two markets on Saturday and Sunday mornings in Juliaca (approx. 5 hours away by bus), Puno (about 6 hours away by bus). They are about 1/3 the price of Cusco.
If you don’t want to go that far but still want touristy stuff, go to Handicraft market at the intersection of Avenida del Sol and Tullumayo. It’s the big red building near the fountain. The further you are from the main square, the cheaper things get.
There is a mini market next to the large church on the main square. It’s the San Pedro market, where bread costs around 0.10 s / s and a glass of combination juices around 1.50 s / s, and you get 2-4 refills. Don’t go too far from the main square at night, it can be dangerous.
There is another market called Centro Comercial El Molino, Urbanizacion Ttio. You have to take a taxi and it costs S / 2 to get there. You can buy tons of illegal goods, DVDs, CDs, etc. in this market. A good quality DVD is s / 4, or you can buy 5 VCDs for s / 10.
The indigenous women at El Centro Bartolome de Las Casas have a shop selling homemade handicrafts and weavings. You can often watch them at work, although they often don’t speak Spanish and seldom speak a word of English. It is just a few blocks from Tullumayu Avenue.
Likewise Pisac, a city outside of Cusco, has a very large market. It’s about 30 minutes by bus from Cusco. The bus stop is on Tullumayo Street, a few blocks from Limacpampas. The fare is very cheap and you can see the Inca ruins at Pisac. In Aguas Calientes and Machu Picchu, prices can be twice as high as in Cusco.
If you are traveling to the “Sacred Valley” (Valle Sagrado including the towns / ruins of Chinchero, Ollantaytambo and Pisac) there are many tourist things to buy to trade, but prices will not come down much. Alpaca sweaters are no longer like they used to be. The only good ones are in upscale stores.