Happy New Year, Everyone! The end of December and the beginning of January were a complete blur and have been super busy. I was fortunate enough to get to take a vacation with my family over the holidays and it was a trip of a lifetime. Having my mom, sister, and brother in one place was enough of a treat for me, but to top it all off we got to explore the incredibly beautiful city of Cusco. Cusco is a must-see place (and probably the most famous city) in Perú. So, I decided to reminisce about my trip and put together a list of my top 10 favorite places to go during a 4-5 day trip in Cusco.
- Machu Picchu
When we think of Perú, we think of Machu Picchu so OF COURSE this would be at the top of my list for places to go in Cusco. This ancient site was even more incredible in person than I could have imagined. There are 2 ways to get to Machu Picchu- you can hike it or you can take a beautiful train ride up to the historic site. Due to time restraints, we decided to take the Peru Rail train and it was a great experience. I would recommend adjusting to the altitude in Cusco for a day or two before heading to Machu Picchu, just to be safe.
2. Explore the Plaza and Tour Cusco Cathedral
The plaza of Cusco is filled with gorgeous architecture and feels quant, like a perfect little European city. One of my favorite tours was of the Cusco Cathedral, which houses a famous painting of the Last Supper where the meal on the table is cuy (guinea pig), potatoes, choclo (corn), and chicha morada to represent Jesus in the Peruvian setting. The face of Judas is the face of Francisco Pizarro, the Spaniard who is known for the Incan conquest. My family opted to do an audio tour, which I found enjoyable because we could take our time and enjoy the history and beauty that surrounded us.
3. Qorikancha Sun Temple of Cusco
Qorikancha is an incredible site that was used as a temple to celebrate the God of Rainbows, Water, and of course, Inti- the Sun God. Later in history, the Catholics built a church over the Sun Temple, so there is a really interesting mix of culture that shows the richness of Perú’s history.
4. Visit the 12-Angled Stone Inca Wall
Located very close to the Plaza de Armas of Cusco, the 12-Angled Stone shows Incan architecture at its best. The stones are perfectly aligned and house images that are representative of Incan beliefs. Located close to the wall are lots of great tourist shops that show the artisan works of Cusco.
5. Shop the Local Tourist Shops
I love to go in to shops and explore all of the beautiful textiles and artisan work of Perú. In Cusco, there are shops upon shops of souvenir type goods, so it was fun to spend a morning walking from shop to shop and exploring all the markets. My brother, Sam, also got a lot of attention from the girls as he walked down the street. He even found a selfie-taking “girlfriend” who gave him an ego boost by nicknaming him, “Hercules”.
6. Take Some Time to Appreciate Cusqueñan Art
Cusco is known for religious pieces of art that often use gold leaf to project the majesty of Peruvian saints and Biblical stories. We found one woman who has a shop with tons of replicas and examples of Cusqueñan art and we spent a couple of hours going through art and picking out pieces to bring home.
7. Eat at Organika
Seriously. Do it. My family and I ended up eating here TWICE because it was so fresh and delicious. Everything served is sourced from local farms and the menu was filled with flavorful and creative plates. Some of my favorites were grilled alpaca and sweet potato ravioli.
8. Eat at Kusikuy
When in Perú, you must eat cuy. We found a great restaurant for my family to try this Peruvian delicacy. The cuy is an hour wait, which gives the perfect opportunity to order Pisco Sour cocktails and wait for the perfectly roasted cuy to come to the table. It was a long, leisurely, and delicious lunch.
9. Enjoy a Cusco New Year’s Eve
New Year’s Eve in Cusco is quite the experience. It is known for being one of the biggest and best New Year’s celebrations in all of the world. There are no regulations on fireworks, so there were literally fireworks shooting off everywhere in the Plaza de Armas. Maura even got hit with 2 or 3 fireworks as we were innocently walking through the crowds. There is also a tradition to do a lap around the Plaza for a year full of good luck, so of course, we partook in this tradition.
10. Stay at R House Apartments of Cusco
This hotel is about a 20 minute walk from the Plaza de Armas, which was nice because it wasn’t in a crowded or loud part of town. My family rented an entire apartment with 3 bedrooms, a kitchen, and a living room. Every morning, the hotel brought a full breakfast to our living room, which overlooked the mountains of the city. It’s a small, boutique hotel, but we had a great experience.
This was a once in a lifetime experience! We had an amazing time and there is definitely enough to do in Cusco to fill a month, so I will definitely be back! If you have been, and have any other recommendations, I would love to hear about them! Leave a comment below.