Bucket List Worthy
It’s no secret that the main tourist attraction of Cusco, Peru is visiting the 15th century Inca site of Machu Picchu. These ruins are one of the most famous icons of the Inca civilization and they are truly breathtaking, perched high on a mountain top above the Sacred Valley.
Many tourists use Cusco as a jumping off point for visiting Machu Picchu, whether they are hiking the Inca Trail or taking the tourist bus from Aguas Calientes. However, what about when you have already seen the ruins and you want to spend more time exploring Cusco? Is there more to enjoy in this city besides Inca ruins?
Cusco actually has plenty of interesting things to see and do other than Machu Picchu. If you are planning on a few more days here, check out these suggestions:
Peru, as well as many other South American countries, is a producer of cacao beans, which are used to make all sorts of delicious chocolate treats. During your stay in Cusco you can take a chocolate making class at the ChocoMuseo and make your own homemade artisanal chocolates.
The class takes around 2 hours and you will get to learn about cacao production, handle the raw cacao beans, roast them and crush them and then pour the molten chocolate into moulds. You will be able to choose from a range of fillings, such ginger, sea salt, nuts and nutmeg. What a delicious souvenir to bring home with you!
This local marketplace sells jewelery, minerals, spices, herbs and handicrafts as well as delicious Peruvian food – it is the largest market in Cusco. Visit on a Sunday, which is when the locals will be dressed in their colourful traditional clothing as they will have just attended church.
This market is a great opportunity to find some beautiful souvenirs such as hand-woven alpaca wool sweaters, unique jewellery and much more. Also, if you work up an appetite while shopping you can try the choclo con queso which is a regional strain of corn on the cop that is topped with chili sauce and cheese. Of course, as in any public market in South America, make sure that you watch out for pickpockets!
Cusco has a great nightlife and when you can get cocktails for only around $4-$6, it is easy to have a great night on a small budget. Start at Paddy’s Pub, which is a fun and lively Irish bar that offers happy hour. Other popular bars and clubs in Cusco include Mythology, Groove, 7 Angelitos, Mama Africa and Real McCoy.
Many of the best bars surround the main square, the Plaza de Armas, which is lit up at night with twinkling lights. Also, it’s not just gringos that make up the population of these clubs, there are many locals drinking there as well. Make sure that you taste a Pisco Sour – it’s a must while you are in Peru.
Qorikancha, the Temple of the Sun, was where the elite of Inca society would gather to watch light bounce from the gorgeous gold-plated walls and dance along the statues and altars. Approximately four thousand well-respected priests lived within this beautiful building, with their attendants.
Qorikancha was a very impressive building to behold, with gleaming gold on every surface. When the conquistadors invaded in 1533 they looted all of the gold, leaving only the elaborately carved masonry. They used this masterful work as a foundation for building their own churches and monuments and the result was a fascinating blend of Spanish and Andean architecture.
Qorikancha is located at Plazoleta Santa Domingo, just south of the Plaza de Armas. Admission is 10PEN and it is open from 8:30am to 5:30pm Monday through Saturday and 2-5pm on Sundays.
Learn a little bit more about the fascinating history of the Inca people at the Inca Museum. It has a varied collection of Incan artifacts, housed within a gorgeous 16th century colonial mansion. From silver figurines to pottery to musical instruments and even preserved mummies, there is a lot here to see. You can also take a walk through the courtyard of the museum where you will be able to see local Andean women weaving their beautiful textiles.
Admission only costs 10PEN and it is open from 8am to 6pm from Monday to Friday, 9am to 4pm on Saturdays and is closed on Sundays.
These are just a few of the great things that you can do in Cusco besides visiting Machu Picchu. If you have the extra time on your Peru trip to explore this beautiful historic colonial city, it is certainly worth it!