We often get the question, what else is there to do around Cusco besides trekking and hiking to Machu Picchu? Well, you will be amazed about all the options. Here goes our pick for students of Amauta:
1. Visit the typical market of San Pedro, hosting a myriad of stalls packed with local produce, including unfamiliar types of vegetables, fruits, cheese, flowers and even odd bits and pieces used in prosperity rituals and giving praise to the ‘Pachamama’ (Mother Earth). Not into cooking yourself? Just bench up with the locals at one of the many eateries and try out the deliciously prepared ceviche or chicharones and get a freshly squeezed juice to go with it.
2. Wander around the narrow cobblestoned streets of picturesque neighborhood San Blas, known as the art district of Cusco. It’s also the place to enjoy great organic coffee and some of the best fusion cuisine in town. At night, live music haunts like ‘7 Angelitos’ and ‘Km.0’ only add to its laid-back bohemian vibe.
3. Climb the stairs on the edge of town to the ‘Cristo Blanco’. From this plateau with an enormous statue of Jesus, you are able to overlook all of Cusco excellent for great photos. If you happen to have planned your visit around the 24th of June, you will lucky enough to experience a great festivity at the nearby ‘Sacsayhuamán’ (its pronunciation easier remembered as Sexy Woman) Inca fortress, where the cult of the Inca’s to the Sun God, their highest divinity, is celebrated in great traditional and folkloric glory.
4. Day tour the Sacred Valley and shop for a couple of souvenirs at the many colorful handicraft markets. Have a tea infused with coca leaves (the local way of dealing with altitude sickness) while pausing in between climbs to the magnificent Inca Ruins of Ollyantambo (superb Inca city made of megalithic blocks of stone and where Manco Inca confronted the Spanish conquistador Hernando Pizarro) and Pisac (one of the most important ancient architectural complexes whose Inca terraces are still in perfect conditions today).
5. To enjoy the outdoors and stunning landscapes of the Sacred Valley from a different perspective hire a bike and cycle at your own stride to the salt mines of Maras and the site of Moray. The latter consists of four circular terraces delved into the earth forming an artificial crater, probably used as an agricultural research station of the Incas. On your route you pass through villages bustling with local traditions, and the best of all, it’s all downhill!6. For those seeking adventures a bit more extreme. Don’t worry. Very close to Cusco you can live it up by going rock-climbing or off-road quad racing through some truly spectacular scenery. Perhaps you feel like soaring around like a condor while paragliding or take on some of the meanest rapids in the world of white water rafting. Whatever your challenge of choice, it will sure get your adrenalin pumping!
7. The food of Peru is worldwide known for its diversity and richness in flavor. Indulge yourself with some true Peruvian dishes (comida criolla) such as Aji de Gallina (spicy chicken stew), Anticuchos (marinated beef heart), Lomo Saltado (stir-fried beef) and local Andean delicacies such as roasted Cuy (guinea pig). Other favorites are Escabeche de pescado (boiled fish seasoned with onions, aji and lemon juice), Rocoto Relleno (beef and veggie filled pepper) and for a good digestion a ‘Chicha de Jora’. Highly recommended!
8. Join a salsa class and get acquainted with this sensual and very entertaining dance. Every Friday afternoon after lessons, AMAUTA Spanish School offers its students to participate in this free activity. And just in case you need some encouragement to get your hips moving, first taste a Pisco Sour; the traditional cocktail that has become the Cultural Patrimony of the nation of Peru.
9. Notorious for its exploding nightlife, Cusco’s countless drinking spots offer enough happy hours to be able to set out on all-night pub crawls. Favorite starting points of the Amauta students are the relaxed Indigo lounge with its swinging chairs and hookah bar or the ever popular Paddy’s Irish Pub, the highest on the planet at 11156 feet. Dance the night away at one of the many packed establishments downtown, which turns into a real clubbers paradise after midnight with Dj’s spinning tunes ranging from mainstream to techno to Latin.
10. Be a witness of one of the eclectic parades on Plaza de Armas. Every Sunday a flag-raising ceremony is performed (Peru’s national flag and Cusco’s rainbow colored flag) by different marching bands and Inca representatives. Other days you stumble upon full-on dance shows to traditional Andean pan flute (zampoña) melodies, and during Semana Santa (Easter) and Corpus Christi (in May or June) religious processions are the norm. Enjoy the demonstrations pass by looking on from one of the many park benches or sitting on the stairs under the arcos surrounding the plaza.