Cusco. The adventure capital of Peru. An up-and-coming foodie destination. Land of some seriously cool ponchos. The old Inca capital. Oh, and the first stop for many travellers before visiting Machu Picchu.
Not doing a hike? All aboard the train. There’s a bunch of activities to keep you busy with two days in Cusco.
Sample superfoods at San Pedro Market
After arriving in the ancient capital of the Incas, Cusco, you’ll find a thriving city with a mixture of Peruvian traditions and Spanish colonial influences. Make your way to San Pedro Market, a 10-minute walk from Plaza de Armas (Cusco’s main square). Arriving early, you’ll see locals doing their shopping. Take your pick from some of the Peruvian dishes and learn about the products grown in the region. Keep an eye out for a few of the world’s organic super foods: quinoa (of all colours and varieties), camu camu (a small, cherry-like fruit) and maca (a pungent root) just to name a few. All big agricultural exports in Peru.
Local tip: Make sure you try one of the fresh fruit juices or a traditional Andean chicken soup.
Peruse pre-Columbian artwork at Museo de Arte Precolombino
Entirely dedicated to ancient Peruvian art, the museum can be found near the main square of Plaza de Armas. Housed in a Spanish colonial residence, you will find a collection of impressive archaeological artifacts and pre-Columbian artworks dating 1250 BC–1532 AD. These were selected from 45,000 pieces that were stored away from public viewing for a long time in Lima’s Larco Museum.
Taste the smooth flavours at the Choco Museum
Peru continues to rank in the top ten largest cacao producers in the world, and is the world’s largest organic cacao producer. Travelling with Intrepid, the Choco Museum tour (with tastings) is included in most of the Machu Picchu tours departing from Cusco – but you might want to go back again to get another chocolate fix! A visit to the Chocolate Museum takes you through the history of cacao in Peru; touch cacao pods and taste different types of quality chocolate while learning about production on site.
Get the lowdown on all things coca at Museo de la Coca
From coffee to coca, many Peruvians use the leaves of the coca plant as a traditional way to counteract the effects of altitude. Expect to be offered a cup of coca tea or the opportunity to try chewing coca leaves upon arriving in Cusco. Follow the history of the sacred plant at the Museo de la Coca, tucked away in San Blas square. Check out the coca-inspired artwork and learn more about how this plant has influenced the lives of indigenous populations throughout South America for centuries.
Find a piece that’s one of a kind
You may not consider Peru to be a place for shopping but walking through the cobbled streets of Cusco, you’ll notice the number of beautiful handmade products available. Whether it’s a leather bag, boots, finely crafted silver jewellery or an alpaca poncho. Time can disappear wandering through the alleyways and tucked away market squares.
Local tip: Visit ‘El Sol’ Avenue called CTTC (Centro de Textiles Tradicionales del Cusco) for a selection of quality ponchos. The centre works with 10 weaving communities in the Cusco region.
Get out of town for half a day or take a tour locally
Like many mountain towns, you’ll never run out of things to do in Cusco. Jump on a half-day tour to Moray, an archaeological site that takes crop circles to the next level. The site is made up of agricultural concentric terraces and has been used for centuries to control the temperature and grow a variety of plants.
Another option is a scenic walk visiting Cusco’s significant ruins: Tambomachay, Puka Pukara, Qeqgo and Sacsayhuaman. Had enough walking? You could try your hand at making a traditional Pisco sour, the national cocktail, at a workshop and tour in the bohemian area of Cusco.
Looking to fulfill your dream to see Machu Picchu? Check out Intrepid’s range of small group adventure tours to the famous site now.
Feature image by Cliff Bielawski.