What to do in Cusco?
Things to do
To get 2020 off to a good start, we booked our flight to Peru in the last week of 2019. As nature lovers, this country was high on our bucket list. And during this trip, a visit to Cusco could not be missed. Cusco is therefore the most famous city in Peru after Lima and that is not so surprising. There are a large number of tourists every day who go to the wonder of the world Machu Picchu from Cusco. However, Cusco has a lot more to offer than just a trip to Machu Picchu. We would like to show you what there is to do in Cusco
In the city itself
1 San Blas
The streets of Cusco are very pleasant to walk through. Yet according to many, the San Blas district is the one that stands out. And that is mainly because of the modern shops with handmade clothes and jewellery. In addition, you can eat well here and sometimes enjoy a local music band that provides a nice vibe. On Saturdays, the central square of this district hosts a small market where you can buy local handicrafts.
2 Plaza de Armas
As in many cities in Peru, the central square in Cusco also bears the name Plaza de Armas. In this square you will find not only some historical buildings but also many shops where you can buy handmade jumpers, socks and hats made from alpaca wool. From this square there are also some picturesque streets where you can find several of these shops. Attention! As a tourist, you are constantly approached by vendors and taxi drivers.
3 The market of San Pedro
The interesting covered market of San Pedro is open every day from morning until evening and can be visited completely free of charge. Apart from fresh fruit and other food items, you will also find some traditional souvenirs and handmade clothes. Moreover, at a much cheaper price than in any other shop in Cusco. Beware, however, that the smell here can sometimes be very penetrating due to the fish and meat that is also sold here.
4 Sacsayhuaman ruins
Less well known than Machu Picchu but certainly worth visiting are the ruins of Sacsayhuaman. This Inca city on one of the mountains in Cusco can be reached most easily by Uber or taxi. This archaeological site is particularly interesting for its sublime views of the city, but also for a few ruins that still look impressive. Not staying in Cusco for a long time? Then you should skip this trip. Certainly if you go to Machu Picchu afterwards. The entrance fee to this site is 70 soles, or about 15 euros.
5 Cristo Blanco in Cusco
Do you want a magnificent city view of Cusco? Then you should definitely try climbing to Cristo Blanco. The view from this mighty statue of Christ is breathtaking. On the way up to this statue, you will also come across a number of nice little streets and views. Attention! This road is very long and also tough! A good condition is therefore certainly required. You can also reach this place by taxi or Uber. Pay a maximum of 10 soles (about 2 euros) for this!
6 Machu Picchu
Although world wonder Machu Picchu is actually located in Aguas Calientes and not in Cusco, most tourists take a day trip from Cusco. You can take a bus from Cusco to the train station in Ollantaytambo where you can then take the Incarail or Perurail to Machu Picchu. We think that a day trip is a bit short because you are on the road for at least three hours. Be aware this trip is not cheap! For example, a train ticket + bus ticket + entrance ticket will cost you around 200 euros per person.
7 Drive a quad
Around Cusco you will find a breathtaking piece of nature that you will hardly find anywhere else. The combination of mountains and fauna and flora is very impressive here. Exploring this beautiful nature with a quad/ATV is the ideal way. You can book these tours both in the city centre and online at GetYourGide. The price for half a day on the quad is around 30 euros. Highly recommended to do in Cusco.
8 Ruins of Moray
Not as well known as Machu Picchu but no less special! Moray is also an archaeological site of the Incas that is worth visiting. This site, once used for growing crops, is very intriguing because of its depth and circular construction. The landscape around Moray, called the Sacred Valley, also makes this trip more than worthwhile! You have to pay 70 soles (about 19 euros) for an entrance ticket.
9 Saltmines Maras
Another nice trip that can be perfectly combined with Moray are the salt mines of Maras. These salt mines, pans, terraces or whatever you call them, are a spectacular scene and definitely worth a visit. Because apart from the 4500 mines themselves that provide a huge production of salt, you also have some local vendors here where you can buy the local salt. The entrance fee for these mines is 10 soles. You are no longer allowed to walk among the salt mines themselves but must stay behind a barrier. This was because there was too much pollution from the tourists. An understandable decision.
10 Rainbow Mountain
An excursion that is often made from Cusco is the hike to Rainbow Mountain. A very colourful mountain that owes its different colours to different minerals on the mountain. However, a trip to this mountain is not ideal for everyone. Despite the horses you can hire to go up, there is still a serious altitude difference of 2000 metres with Cusco. That is also located at an altitude of 3000 metres. This is also the reason why we did not make this trip. We were already suffering from altitude sickness at 3000 metres, so 5000 metres would have been dangerous. Those who would like to do this trip will be rewarded with a wonderful view! The drive from Cusco to the foot of Rainbow Mountain is 3 hours by car.