Katy from Aspiring Adventures gives us some of her local insights for scratching under the surface of Cuzco, Peru.
Anyone going to Machu Picchu must pass through Cuzco, so the town gets a lot of tourist traffic. As Cusco is a beautiful, interesting place with lots to see and do and plenty of places to enjoy some downtime, many end up staying longer than they planned to.
Going on tours of Cusco and hitting the Western-style cafs recommended in guidebooks can get expensive, though. If youre looking for new and affordable ways to entertain yourself in Cuzco and gain insight into what the locals get up to in their free time then read on
1. Hang out at the weekend market in the Plaza Tupac Amaru.
This market started up fairly recently and is a lovely sign of the ever-improving standard of living in Cuzco. Its the first market in the town whose purpose is leisure, not survival. Throngs of locals wander from stall to stall buying houseplants, toys, artesanal yoghurt and pet clothes. Often there are music concerts and street theatre.
2. Discover Sacsayhuamans rock playground.
If you have paid for entry to Sacsayhuaman, the massive Inca fortress overlooking the town, make sure you explore the whole site. To the right of the main complex if youre coming up from town, over on the other side of the ticket booth, is a whole complex of ruined walls, natural rock slides, and mysterious tunnels you can wander through.
3. Watch schoolchildren practice traditional dancing.
Where in my culture, sports days and Speech Nights were the punctuation to the school year, in Cusco its parades with traditional dances. Theres a small plaza on the left hand side of Calle Plateros as you walk up away from the Plaza de Armas and you can often see groups of schoolkids practicing their dances here.
4. Have lunch in the South Valley.
Catch a local bus towards Urcos or Sicuani and hop off in Saylla, about half an hour out of town. Locals flock here on the weekends for family lunches and a stroll in the countryside. The bus will set you back a couple of soles, and a huge plateful of food in a garden restaurant between 10 and 20 soles.
5. Catch some culture.
If you speak Spanish, look out for free plays, talks and arthouse movies at the ICPNA and Biblioteca Pukllasunchis – they put posters up around town.
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