Cuzco is my favourite place in Peru, and probably one of my favourite in South America. We loved everything about this town, from the narrow stony streets, the churches, the beautiful building, the markets, the food and the whole culture in general. One of my favourite things about this city is that cathedrals and buildings from the Spanish colonial time, stand right besides Ince buildings and temples.
Between the time we spent before and after visiting Machu Picchu, we ended up staying here for 10 days and we would have stayed longer, despite the heavy rain on our last days there – a sign that the rainy season was indeed starting!
Things to see and do in Cuzco:
- Take a free walking tour;
- Visit the San Pedro Market;
- Walk around the artisanal markets;
- Try more local food!
Cuzco is one the best places to learn about Inca history and culture and taking a walking tour is one of the best way to learn about it and meet other people. We used Incan Milky Way, but there are plenty of companies that organise them, and they are free (tip based), so you can just ask your hostel. After the tour, we also went back to the places in town we liked the most to take our time walking through them (and take pictures!).
One of the must-see places in Cuzco is Plaza de Armas, surrounded by colonial arcades, cathedrals, gardens and fountains. If it’s sunny out, try to spend some time in the gardens right in the middle of the plaza, an amazing spot for people-watching. At one the ends of the plaza, there is the Iglesia de La Compañia de Jesús one of the main examples of Andean Baroque architecture, first built in the 16th century, but rebuilt after the 1650 earthquake.
On another side of the plaza, you can see the Cusco Cathedral, which was built on the foundations of Viracocha Inca’s palace. To build this cathedral, they used some blocks from the Saqsaywaman fortress, a very important Inca site about 2km from Plaza de Armas. Unfortunately, we didn’t get to see this place, but we hard it’s worth the uphill trek!
Another must-see place in Cuzco is Qorikancha, which used to be one of the richest Inca temples ever built and it also included the Temple of the Sun. Today, all the inside treasures are lost and all you can see in this place are the ancient stone walls and the Convent of Santo Domingo, that was built on those walls.
We discovered the San Pedro Market thanks to our walking tour, and we couldn’t stop going back there to buy fresh food, delicious fruit juices and just get a an insight into the daily life. This market, also know as the Central Market, was built by Gustave Eiffel himself, the same one who built the Eiffel Tower in Paris!
This market is open every day from 9 am to 6pm. Make sure you try their fruit juices: we got a huge jug of mix fruit juice (4 glasses) for only 3 soles, which is only €0.80, and it was delicious!
EA thing not to be missed is the artisans markets around Cuzco. One of my favourite is located on the street between San Pedro Market and Plaza de Armas, on Calle Santa Clara, just on the right once you go through the big arch. We randomly came across this market and we loved it. We went back lots of times just to have a look through all the handmade stuff and talk to the people there. We also got plenty of souvenirs and alpaca jumpers.
It feels a bit less authentic, but it has amazing handmade products, Pedazo de Arte, on Calle Plateros. I could spend hours looking at their products.
Finally, in Cuzco we had amazing food too! My two favourite places were Casa Morena and Creperie la Bo’.
Casa Morena, just beside Plaza de Armas, makes traditional Peruvian food but in a modern version, with lots of vegetarian options available. Creperie la Bo’ is also a hostel and it’s in the neighborhood of San Blas, one of the nicest in Cuzco. It has spaces with hammocks, books, games and fireplaces and here you can have some of the best sweet and savoury crepes ever!
Where to stay
We stayed in a hostel called Ukukus hostel and we really liked it. The staff was very nice all the time and the room was big, clean and it had veery good wi-fi and hot water for the shower. It also had a nice kitchen and balcony area from were you can see the city.
Getting from Lima to Cuzco
Like I said before, we thought that it wasn’t possible to visit Machu Picchu in February, so we decided to do this first, before visiting the rest of Peru.
While it is true that some parts of the trail might be closed in February because of the rainy season, you can still visit the place and your guide will find an alternative route.
Even though, we want to travel green and we were planning to only get buses from Ecuador onward, we were forced to fly from Lima to Cuzco for three reasons:
- The main reason is that the bus route between Lima and Cuzco is very dangerous and bandits and terrorists attacks are extremely frequent. The owner of one of the hostels we stayed in, for example, told us he was caught in one of these attacks and got shot in the hand;
- The bus from Lima to Cuzco takes 20 hours, while flying only takes 1; and
- A return flight with Viva Peru was 140 dollars for both of us, whereas the Cruz del Sur bus was 150 dollars one way each