How to Spend 5 Days in Cusco Peru - The Borderless Project

 

When we arrived in Cusco we realized that we actually had very little time to explore such a city. We had heard that there were thousands of things to do, but we were only staying 10 days of which 4 were going to be on the Inca Jungle, so we re-examined our list and began to focas on the things that intrigued us the most. With that, we decided to explore the historic city center, ruins around the city, and the Sacred Valley.

We wanted to take advantage of our 5ish days in the best way, not running between attractions, but actually enjoying and experiencing all of it. First, if you’re not used to the altitude, we recommend you drink a lot of “mate de coca” and relax, and avoid alcohol and smoking (at least the first day). You’ll thank us. Then, you’ll see that all of this can be done in 5 days or less. And lastly, we did all of this before our trek to Machu Picchu and recommend that order completely. You’ll be exhausted afterwards, and no ruins can really compare after you have seen Machu Picchu.

 

Free Walking Tour

A great place to start would be to take the FWT in Cusco, we recommend taking the tour at 10am, which shows you around the city center and is shorter, the one at 12:30 is longer, goes up onto the hills, and right in the middle of the day.The second one is good because it shows you sights up near the Christo Blanco statue and includes a free bus up and down which is a major plus, but it’s inconvenient if you’re not planning on staying until the end. The walks on both are beautiful, informative, and a good introduction to the city. The fun, young guides do a great job of telling the interesting history of the city as well as giving insights into what is currently going on in Cusco.

We also got some helpful advice on San Pedro, the ritual hallucinogenic cactus, and that many versions sold for cheap are fake and will give you nothing but horrible diarrhea. Don’t buy it on the street, get a shaman!


Perks: Free food and drink samples, free bus up to the Christo Blanco on the 12:30 tour, the tour is donation-based (most people donate 10 soles or more)

http://www.fwtperu.com/

 

Halloween in Cusco Peru
We found Batman y Robin

 

Main Square

It’s naturally the first place you think of to visit when you’re in town, it’s a beautiful part of Cusco with spectacular views surrounded by lovely architecture where you will not want to stop taking photos. Try to avoid sellers who are around the square, they will follow you for blocks if you get started with them and don’t buy anything. Also, if a cute dressed up girl offers you to take a photo with her baby llama or lamb, you will be expected to pay her.

It’s very easy to find the main square (imagine that) and to get anywhere from there. It’s easy and beautiful to walk around, but if you decide to take a taxi anywhere in Cusco  it’ll never cost more than 5 soles. If it does, you’re either very far away or getting a tourist price. Go Peruvian and bargain!

 

San Pedro Market

It’s one of the most exciting markets in South America, you can do it on the first day you arrive in Cusco because it is very close to the square, everyone knows the market, and just need to ask anyone to find it (or go on the Free Walking Tour). If you visit at the beginning of your trip, fair warning that you’ll end up back there before you leave because it’s definitely where you’ll want to buy all of your souvenirs (and it’s the cheapest spot in Peru to do so). Warning: Colorful knit things with llamas on them are highly addicting.

If you’re feeling adventurous, you’re really going to love this market because if you get in deep enough, you’re going to start seeing some weird things. From dead llama fetuses for rituals to old women skinning frogs and offering fish egg samples to literally EVERY part of every animal with recipe recommendations from the butchers (we didn’t not see bull penises that are “great for salads”), it’s here. We had lunch in the market everyday and it was the perfect place to experiment and eat massive portions for very cheap (the ceviche understandably wasn’t very fresh, but otherwise you can’t go wrong).

 

Read more: Machu Picchu Hacks And Tips

 

San Pedro Market Cusco peru

 

San Blas

Flat doesn’t exist in the city of Cusco beyond the size of a plaza, everything is up and down the beautiful hills. We learned this on our second day, when we were strongly recommended to visit the neighborhood of San Blas. San Blas is less than 15 minutes walking from the Plaza das Armas (upwards), and this is where you’ll bars, music, art and all things “trendy” in Cusco. However, it also offers impressive views of the city (worth the walk up), and it’s one of those places where you can’t wander more than a block without stumbling upon your new favorite spot in the city. My favorite spot for finding nontraditional food when you want a change (and there are countless vegetarian and vegan spots if that’s what you need).

 

Night at San blas Neighborhood Cusco Peru

 

Churches

Whenever walking around the historic center in Cusco, we found that there were endless, stunning colonial-style churches. Around the main square alone are five, and if you walk in any direction you will surely find many more along your way. You don’t have to be religious to fall in love with these churches. We aren’t but were equally enamored by the fascinating things you find inside (not only the free wine). Exploring the churches you’ll find incredible artwork, architecture and something unique in each one.

Read more: How To Travel To Machu Picchu

Qoricancha or Temple of Sun (Cusco’s Touristic Ticket) 

If you’re trying to get to the heart of Cusco, then you should buy the Boleto Turístico de Cusco ( the Tourist Ticket to Cusco). It costs 130 soles for tourists and gives you entry to more than 10 sites throughout the city (only 70 for students).

Once you have purchased your ticket, you need to visit the Temple of the Sun (or Koricancha), it’s the most famous Incan museum in the area with wonderful exhibits on the Incas. You can walk around the grounds, hang out in the garden and relax before leaving the temple and continuing to tour the city with your pass..

Here you can buy Cusco’s Touristic Ticket: http://www.cosituc.gob.pe/

 

Qoricancha
Qoricancha

 

White Christ / Cristo Blanco

My favorite place in the city of Cusco, it has an amazing view of the city and I always make sure to bring a bottle of wine, lots of warm clothes, and stay for the incredible sunset (the sunrise is amazing, too). To get to the Christ will take about an hour and a half from the main square, you can follow the road (which takes longer) or do a small trek uphill which only takes about 30 minutes (sometimes it’s hard to find the place to begin the climb, but ask a local and they’ll kindly show you where it starts). Good luck and enjoy the view my friend.

 

White Christ at Cusco Peru

 

Sacsayhuaman (Cusco’s Touristic Ticket)

It’s the ruin closest to Cusco, also known worldwide as Sexywoman, as many tourists have found this easier than trying to figure out the proper pronunciation (in fact, every word in Quechua is equally difficult to pronounce). You can visit this impressive ruin on your tourist ticket, and you can spend all afternoon there, exploring and learning a bit about the history (also, wild llama hotspot and these guys are very selfie-friendly).

 

Sacsayhuaman - Cusco Town - The Borderless Project

 

Q’enqo (Cusco’s Touristic Ticket)

It is a huge rocky outcrop with carved steps, holes and channels, believed to have been made to deposit chicha (the purple corn drink), which was consumed in Inca rituals.

It’s super easy to get to, just 15 minutes from the city of Cusco, even closer from the White Christ, we took horses there and it was an amazing experience.

Ollantaytambo (Cusco’s Touristic Ticket)

Surely you’re going to hear a lot about this town, either because of its beautiful Inca ruins, or because this is where the train to Aguas Calientes/Machu Picchu departs from (not Cusco). However, it’s more than just a train stop with lots to do and explore, such as treks, ruins and hot springs. No need to pay admission to enter the ruins at Ollanta, your tourist ticket is enough.

 

 

Ollantaytambo - Cusco - The Borderless Project

 

Urubamba / Action Valley

Currently this is the cool place to be in Cusco, where the best hotels are and everyone wants to be, due to its beautiful surroundings, healthy climate, and lack of tourists. We recommend that you stay one night so you can really explore the Sacred Valley of the Incas, but if you stay for two you definitely won’t run out of things to do. There are also day trips to different spots in the valley if you have less time. Either way, don’t miss the chance to visit Action Valley, and try to avoid coming with a hangover because there are plenty of opportunities for extreme sports while you’re there!


http://www.actionvalley.com/

 

Urubamba - Cusco - The Borderless Project

 

acton valley - cusco - the borderless project

Pisac (Cusco’s Touristic Ticket)

Located 30 km from Cusco, about 45 minutes away by bus. It’s a great place to come for the craft fairs in the main square (Tuesday, Thursday and Sunday), which showcase local artisans all year round. There are many beautiful handmade things to buy and it’s a great place to practice your haggling, just keep in mind that the going rates are going to be a bit higher than elsewhere.

Just 9 km from the town of Pisac atop the mountains, you can find complex farming terraces and Inca building divided into six different towns. The stunning architecture and historical landscape are worth visiting.

 

pisacmarket - Cusco - The Borderless Project

 

 

Maras / Moray (Cusco’s Touristic Ticket)

These are the salt mines of Maras, located between Cusco and Urubamba, this is one of our most highly recommended spots. All of the best restaurants in Peru use salt from here and all of the chefs swear that it’s the magic in their dishes.

 

Maras Salt Mines - Cusco - The Borderless Project

 

Moray, very close to Maras, is also interesting in a very different way- mention it to the right person and you’ll hear some very convincing alien stories. You’ll have to see and decide for yourself.

 

Maras Moray - Cusco - The Borderless Project

 

Chinchero (Cusco’s Touristic Ticket)

Chinchero, the best known-spot of the Sacred Valley is a purely Incan town, which the Spanish conquerors tried to “civilize” with their culture, but never fully achieved. It was the largest and most prosperous Incan civilization in the Americas, and today offers dramatic scenery. It’s surrounded by several snowpeaks that will make you feel incredibly tiny.

 

chicnhero - cusco - The Borderless Project

 

 

Pukapukara (Cusco’s Touristic Ticket)

It’s a good spot to see, but there are other places that may be more worth to visiting in only 5 days. Basically a huge fortess, and it’s included in your touristic ticket.

If you’re not exhausted, have more time, or simply crave more, here are some places we couldn’t make during our last visit to Cusco but you might enjoy. We had high aspirations and these were on our list, but post-trek hips don’t lie, and we reached a point that nothing but relaxing at our hostel with a cold beer could cure. However, it’s up to you if you want to make to every spot in Cusco, and this will at least give you a place to start and idea of all you can do in less than a week.

 

Places that we’ve missed:

 

Pikillacta (Cusco’s Touristic Ticket)

http://www.inkascusco.com/ingles/04a_2pikillacta.htm

Tipon (Cusco’s Touristic Ticket)

http://www.cuscoonline.com/english/cuscossurroundings/cusco040.shtml

Barroco Route / Churches

http://www.inkaexpress.com.pe/barroco-andino-route/

 

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