Visiting the Inka-redible Cusco
Cusco is around 3,400 metres above sea level, so it’s important to be aware that it could take a little adjusting to. Upon arrival, you may feel slightly more breathless than usual, or experience some common altitude sickness symptoms.
So once you’ve had a good rest and are ready to explore, where to go first? Well, it all depends on what you’d like to get from your free day in Peru. You could buy some dodgy looking alpaca jumpers, pick up some last minute trekking items, sample the best of Peruvian cuisine or maybe just check out some of the museums in the square.
Places of Interest
Built in 1560, a world heritage site since 1983 and easily the most prominent feature of the Plaza des Armas, Cusco Cathedral is definitely something you should try to see whilst in Cusco.It’s open Monday to Sunday 10-6, and it’s only $4.90 for a student entry. It’s advised that those planning on visiting should try to wear appropriate clothing (long sleeves and trousers).
Plaza des Armas
To see anything worth seeing in Cusco, you’ll need to head to the Plaza des Armas, the main square in Peru which leads on to most alpaca wool shops, money exchange places and of course many of the museums/sites of interest too. The historic square is a lovely place to sit, people watch and relax in the sunshine- it’s also usually filled with unique local art displaying their work and lovely Peruvian women carrying cute little lambs for you to hold for around 1 euro.
You could take a walk uphill to see Cristo Blanco. The large statue of Jesus Christ can be seen from across the city, much smaller than the similar Rio-based statue, it is still a stunning and iconic feature of the city and offers amazing panoramic views of Cusco itself too. You can pay around $5.50 for a taxi up to the site, take a 30-40 minute walk up or visit as part of an open bus tour. Remember, you shouldn’t do too much too soon in Peru, particularly if you’re not used to the altitude. So if you plan on walking- take it slow.
There are lots of little market streets, wiring around the Plaza des Armas, but if you’re looking for an authentic market experience in one big blow- San Pedro Market is the place to go! A little walk away from the main square – you’ll wind through local-filled streets and arrive at the large, covered square filled with endless rows of stalls selling everything. From dodgy looking sunhats, alpaca-covered jumpers, jewelry, souvenirs, sweets, fruits and lots of fresh meat (I’d probably avoid this row if you can- the smell isn’t great). You can also pick up some local street food in the market too, so really San Pedro is the best place to go to feel wholly Peruvian for the afternoon. Check out this article to see just how many weird & wonderful things you can get in San Pedro Market.
Just off the main square, you’ll be able to find plenty of supermarkets to help prepare you for the trek by loading up on snacks. Although Amazonas explorers provide a fantastic selection of meals/snacks along the trek, you can never have too many (or that’s what we tell ourselves anyway). Take it from us, the sublime chocolate bar may be your best purchase of the month, maybe even the year. You can thank us later…
- Museo del Pisco
This museum-bar is a little different to most of the colonial places of interest in Cusco. The museum doesn’t just offer a chance to learn about the history of Pisco, the origins and how it’s made. But it also allows for you to sample the infamous Peruvian alcohol too, and why not enjoy the free samples alongside nightly live music 9pm-11pm?
- Museo de Choco
If you’re into free tasters, particularly of the chocolate variety, you have to visit the chocolate museum. Not only will you get to see how chocolate is made, they also have a wonderful selection of chocolates that make perfect souvenirs! It’s open 9-7 Monday to Sunday.
- Museo del Inka
Now whilst you’re in Peru, and about to journey to land of the inka, what better time to find out about the Incan history and mystery? The Museo del Inka, offers a wonderful insight into the Inca, and it’s a great way to learn more about Machu Picchu itself and the theories behind it before embarking on the trek. It also has a strange instruments section where they have all sorts of bird-song whistles which you can try (and/or purchase) if you want! Admission is $10.
Restaurants & Bars
- Paddy’s Irish Pub
The best bars in foreign places always seem to be the Irish ones- or that certainly is the case for Paddy’s Irish Pub in Cusco! it’s located in the corner of the Plaza des Armas and you’ll be able to check out the latest sports matches, listen to great music and have a selection of drinks, and delicious food too. What more could you want!
- Mama Africa Club
Now if you’re all filled up on delicious Peruvian cuisine or an all-day Irish breakfast from Paddy’s and you want to now dance the night away with some funky looking cocktails– Mama Africa Club is the place to go! Whilst we were there they had plenty of cocktails offered on a 2 for 1 basis of all colours, shapes and flavours and partnered with a legendary DJ who’ll happily play bangers upon request it’s definitely the best place to finish off your night in Cusco. Located in the Plaza des Armas too, it means that you’re only a stones throw from a Mcdonalds- perfect for a post-night nugget or 10.
If you’re looking for a picturesque place to have some lunch and relax then Pachapapa is a fantastic place to go. It’s a rustic courtyard surrounded by cherry trees, a great place to spend time listening to an Andean harp whilst sat close to the wood fire. At night, you can also head there to try the tasty regional menu- to try the authentic taste of Cusco.