Last updated on December 31st, 2018 at 12:01 pm
Insider Travel Guide
The Top 7 Things to do in Cuzco Peru
If you’re making your way through your South America bucket list with a visit to iconic Machu Picchu, then Cuzco will be your starting point. But don’t overlook this city as its own destination – Cuzco was the capital of the entire Incan Empire, and it’s well worth it to spend a couple of extra days here – it’s an extremely safe and welcoming city, 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. Not to mention a couple of days here will help you adjust to the altitude. So have some coca tea and get started exploring the 7 best things to do in Cuzco Peru, the city that is 11,000 feet high in the Peruvian Andes.
1. San Pedro Market – Things to Do in Cuzco Peru
Just a short walk from the main Plaza de Armas, the huge San Pedro Market is a whirlwind of colors and flavors, full of locals and tourists alike. There is an entire row dedicated to fresh juice stands and another for its 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 and try some muna tea or hot chocolate made with cloves and cinnamon, then spend a couple of hours wandering the aisles. 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).
2. Choco Museo – Things to Do in Cuzco Peru
Peru is famous for its cacao beans that other countries source for their chocolate, but the Choco Museo produces its own artisanal chocolate bars on-site – 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.
3. The Temple of the Sun – Things to Do in Cuzco Peru
Qorikancha, the Temple of the Sun, was the most important temple in the Incan Empire. The Incas originally designed Cuzco 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.
4. Sacsayhuaman – Things to Do in Cuzco Peru
The ruins surrounding Cuzco, perched 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, and have a picnic on the huge stretches of grass where you can enjoy panoramic views of the city below.
5. Museo del Pisco – The 7 Best Things to Do in Cuzco Peru
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.
6. Get a Massage – Things to Do in Cuzco Peru
You won’t be able to walk down the street in Cuzco 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 USD for an hour-long Shiatsu massage.
7. Take a picture with a llama – Things to Do in Cuzco Peru
Have your picture taken holding a baby llama. The streets of Cuzco are filled with women dressed in traditional outfits 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 baby llama!