1. Roam the San Pedro Market on a Sunday morning.
It’s dirty and it stinks and is dripping in skinned cow heads, but it is also filled to the brim with families slurping on chicken noodle soup, fresh fruit smoothies and beaming old ladies in traditional dress trying to flog you overpriced blankets.
2. Take a very pisco-fueled guided tour of town.
The Inca ruins and sites around Cusco will mean absolutely nothing to you unless you’ve got someone with an education telling you all about Mother Moon and Father Sun and why and how each door was built exactly how it was. It’s fascinating and can only be brought to life by someone who really knows their shit. Want to spice it up? Take a shot of pisco every time something looks like or represents a llama.
3. Get slightly more cultured at a cooking class.
There are quite a few in Cusco, my tried and tested one being Marcello Batata’s one round the back of the Plaza de Armas. It’s pretty sweet and you learn a whole lot about Peruvian cuisine, farming and history you wouldn’t have unless you stepped into the kitchen – the main lesson I learnt being that we must open up more Peruvian restaurants in the UK.
4. Hike up 100s of steps to Cristo Blanco and feel like an out-of-shape slob.
There’s no doubt that if you’re in Cusco, you’re heading out on the Inca Trail shortly and think you are fit. Walking up the 300 or so steps to the glowing Cristo Blanco that overlooks the city not only rewards you with plunging views of Cusco, but will show you just how much elevation is killing your lungs, no matter how prepared you are. Call it a training hike and swiftly mourn the death of fitness.
5. Get downright hedonistic at the chocolate museum.
It’s as wonderful as it sounds. And free. And they give you tasters of chocolate for free whilst on a free tour of how chocolate is made. There is chocolate tea and chocolate pisco and hot chocolate and flavoured chocolate and fruity chocolate and NOM. There’s also a cookery class where you can make chocolate. Heaven.
6. Watch the world go by at a terraced bar on the Plaza de Armas.
Cusco is full of weird and wonderful characters, best observed with your feet stretched out onto the railings of a bar balcony, Cusquena beer in hand. Beware of the Irish bar, it’s full of people from Europe and awkward groups forced together by hostel dorm rooms.
7. Fill your suitcase with a stupid amount of souvenirs.
Cusco is a bargain town for shopping, especially if you’re into food, clothes, jewelry and fabric. If you’re thinking of buying so much you’ll have to send it home, beware the Peruvian postal service; I’ve been chasing them for a whole month so far with our package stuck in Lima.
8. Relish the awfulness of a traditional Peruvian Dance show.
I’m not going to lie to you, this is terrible. But in a, “Oh God, you have to hear about this awful thing I wasted a whole hour on when I was in Cusco last year. It was so bad I burst a funny fuse,” kind of way. I won’t give away the details, but entrance is free with your city pass ticket, so no sol’s wasted. Be prepared to hang your head in your hands and shake with laughter.
9. Pisco! Pisco! Pisco!
When in Rome, do as the Romans do. When in Cusco, drink pisco sours until you vom. Everywhere sells them, but the Pisco Museum has the crème de la crème of cocktail menus. I’ll have a classic sour if you’re buying, cheers.
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