Cusco is a architecturally beautiful and culture rich city. It's always alive with locals and visitors and it seems there is always something going on, something to see and things to do. When you only have a few days to see it all, here are six things that should be on your must-do list.
Get chocolate liqueur poured into your mouth at the ChocoMuseo
Museums are cool, history is great, but an interactive experience that includes alcohol? That’s awesome. Pop into the Choco Museo for the free 15-minute tour. You’ll learn more about chocolate then you ever thought possible, get to sample real cocoa beans, cocoa tea and the hilarious guide may even liquor you up via bottle poured straight into your mouth. If you like what you taste you can opt for a paid chocolate-making class and bring home your handmade concoctions to enjoy later.
Get a history lesson and a few laughs on a free walking tour
What’s the best way to get acquainted with a new city? Enlist a local to show you around! My recommendation is Free Walking Peru – city tours by Marco. It’s offered three different times a day every day of the week. Marco is funny and extremely knowledgeable about the area. He will take you around to all the must-see spots and will make sure you enjoy the best of your time in Cusco. No need to pre-register, just look for the teal t-shirt and smiling face in the Plaza de Armas.
Get a workout and some amazing views on the stairways to Cristo Blanco around town.
You’re on vacation, but that doesn’t mean you stay active and fit while sightseeing. Once you’re taking your free walking tour ask Marco to hook you up with walking directions for the free route to see the Cristo Blanco statue. From the statue you get one of the best views of the sprawling puma-shaped city. The hundreds of steps you have to climb to get there will be well worth the sights you see from the top. In this area you can also enter the Saqsaywaman Inca ruin site. For 70 soles you can go inside and take a look around.
Get an hour of relaxation at a low cost
In Cusco there are people selling all kinds of things from restaurant menus to handmade goods to massage deals. Walking down the roads you will hear ladies saying “massage, massage” and holding out fliers of their offered services. Most prices I saw listed were around 40 soles, but some ladies advertised hour long massages for as low as 20 soles (about $6 USD). For that price you absolutely cannot pass up the experience. Will it be the best massage of your life? Probably not, but it will still feel great and its worth the money in my opinion. I went to Spa Warmi Maky on Marquez Street and got the mixed massage for 30 soles. Feel free to bargain because it was originally listed at 40 soles and another friend of mine got it for 20 soles because that’s all the money he had. After hiking for five days the massage was amazing and for less than $10 it was well worth it!
Get an authentic Peruvian multi-course meal without breaking the bank
Cheap and delicious food is my favorite, and I speak with confidence when I say it’s probably everyone else’s favorite too. In Cusco you can commonly find pre-set menus where you can chose an appetizer, soup, main dish and drink or desert for about 20 soles ($6 USD). If you travel farther away from the main square areas, into some of the less busy alley roads then you can find menus for as low as $10 soles ($3 USD) for the same 3-4 course meals. Vegetarian options are easily found as well.
The first day we arrived in Cusco we stumbled into a little restaurant with nobody else inside, it had a wood burning heater and a cute flight of spiral stairs up to the top seating area. I ordered a vegetarian Peruvian 3 course meal that came with Coca tea for 20 soles. Another night we dined at Kusikay and ordered a vegetarian 3 course dish that came with creamy asparagus soup, a vegetarian main dish and choice of desert. The bananas with honey was a great choice. It also came with a Pisco Sour! Pisco Sour is Peru’s famous alcoholic drink; it tastes a lot like a margarita but with a frothy foam on top. Very good and a must-try when in the country!
Get close to Alpacas and Llamas and Dogs and Guinea Pigs
There is no lack of wildlife in Cusco. There are wild, maybe homeless, dogs everywhere. They’ll walk with you, nap on the sidewalks and fit perfectly with the rest of the locals. Just as common as dogs are alpacas and llamas. Traditional Peruvian ladies grow them for their fur and/or meat and on corners throughout the city you can find babies and their owners open to photographs. A tip of one to two soles is voluntary, but expected. There was one day in Cusco that I got to see a group a guinea pigs squirming around. They were so cute! But don’t get too attached, cuy is commonly eaten arou/nd Cusco.
Have I convinced you to explore Cusco? If not, stay tuned for more from my trip to Peru!