How to fall in love with Cusco

The end of May has arrived, and my unforgettable Argentinian experience has come to an end. But before going back to Italy, I still have a few places to tick off from my endless South American bucket list – I definitely need to come back here soon! 🙂  I am starting from the archaeological capital of the Americas city of Cusco and the legendary Machu Picchu.

Qosqo, the puma-shaped Inca city, which in the Inca culture is the animal representation of the earth, is a city full of contrasts colonial buildings, standing on ancient Inca’s walls, the traditional Spanish balconies, the terra-cotta roofs, women in their traditional dress leading their alpacas in the steep cobblestone streets of San Blas, my favourite neighbourhood.

In 1532 Francisco Pizarro and other conquistadors reached Cusco, bringing horses, guns and diseases with them, sacking the richness of the Incas to built their own churches, convents and palaces on the Inca sites. The Santo Domingo church built on the most important religious site of the Incas, Qorikancha, the Temple of the Sun.

In the gorgeous Plaza de Armas, formerly known as Haukaypata which was the exact centre of the Inca empire, you’ll be able to admire the Cathedral, which lies above the foundations of an Inca Palace.

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If you wake up too late for your hostel’s breakfast head to Mercado San Pedro and get a mixed fruit juice, for just 3 Soles you can refill your glass 3 times! If you are brave enough, for 16 Soles you can try the especial, a blend of fruit, milk, egg, honey, maca powder and beer!  Otherwise stick to a classic tasty brekkie and go to Jack’s where they serve huge all day breakfasts. With a full belly you are now ready to visit the numerous things Cusco has to offer.

For a little break between the various museums, visit the Choco Museo, which more than a museum is a shop, the friendly staff will explain you the elaboration process of chocolate making, from the cacao bean, which you will obviously try, to the foil-wrapped bar we’ve had too many cravings of. You will also taste different kinds of chocolate, alcoholic drinks, jams and…Cacao tea! The latter was a delightful surprise and if you wish, you can buy the shells of the cacao beans to make it yourself at home. For around $20 they also offer workshops, which I’ve been told to be really interesting.

Address: Calle Garcilaso 210. 2nd Floor

Opening hours: Museum, 9 am – 7 pm; Shop, 8 am – 8 pm; Free entry

Not far from the Choco Museum is Xapiria gallery showing photographs and amazing pieces of indigenous art from the Amazon. If interested in buying the works exhibited you will support sustainable fair trade and the NGO in ensuring this fragile artistic knowledge and culture will continue.

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Already lunch time? Lunch in Cusco for me was synonym of Green Point on Carmen Bajo, where you can find a 15 soles set menu: salad, juice, soup, main and dessert. Dinner is more expensive, but the dishes they offer are definitely worth their price.

Another good lunch menu (for 14 soles) is at Shaman Vegan – don’t let the name put you off giving it a try! – a lovely little restaurant serving excellent quality food!

Address: Santa Catalina Ancha 366-B

If very strict on budget go to the Delicias Saludables on Calle San Andrés 463 and with only 5.50 Soles you can get a decent vegetarian menu at both lunch and dinner.

A must do when in Cusco is to go at least one time to La Boheme, if you easily get hooked up on desserts like I do, you will end up dreaming of this place! They do delicious savoury and sweet crepes. For a food orgasm try the crepe with salted caramel and ice cream! They also offer vegan batter and toppings 🙂

If you want to have a crepe everyday without taking a single step, la Boheme also has a hostel which looked very nice with a nice little courtyard and amazing views of the city.

Not feeling like going to bed yet? Then why not have a drink or two at the Museo del Pisco (Santa Catalina Ancha 398) or at Limbus Restobar (Calle Pasñapakana) for stunning views of city. Limbus has also super tasty burgers for 20 Soles!

Cusco has a crazy nightlife, this is one of the reasons why people get stuck in Cusco for weeks, or forever 😉 The most popular night clubs are very close to Plaza de Armas. But don’t worry, you don’t even need a map, as during the day, the world will come to you offering free entries and drinks .

Cusco is a sort of gringolandia, the reason why I was very skeptical before coming here, but it actually found it very vibrant and full of charm. There is an emerging network of small entrepreneurs, who design new design concepts mixing Western styles with Andean culture, especially in fashion. To get a taste of this in San Blas, walk up on Carmen Alto street, in shops like La Galería.


Where I stayed

For my stay in Cusco I chose the hostel ‘Kokopelli’. Very good breakfast with fresh fruit, muesli with yogurt, tomatoes and scrambled eggs, bread and jam along with nice coffee. Free hot drinks all day. I stayed in two different rooms during my stay, and most of their beds are actually pods or well isolated by curtains. The bathrooms are very clean and you can have a proper hot shower. The wifi works well upstairs, in the bar area. Every night the staff organises cool events such as Salsa Lessons, open mic nights, lots of different games and different music themes’ evenings.

Tip: Never buy a tour at your hostel – or on the internet – because you will end up paying a lot more compared to go to one of the hundreds agencies around the city.

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