13 things to do in Cusco and the Sacred Valley

21 Sep

1. Have your picture taken with a llama

You will see women with llamas decorated in colorful pom poms all over Cusco. In exchange for a few soles, you can have a few incredible and incredibly touristy photos to commemorate your trip. This picture is one of my absolute favorites.

Baby Llama Colorful Cusco Peru

Llama Colorful Pom Poms Cusco Peru2. Stroll through Plaza de Armas

Sit on a bench in the square during sunset and enjoy the perfect golden lighting. If you stay in one place long, be prepared to turn down many paintings and drawings, massages, llama themed tchotchkes, and woven hats. Soak it all in. It is part of the experience.

3. Visit Qorikancha

The historic temple is believed to have been covered in gold before the Spanish conquest. Note: the Boleto Turistico is not needed for Qorikancha. Admission is charged separately.

Cusco Peru QorikanchaQorikancha Cusco Peru

4. Buy Alpaca at Kuna, Sol Alpaca, or Centro de Textiles

Kuna and Sol Alpaca are boutiques with gorgeous alpaca scarves, blankets, sweaters, and gloves. At either of these boutiques, you can rest assured you’re getting the real thing and can choose from a wide selection of styles in a variety of neutrals and colors. Centro de Textiles is a small shop dedicated to preserving the Andean art and paying fair wages. Here you can watch women weave and purchase alpaca goods in more traditional colors and styles.

5. Pick up a few yards of handwoven fabric at Illari

With my guestroom in mind, I purchased 2 yards of fabric so I could come home and make a long lumbar pillow for the bed. I also purchased several yards of gorgeous handwoven ribbon to wrap souvenirs for family.

Illari Souvenirs Andinos Handwoven Fabric Shop Cusco Peru

6. Drink fresh juice at San Pedro Market

San Pedro was closed for repainting for most of our time in Cusco, but we were able to sit down and sip a glass of freshly pressed juice our last day. It was certainly worth the wait.

7. Shop for souvenirs at Pisac Market

If you’re looking for souvenirs, grab a cab and head to the Pisac market. This was my favorite of all the markets we visited and we shopped markets in Chincheros (though not the Sunday market), Aguas Calientes, Pisac, Lima, and Cusco. Pisac has a huge selection of things made of semi precious stones (I bought jade letter openers and lapis lazuli jewelry) and all things llama (like brass llamas and llama pens).The Sacred Valley Cusco Peru.jpg

8. Wind down the narrow mountain roads to Maras Salt Mines

When planning the trip, I wasn’t sure how easy or expensive it would be to visit some of the places I wanted to surround Cusco: places like Maras, Pisac, and Moray. I was thrilled when I found out our hotel could hire a cab for 250 soles, or about 75 dollars, and we could tour the Sacred Valley for a full day. You can also hire a guide, be we opted to adventure with our Spanish-only speaking cab driver, Elvis. Though our Spanish is very minimal, it was such a great experience that we ended up using Elvis for any cab needs for the remainder of our trip (excepting our misadventure in Ollantaytamo). We purchased several small bags of Peruvian pink salt while in Maras. Admission to Maras was approximately 10 soles per person, or roughly three USD.

Maras Salt Mines Sacred Valley PeruMaras Salt Mines Sacred Valley from Cusco PeruMaras Salt Mines Valle Sagrado Cusco PeruMaras Salt Mines Sacred Valley near Cusco Peru

9. Visit Moray

The exact purpose of the circular terraces is unknown, the speculation about their agricultural uses is fascinating.

10. Say a prayer for Peru at the colonial church in Chincero

Iglesia Colonial de Chinchero is a strange wonder. Unassuming from the outside, and poorly preserved, the interior of this humble church in seemingly the middle of nowhere is stunning and serene.

11. Visit Sacsayhuaman and Cristo Blanco

In my pre-trip research I repeatedly saw writers recommending a hike to Sacsayhuaman and Cristo Blanco. Without more than a couple of days to acclimate to the altitude, I would recommend a cab for the long, steep journey. At Sacsayhuaman, marvel at the single stones weighing hundreds of tons and wonder at how Incans were able to move them by rope from the local quarry.

Cristo Blanco Cusco Peru.jpg

12. Eat when you have an appetite

Altitude sickness was not nearly as scary as it sounded on the internet, but I did tire easily and lose my appetite. I am sure there is better food is Cusco than I had the energy or appetite for, but I did enjoy Qespi Restaurant JW Marriott, tableside tiramisu at Carpe Diem , and lunch on the balcony at Papachos overlooking Plaza de Armas.

13. Take the train to Machu Picchu

If you are in Cusco, there is a good chance that the primary reason is so you can make your way to Machu Picchu. If you are headed to Machu Picchu you can find my advice and thoughts on the best mode of transportation here.

Machu Picchu Peru in Clouds

For more on the Sacred Valley check out my map or ask questions in the comments below. If you have been to Peru, I would love to hear your stories!

13 Things to do in Peru's Sacred Valley

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