Insider's Guide to Visiting Cusco Like a Local
While Cusco is an ancient city, it is the perfect destination for the modern traveler.
Located at 11,400 feet above sea level, Cusco was once the capital of the Incan Empire.
Today, this UNESCO World Heritage City is considered the historical capital of Peru, attracting 2 million visitors a year, many of whom are on their way to Machu Picchu.
Here is our insiders guide to visiting Cusco like a local.
Inside the City
Exploring by foot the downtown of the city is the best way to know and be familiar with the best spots in Cusco.
Located a just two blocks from the main square, this museum is a chocolate lover's dream. Enjoy learning about this "food of the gods" while making your own delicious chocolate treats with a local flavor.
San Pedro Market
A short walk from Main Square is the San Pedro market, the main food market in the city where you will find rows and rows of fruits and vegetables.
The smiling faces of women with traditional hats and plaits in their hair tucked alongside the fruit stands will make it hard not to stop and buy bags full of paltas (avocados) pan chuta (bread) or tomatoes!
Make sure to get there early!
San Blas Neighborhood
San Blas is known as the bohemian neighborhood of Cusco. Here you will find all kind of artists and jewelers. Browse the many art galleries and shops or stop at a local cafe to enjoy the sights around you.
Make sure not to miss out on the live music at night!
Outside of the City
If a full day trip outside of the city piques your interest, these next suggestions are for you.
Among the most magnificent geological structures in the world is Rainbow Mountain.
A six hour hike (roundtrip) at 16,000 feet will bring you to the most speculator view of the Peruvian Andes.
As you take in the turquoise, gold, and lavender striped mountains, you will be staring at millions of years of history while deepening your appreciation of Mother Nature.
Condor View Point
Condors are the biggest vultures on Earth and seeing them in their natural habitats is breathtaking.
You can plan to take a bus out to the Canyon Modelate, arriving at the town of Chonta. From there, you will need to hike out for about 90 minutes before you get to the lookout points.
Be patient and wait for the condors to fly overhead. Its an experience not to be missed.
Rafting the Urubamba River
Depending on what time of year you arrive, rafting the Urubamad is an exhilarating experience.
One of the most popular sections of the river is the the Chuquicahuana or "Chuqui" for short. This is a Class III section on the Upper Urubamba river which features large rapids and pristine waters.
Peruvian food is becoming popular around the world and there is no better place to try it than in Cusco.
First start with coca tea to help manage any altitude sickness you may be experiencing so that you can fully enjoy your meal.
Order local delicacies such as alpaca steak or roasted cuy (guinea pig. Make sure to leave room for locally grown quinoa, potatoes, and choclo or "giant white corn".
Restaurant Marcelo Batata, located just behind the Cusco Cathedral. is one of my favorite local spots for alpaca steak.
If you want to drink a local beer and enjoy the view of the Plaza de Armas, check out Norton Bar and ask for a spot on the balcony.
With a blend of the ancient and modern, Cusco is a not to miss destination in Peru.
Interested joining us in Peru? We have something for everyone!