Cusco one of the cities that you should visit if you are planning to travel through South America; is the capital of the Empire of the Incas, who baptized it as the navel of the world; is the most cosmopolitan city in Latin America and is the only way to reach some of the most incredible destinations on the planet, Machu Picchu. Whether you want to enter the Puerta del Sol, walking the amazing Inca Trail, or want to cross the Sacred Valley of the Incas by train, to enter Machu Picchu through the town of Aguas Calientes. However, although it is impossible to reach Cusco without thinking of Machu Picchu; there are many other things to do in Cusco, it is a city of unique landscapes, considered sacred by the Incas, with exuberant flora and fauna and some of the most impressive human constructions (although many doubt it) in the World, such as El temple of the Sun Qoricancha, or one of the most mysterious places on the planet, Sacsayhuaman.
Cusco has secrets and details wherever you see it; the ancient Inca people were able to hide details of their own culture, beliefs and roots, in the incredible structures that they built for their colonizers, “religious syncretism in Cusco”, makes most of their churches (and other buildings) art.
Although this list is “things to do in Cusco”, we know that you want to see Machu Picchu, so, regardless of whether you want to visit some of the places that we will describe before or after Machu Picchu, you should know that if you do not book the Machu Picchu tickets in advance, you may not be able to get them once in Cusco; so book ahead, check out the available tickets. Once you have resolved the “main part of the trip”; you can choose to trek through the mountains, adventure sports in the Sacred Valley of the Incas, or distract yourself for hours, touring the narrow and steep streets of Cusco.
“Even if it does not seem” your first day in Cusco should be of total rest. We know that you will be tempted to go out and explore; however, it is best to take some time to relax on the first day. Drink plenty of fluids and mate to prevent high altitude sickness. Do not drink alcohol – at least not on the first day – and avoid heavy meals. Adopt a “slow pace” until you adapt to the altitude of Cusco (3,390 masl).
Learn some Spanish, for this you can get a phrase book; in some cases it will be easier to get the help you are looking for with some simple phrases in Spanish. If you do not learn some Spanish, in some cases you will have to rely on Spanglish and gestures with your hands to get what you want.
There are many reasons to visit the Sacred Valley of the Incas on your trip to Machu Picchu. The Sacred Valley of the Incas is one of the simplest ways to experience the incredible architecture of the Incas; is located an hour from Cusco City and is surrounded by such beautiful landscapes that are difficult to describe – we have made some attempts in other post – the Inca structures of Pisac and Ollantaytambo, are at the height of what can be seen in Machu Picchu in detail and beauty. But it is not all; the blinding salty “pink salt” in Maras, the experimental farming center in Moray, the ancient villages of Chincheros and Urubamba, and the immense amount of outdoor activities offered by these places are some of the reasons why you can miss the Sacred Valley. If you are already in Cusco, know that to visit the main places of the Sacred Valley on your own, you will need to know how to buy the Cusco tourist ticket; however, an organized tour is the best way to tour the Sacred Valley of the Incas.
Visit the Inca ruins around Cusco, just above Cusco you will find Sacsayhuaman, one of the most mysterious places on the planet; but there is also Tambomachay, Puca Pucara, one after the other. If you have spent your “acclimatization day”, you may want to go to Sacsayhuaman by walking; these ruins are 20 minutes from the Main Square of the Cusco (on foot); also can help you as preparation, if you have tickets reserved for the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu.
Peru is the number one gastronomic destination in the world and Lima is the Gastronomic Capital of South America; but Cusco is not far behind. In Cusco you can try, in addition to the delicious typical Peruvian food, typical Cusco food. Although we recommend it, it will not be necessary to try the “guinea pig” (guinea pig) or an “alpaca steak” to have a great culinary experience; ““Lomo saltado”, “aji de gallina” or “papa rellena”, are delicious and cheap dishes, and can be found in many presentations, in all restaurants in the city; from the gourmet restaurants of 5 forks, to the food stalls, in the Central Market of San Pedro del Cusco. In Peru you can eat as a king, for less than you would pay for a hamburger and a soda in the United States.
The City of Cusco has many markets of all kinds, there are food, handicrafts and even fleas ; but prices can vary greatly from one place to another; the products in the shops and shops of the purely tourist areas, are more expensive than local shops and markets. Most markets do not accept credit cards, only cash (soles or dollars), but this has an advantage, in the markets of Cusco can bargain; make sure you have “sencillo” (change), you will be difficult to change a high denomination ticket.
The Inca Trail is one of the most amazing walks in the world, but there is a reason for us to talk about alternative walks. If you want permits to carry out this trek you must reserve the income with 6 months in advance, otherwise you will not be able to enter Machu Picchu by the Inca Trail; and not for less, we speak of one of the 5 best walks in the world. But “alternative walks” also offer some of the best treks in the world, such as the Salkantay trek, or the trek to the amazing Inca City of Choquequirao. The landscapes are just as impressive but will not have as much “company” as in the Inca Trail, which may be (in some cases) better than the classic Machu Picchu tours.
Downhill on mountain bikes, Zipline (zip line), canopy, bungee jumping, rafting, paragliding, horseback riding, quad biking, adventure possibilities are endless in Cusco and the Sacred Valley of the Incas. But we are not talking about any adventure, we speak of exuberant natural surroundings, in a country with an extremely rugged geography; giving rise to places with surreal landscapes.
Cusco is not only famous for Machu Picchu or Sacsayhuaman, but also for its fast-paced nightlife; Cusco is one of the most cosmopolitan cities in South America, and you will notice it in the huge number of people from all over the world and from all cultures, celebrating being in the navel of the world. You will find nightclubs (dance clubs) bars, cafes, and many other places, depending on the type of fun you want.
St. Marquez #321 Cusco – Peru
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