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Top Things to Do in Cusco, Peru

In the heights of the Peruvian Andes lays Cusco – the historic capital of the Inca Empire. Besides being a convenient getaway to the iconic Machu Picchu, this vibrant city is brimming with its own rich culture and historical significance. So, if you are stopping by Cusco, you should make the most out of the many things it has to offer! This article will guide you through the best things to do and see in this magnificent city.

Explore the Sacred Valley of the Incas

A journey to Cusco would be incomplete without a tour of the Sacred Valley of the Incas. This valley not only boasts breathtaking landscapes, but is also home to numerous archaeological sites that provide insight into the ancient Inca civilization. You may begin your exploration at Pisac, known for its well-preserved ruins and vibrant market where local artisans sell their crafts.

From there, travel to Ollantaytambo, a village that features an impressive fortress and is often regarded as one of the last remaining Inca towns. Here, you can wander through the cobblestoned streets and soak in the historical ambiance. The easiest option, however, is to book a Cusco Sacred Valley tour, where experienced guides will ensure that you make the most out of your visit.

Take a day trip to Maras and Moray

A short trip from Cusco will take you to the intriguing sites of Maras and Moray. The town of Maras is famous for its ancient salt pans, which have been harvested in the same way since back in the Inca times. The sight of these terraced salt ponds in the backdrop of the lush green hills is simply stunning. A nearby site, Moray, is home to several terraced circular depressions that are believed to have been used by the Incas for agricultural experiments. Exploring these sites showcases how innovate the Incas were with their agriculture efforts.

Again, if you opt for a tour, you may be able to visit both the Sacred Valley of the Incas and the Maras and Moray sites all in the same day. This is a convenient option for those with tight schedules, trying to see as much as possible in a short space of time.

Wander through the Sacsayhuamán ruins

Just on the outskirts of the Cusco city are the ruins of Sacsayhuamán, also commonly known as Saqsaywaman.  This historical fortress complex dates back to 15th century by the Incan civilization. The site is known for its massive, perfectly fitted limestone boulders, some weighing as much as 200 tons. The precision of how these stones were cut and assembled without modern tools is what makes Sacsayhuamán a true marvel to both visitors and archaeologists. Being located at an altitude of 3,701m, the complex also boasts panoramic views of Cusco, making it the perfect spot for photography enthusiasts.

Visit the San Blas neighbourhood

San Blas, often referred to as the artisan quarter of Cusco, is a charming district with narrow, steep streets and a Bohemian vibe. This hidden gem is home to various art galleries, craft workshops, and boutiques, which is also ideal for picking up some unique souvenirs. The central plaza of San Blas features an ancient church with a beautifully carved wooden pulpit. The area is also known for its fantastic nightlife, with cafés and bars offering live music – the perfect way to unwind after a long day of sightseeing!

Sample traditional Andean cuisine

For all the foodies out there, trying out Cusco’s culinary delights is an absolute must. Peruvian cuisine is a unique fusion of Spanish influences and indigenous recipes, and Cusco is a great place to experience all that it has to offer. You will find endless restaurants covering different specialities and atmospheres. Some of the most popular local dishes to try are cuy al horno (roasted guinea pig), trucha frita (fried trout), quinoa soup, choclo con queso (corn with cheese), and alpaca steak. If you would like to get an authentic glimpse into the Peruvian produce, visiting a local food market is a great way to do so.

Participate in a textile workshop

The art of Peruvian weaving is an integral part of the country’s cultural heritage. Participating in a textile workshop is not only a hands-on way to learn about the traditional methods and symbols used in Andean textiles but also supports local communities. These workshops often take place in small villages around Cusco, where you can interact with local artists and understand the significance of this craft in preserving their cultural identity. If you do not want to participate in a workshop, you can still visit the local markets and craft stores, where you can buy authentic products.

Final thoughts

Cusco is a city that will not fail to amaze you! With its rich Incan history and jaw-dropping landscapes, your visit will undoubtedly be filled with discovery and enrichment.

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