It’s pretty obvious that when you head to Peru that you should check out Machu Picchu and the Inca Trail—they are by far the most-touted attractions and it would be a shame to miss them. However, I found myself more and more enamored with the city of Cusco while we stayed there. The city held secret dance clubs, historical locations, and most of all, some amazing culinary talent.
The former capital of the Incan Empire, Cusco was likened to El Dorado, the lost city of gold, when the Spanish first found it. Cusco has since evolved into a modern city where you can easily walk to most major sights.
One of my personal favorite activities were the salsa clubs. It’s been a while since I had pulled out my salsa skills, but even the most basic of beginners were not lacking a partner. Peruvian men are happy to spin you on the dance floor. (They are great leaders and can make anyone look like a pro.)
The Cusco Cathedral is definitely worth checking out, as well. After falling into disrepair after several earthquakes, it has been restored to its former glory. One of the things I liked best about the cathedral were the hidden hints back the Incan Empire—both the Virgin Mary and Jesus were depicted with darker skin. I loved this nod to the “pachamama,” or the mother earth that the ancient Incans worshipped.
Another wonderful thing about Cusco that I loved was the fact that everything was very easy to walk to. You will want to check out the markets where you can sample some fresh juice (some of the best I’ve ever had) and bread. From there, it’s a simple walk to the main temple. Cusco is said to be shaped like a puma, and the head of the puma is located at the beautifully designed temple to the sun god.
I had heard that there was a budding culinary scene in Cusco, and I was eager to try some unique foods. I ordered alpaca (which I felt guilty eating after meeting a few in person). Served with sweet potatoes and a type of polenta, the alpaca tasted almost like venison or some other type of wild meat. It was delicious, as were all my meals in the city.
I would recommend spending a day or two more in Cusco than you would on a booked itinerary if you can. Along with hidden night clubs, delightfully cooked alpaca, and ancient sites, Cusco was one of my favorite parts of my adventure with Contiki.
Have you ever been to Cusco? Have anything you would recommend?