Cusco, Peru, ancient Inca capital, steeped in history and culture, base for many before exploring the Sacred Valley and the Machu Picchu, historic Peruvian City. Cusco is a truly amazing City, filled to the brim with Inca and Spanish history, stunning churches, artisanal markets and shops, museums and Inca and Spanish culture, local Peruvian markets and amazing restaurants and bars. Cusco is a truly breath-taking experience, nestled in the mountains just begging to be explored. Exploring Cusco is a highlight of anyone’s visit to Peru and there are many ways to explore from the active to the more sedate.
1) Free Walking Tour
A free Guided walking tour of Cusco is a great way to see and experience Cusco first hand. You will get to see another side of the Inca capital as you wander through the cobbled streets learning about the Inca and Spanish history, meeting the locals and taking in some of the key sites in Cusco as well as some off the beaten track. Learn about the Spanish Plazas, marvel at how the Inca and Spanish architecture are interwoven from the Temple of the Sun (Qoricancha) to the stunning bohemian area of San Blas.
You will undoubtedly see the converted tram driving around Cusco and perhaps dismiss it for the rather flashier tourist bus service, the tram however is a fun alternative way to see Cusco.
Departing 5 times daily from Plaza de Armas, the tram comes complete with a local Cusco Guide who will talk to you about the local area and some of the main sites as you wind your way through the streets of Cusco. The tram is a great way to get orientated before you set off to explore in earnest. The tour last around 1.5 hours and you will pass by key sites such as the Plaza de Armas, Plaza Regocijo, Avenida El Sol, the area of Wanchaq and all the way up to the statue of the white Christ which overlooks the City.
Not the most sophisticated of tours but a fun and different way to see the Inca capital! Tickets can be brought on the tram or from the tram office on Plaza de Armas.
One option to follow on from the tram tour is to disembark the tram tour at the statue of Christ overlooking Cusco. The statue provides breath taking views across the whole of Cusco, a great stop for panoramic photos and to truly appreciate the beauty of the area.
ENTERTAINMENT TIP: If looking for fun at night, or to watch sports during the day, or even a taste of home, visit the Wild Rover Hostel Cusco for great food, sports and beer! Entrance to their bar is free even for non-guests
From the statue you can now take your time and explore the fields and sites that the area above Cusco has to offer. For the more energetic you can walk to Q’enko ruins and explore the llama filled fields that sit above the Inca capital.There are also art galleries and local restaurants dotted around the area and this makes for a great place to get off the beaten track.
Then take a leisurely walk down towards the ruins of Sacsayhuaman, a fantastic opportunity to see the ruins from a different view point. Down the side of the ruins are steps that take you all the way back to Cusco. A stunning walk with amazing mountain views and vistas of Cusco from above. Why not stop for a drink in one of the panoramic restaurants and sit and watch the sun go down.
4) The Markets
Cusco is filled to the brim with markets and they are a great way to see another side to the Inca city. Some of the more popular markets, for tourists and locals alike, are:
1. San Pedro
Located next to Plaza San Francisco and next to the old Cusco train station, San Pedro market provides a great opportunity to mingle with the locals. Try out your Spanish (or Quechua!) with the market ladies as they try to sell you blankets or freshly made fruit juice. San Pedro market is filled with unusual shops, colours and smells and beautiful architecture, a real treasure to explore.
If local sights and smells are your thing then Wanchaq market provides both. A short walk from the historic centre of Cusco, Wanchaq market provides locals with a plethora of items from dog food to fresh cut flowers as well as being home to some fantastic fresh made fruit juices and cheap and tasty local food.
Set at the bottom of Avenda El Sol – the main avenue in Cusco, the Artisans market is a tourist shopping haven. Home to everything alpaca and jewellery up to the ceiling, make sure you visit here before you leave and stock up on all those Peruvian presents!
Molino market is home to the bootleg everything and also a great place to try the local delicacy of Cuy (Guinea Pig!). So if you are in need of some clothing or shoes or perhaps some local music or cakes, then Molino is the place to go.
As always, make sure you take extra care of your belongings but particularly in the markets, just take out with you what you need for the day.
5) Quad Biking
If you want to see some of the local area around Cusco but want to try something different apart from the usual group tours, then quad biking could be the answer. There are some good reputable companies in Cusco that provide a variety of tours by quad which apart from the adrenaline side of things, also give you a chance to learn about the local area and see some sights that are a bit different from your usual Cusco tourist trail. Eric Adventures are a quality (if not slightly expensive) operator of quad biking tours in Cusco.
Quad Biking in Cusco
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