We arrived to Cusco three days before the start of our Inca Trail hike with the plan to acclimate to the elevation and explore the city.  Although we flew overnight and barely got any sleep on the plane, we were eager to explore so we dropped off our bags and headed into town!  Cusco definitely had its charm and beautiful architecture, but it didn’t take us long to realize that it was a tourist city.  Around every corner there were souvenir shops and street sellers.

If we had to do it again, we definitely would have cut out one of the days.  Even though doctors recommend a full week to acclimate, the two days were enough for us, and there wasn’t really much else to do.  But regardless, our mistakes are your gain!  There’s a list of the things we did and places we ate with recommendations on whether or not you should stop by at the bottom of the post.

LODGING:  

Encantada Casa Boutique Spa Hotel. A beautiful hotel, friendly staff, and comfortable rooms.  Although it’s a bit further from the main square, the view is beautiful!  See full post with photos.

EAT:

  • Greens: Organic Cuisine. We had a pasta dish and alapaca wraps.  The food wasn’t great and quite pricey.  If you do swing by, they do have good juices and smoothies!
  • INKA Grill: Traditional Peruvian Cuisine. This was a highly recommended by all the locals when we asked about local cuisine.  We typically try to avoid anything made just for tourists and this definitely was it.  We probably wouldn’t go back, but if you want to try
  • Cicciolina: After scouring through foodie blogs, Esther found that this restaurant had the highest recommendations.  And they were right!  The food was great!  Be sure to make a reservation otherwise you’ll end up sitting at the bar like we did.
  • Baco: The sister restaurant of Cicciolina.  We only went to try the BBQ ribs but it was definitely worth it!
  • Hotel Restaurant: There was one evening we didn’t have the energy to go out so we just ate at the restaurant.  The food was underwhelming.

SEE & DO:

  • Sightseeing in different city squares.  There are cathedrals and different museums in the main square, but we opted to not go in since photos were not allowed inside.
  • Mercado Central de San Pedro (San Pedro Market): Local market with a huge variety of products.  Great to walk through and get a feel for local life.  Highlight: fresh-squeezed juice! (See full blog post)
  • Choco Museo: Chocolate store and workshop.  It also has a cafe inside, which we returned to the next day.  Highlight: make your own chocolate workshop, which we did! (See full blog post)
  • Coricancha: Cusco’s Golden Temple of the Sun.
  • See the 12 Angle Stone: It’s not the most interesting attraction but it’s considered a national heritage object and an example of Inca construction.
  • Shopping: There is an abundance of souvenir shops. Ask around to different stores to get a general idea of what people are pricing stuff at then bargain your butt off!
  • Take Street Photos: Every so often you’ll run into locals dressed in traditional wear and occasionally holding animals to take photos with.  Tip: As you get closer to the main square, they get much more aggressive.
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