Cusco is seen as one of the highlights of Peru: for a reason! The vibrant city with its beautiful ancient Inca architecture, many bars, restaurants and pubs and a friendly atmosphere is a must-visit.
1. Plaza de Armas
The ‘Plaza de Armas’ is the central square in Cusco. When religious festivities like ‘Semana Santa’ (Holy Week) take place, the square is crowded with celebrating Peruvians. Around the fountain in the middle of the square, you can sit down and just watch all the people walking by. Install yourself on a wooden bench and relax.
The Plaza de Armas is surrounded by little restaurants and cafes, of which some have narrow balconies to enjoy the view on the Plaza: and that view is amazing: the red stone buildings, cathedrals and churches, all surrounded by mountains. The view at night might be even more spectacular: hundreds of flickering lights from the houses in the mountains, the glooming yellow lantern lights at the square… It almost feels magical.
When you walk around the centre of Cusco, you bump into many women offering massages, ponchos or tours. Don’t be scared to bargain, because the prices will probably reduce. Another remarkable event here in Cusco is the women walking around with alpacas or llamas. The furry animals are dressed up with colourful accessories like bows, looking so cute it is almost impossible to resist to take a picture of them. The women ask around 1 or 2 soles per picture, but be sure to make a clear deal! They are smart enough to “forget to mention the currency”, and let you pay the amount in dollars.
2. Rainbow Mountain
Besides the wonderful city itself, there are many trips to undertake during your stay in Cusco, of which many can be done in one day. For example, the Rainbow Mountain, or Montaña de Siete Colores. This phenomenon can be found in almost every travel brochure about Peru: it is a very popular tourist attraction. The most common trip to the Rainbow Mountain starts with a pick up from your hotel at 4 am. In three hours driving, you will arrive at a restaurant where a simple breakfast will be served. After, you will drive 45 minutes more to the checkpoint of the Vinicunca mountain. It is, on average, a 2-hour hike. Due to the altitude (the viewpoint is at an altitude of 5,200m / 17,060ft) it is quite tough, and you will be out of breath quickly. However, if hiking is not your thing, you can also do the trail on a mule. Many locals will take you on their mules, one way or return, for 50 to 100 soles.
Due to changing environmental conditions over millions and millions of years, different minerals came to the surface and created the beautiful ‘rainbow’. Every colour is another mineral: green is copper, red is iron, yellow is sulphur and the brown colour is sandstone. Be aware to be clothed warm enough: if it has been raining, there can be snow on top and the temperature fluctuates. The ‘top’ is often crowded with tourists, but it is absolutely worth the hike.
Another, more relaxed option to do the Rainbow Mountain is with an overnight stay. Please contact us for more information.
3. Maras & Moray
Another day tour is a trip to Moray and Maras. Both are ancient Inca sites, which will amaze you with the knowledge the Incas had already so many years ago.
Moray represents the concrete terraces in circle shape, appearing a bit like a Roman amphitheatre. There is no 100% evidence, but assumed is that the Incas used these terraces as an agricultural laboratory. Each level of the terraces has different conditions, which creates a difference of 15 degrees Celsius between the top and the bottom. It is said that the Incas used this to experiment with different vegetation. Maras, or the ‘Salineras de Maras’, is an area of more than 3000 evaporation pools. An underground spring feeds the ponds through the network of channels, yielding 150 kg of salt per pool per month. Maras is a stunning place to visit.
To visit both places, you will need to buy the Boleto Turistico (which you can find in every tourist shop in Cusco) to enter the sites. This ticket costs 70 soles for one day, but for 60 soles more you have a ticket that is valid for 10 days.
Only a 45-minutes’ drive away, situated on the Vilcanota River, you can find the lovely village of Pisac. On Tuesday, Thursday and Sunday, there is a large market offering fruits, vegetables and handcrafted souvenirs. On a sunny day, it is the perfect place for a fresh pressed juice on one of the little balconies, enjoying the view over the central square. Pisac is a small village, but the market is huge. From alpaca clothing to jewellery and accessories, it is impossible to go home empty handed.
These activities are only a few of the many highlights Cusco has to offer. Make sure to plan enough time in this city to not miss out on anything!