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The ancient Inca capital of Cusco can be found high in the Andes Mountains of Peru. Cusco is the captivating gateway to the ancient Inca civilization and a vibrant city bursting with cultural heritage. While ideally, you could spend weeks exploring all the wonders this city has to offer, even a single day in Cusco can leave you with memories to last a lifetime. Here we will explore some of the most interesting things to do if you just have one day in this remarkable city.
Discover the Historic Heart of Cusco
Wander through the cobblestone streets of the historic center, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Begin at the Plaza de Armas, the main square, where you'll find the magnificent Cusco Cathedral and the Church of the Society of Jesus. Marvel at the colonial architecture and intricate artwork inside these religious landmarks. Take a moment to soak in the atmosphere while sipping on a cup of coca tea, known for helping visitors acclimatize to the high altitude.
The Koricancha Sun Temple
Explore the Ruins of Sacsayhuaman
Head to the outskirts of the city to explore the awe-inspiring ruins of Sacsayhuaman. This Inca archaeological site boasts massive stone walls, some weighing up to 200 tons. Take a guided tour to learn about the site's fascinating history and significance to the Inca civilization. The panoramic views of Cusco from Sacsayhuaman are nothing short of breathtaking.
Savor Authentic Peruvian Cuisine
Treat your taste buds to the flavors of Peru during a leisurely lunch break. Cusco is renowned for its culinary scene, and you'll find a variety of restaurants serving traditional Peruvian dishes. Don't miss the chance to sample ceviche, a refreshing dish of marinated seafood, or try the hearty and flavorful local specialty, cuy (guinea pig). For a vegetarian option, quinoa-based dishes and fresh Andean produce are abundant. Delicious eateries are everywhere in Cusco so make the most of Andean cuisine at its best in this Inca capital.
Wander Through San Blas Neighborhood
Take a leisurely stroll through the bohemian neighborhood of San Blas. Known for its charming narrow streets and artisan workshops, San Blas offers a unique ambiance. Browse through galleries showcasing local artwork, shop for handmade crafts, or simply enjoy a cup of local coffee in one of the cozy cafes. Catch the sunset from the Plaza San Blas, and if you're lucky, you may even witness a traditional Andean music performance.
The Plazoleta San Blas
Explore San Pedro Market
Immerse yourself in the vibrant local culture by visiting the bustling San Pedro Market. This lively marketplace offers a sensory experience like no other, with an array of colorful fruits, vegetables, herbs, and spices. Engage with the friendly vendors, and perhaps try exotic fruits like lucuma or chirimoya. Don't miss the opportunity to sample local delicacies, such as empanadas or anticuchos (grilled skewers).
Fruit Juice Sellers, San Pedro Market
Take a Chocolate-Making Class
Indulge your sweet tooth and learn about the fascinating process of chocolate-making during a hands-on class. Cusco is famous for its cacao production, and you can join a workshop where you'll roast, grind, and prepare your own chocolate treats. Discover the history of cacao in Peru and gain insight into the traditional techniques used to make this beloved treat. Enjoy tasting different types of chocolate and even create your own unique flavor combinations.
Chocolate Making Classes
Learn about traditional weaving techniques
Delve into the rich textile traditions of Cusco by participating in an authentic weaving workshop. Learn about the intricate techniques used by local artisans to create beautiful textiles. Gain insight into the significance of Andean symbols and patterns in their designs. Take the opportunity to support local weavers and purchase unique, high-quality souvenirs. The Centro de Textiles Tradicionales del Cusco is located near the main square of Cusco, on Av El Sol, and is a cooperative dedicated to preserving and promoting traditional Andean textiles. You can learn firsthand about the weaving process, witness weavers in action, and explore a vast collection of exquisite textiles, including intricate tapestries, garments, and accessories. The center also offers weaving workshops and demonstrations, providing an immersive experience in the world of Cusco's weaving traditions.
Traditional Weaving Workshop
Visit the South Valley
Exploring the South Valley of Cusco is a fantastic way to immerse yourself in the region's natural beauty and lesser-known archaeological sites. Tipón is an impressive Inca site known for its intricate agricultural terraces and irrigation system. The site features beautiful stone walls, fountains, and channels that showcase the advanced engineering skills of the Incas. Take a leisurely stroll through the terraces, enjoying the serene atmosphere and panoramic views of the surrounding countryside. Pikillacta is an expansive pre-Inca archaeological site that offers a glimpse into the Wari culture. Explore the well-preserved ruins, including stone structures, streets, and courtyards. The site provides valuable insights into the history and architecture of the Wari civilization, which thrived in the area long before the arrival of the Incas. Take advantage of the opportunity to enjoy a traditional Peruvian meal in one of the South Valley's small towns. Local restaurants and eateries offer delicious regional dishes, allowing you to savor authentic flavors and ingredients unique to this area. Indulge in local specialties like Guinea Pig, Chicharron, and homemade bread from Oropesa.
Tipon, South Valley
Cusco, with its rich history, breathtaking landscapes, and vibrant culture, is a city that captivates visitors from around the world. Although a day may seem short to explore all it has to offer, this comprehensive itinerary will allow you to delve into Cusco's main highlights. From exploring ancient ruins to immersing yourself in the local culinary delights, each experience will leave you with a deeper appreciation for the wonders of this enchanting city. Find out more here!