May 26, 2016|
Last updated on September 23rd, 2020 at 08:49 am
The Top Things to Do in Cusco Peru
Updated August 6th, 2020
If you’re making your way through your South America bucket list with a visit to Machu Picchu, then Cusco will be your starting point! There are plenty of things to do in Cusco, as it is the old capital of the entire Incan Empire. Due to great cultural importance, Cusco has been selected as UNESCO World Heritage. It’s an extremely safe and welcoming city in Peru, very walkable, and radiating with charm. From every cobblestone street, there are sweeping views of cathedrals and little houses tucked far up into the rolling green hills for miles around. It’s well worth it to spend a couple of extra days here. Enjoy coca tea, adjust to the altitude, and start exploring the city that is 11,000 feet high in the Peruvian Andes.
1. Enjoy Peruvian delicacies at the San Pedro Market
Just a short walk from the main Plaza de Armas is the huge San Pedro Market. San Pedro Market is a whirlwind of colors and flavors, full of locals and tourists alike. There is an abundance of fresh juice stands and famous chicken broth, which lots of locals eat for breakfast. Start your morning by sitting at one of the small communal tables outside any of the breakfast stands. Try some muna tea or hot chocolate made with cloves and cinnamon. Then spend a couple of hours wandering the rest of the market. You’ll find everything from touristy souvenirs to local meat and cheese, coffee, and chocolate, little kiosks stuffed with spices and interesting odds and ends, and of course more authentic delicacies like cuy (guinea pig)!
3. Get a tour of the Temple of the Sun
Qorikancha, also known as the Temple of the Sun, was the most important temple in the Incan Empire. The Incas originally designed Cusco in the shape of a puma, and Qorikancha lies at what was the puma tail (the ruins of Sacsayhuaman make up its head). The Spanish eventually destroyed it and its foundation was used to build the Church of Santo Domingo on top. Taking a walk through it today is like walking through the history of the overtaking. The stonework remnants of the foundations are mixed in with the colonial architecture of the church. The impeccable masonry of the Incas also withstood earthquakes that severely damaged the Spanish buildings.
2. Make your own chocolate at the Choco Museo
For foodies, a visit to the Choco Museo in Cusco is one of the top things to do. Peru is famous for its cacao beans, which other countries source for their chocolate. If you have some time to spare, indulge in one of the most entertaining activities in Cusco: an artisanal chocolate workshop at the Choco Museo! You’ll be able to smell this place a block before you arrive! Learn about the chocolate-making process, from bean to bar in the free museum, or try your hand at making your own at their chocolate workshop. Finally, make some hot chocolate and enjoy it with delicious snacks on the little balconies overlooking Plaza Regocijo! If you are a real chocolate enthusiast, consider our fantastic 2 days/1 nights chocolate tour.
4. Explore the ancient ruins of Sacsayhuaman
You’ll see no shortage of ruins in Peru. The ruins surrounding Cusco, on top of the hills, are the Inca fortress of Sacsayhuaman (pronounced like “sexy woman”!). Spend a couple of hours exploring these massive stone blocks complete with a stone slide. Have a picnic on the huge stretches of grass where you can enjoy panoramic views of the city below.
5. Enjoy a Pisco Sour at the Museo del Pisco
Visit Museo del Pisco at night for some tapas and pisco sour. This restaurant takes Peru’s national liquor seriously. They offer tasting flights of pisco, and you can choose from hundreds of different varieties. Sign up for the pisco cocktail making classes, and pisco-chocolate pairings session for the ultimate experience! You may also enjoy Pisco Sours on our Peru Culinary Tour!
6. Get a massage
You won’t be able to walk down the street in Cusco without spas offering special discounts for massages. This primarily caters to the hiking crowds that have just returned from the Inca Trail, but you should take advantage of how cheap they are – we’re talking $ 10 / AR $728 USD for an hour-long Shiatsu massage.
7. Take a stroll around San Blas District.
Just a block away from the Plaza de Armas you’ll enter the bohemian district of San Blas. Stroll around its cobblestone streets and find a myriad of authentic artisanry, quaint buildings, and small boutique shops and galleries. The top highlights in the district include the picturesque Iglesia San Blas and the San Blas market, which is less touristy than the main market and still offers a great collection of fruits and vegetables. You’ll find the most delicious ceviche served with Peruvian sweet potatoes and cancha (corn nuts) for a few dollars!
Just two blocks away from the San Blas Temple, spot the 12-Angled Stone in the ancient Inca Wall, located along the historic Hatunrumiyoc street. This stone has world heritage acclaim and is famous because of its carving and perfect fitting system into 12 surrounding stones.
8. Take a photo with a llama
One of the best things to do in Cusco is to have your picture taken with a baby llama. Women in traditional outfits line the streets of Cusco holding their baby llamas. The women walk around the city offering this as one of the most touristy traps in the city, but come on – it’s a cute baby llama!