Cusco, the gateway to Machu Picchu, sits at 11000 feet and is full of fun things to do as you adjust to the altitude. Capital of the Inca empire, Cusco’s faces still reflect the beauty of the Incas and their culture. While enjoying this beautiful, colonial city, here are 5 unusual things to do in Cusco, Peru.
1. Find the Incas.
As you look around the community of local residents, you’ll notice many of the local villagers in their tribal dress. The ladies where hats that reflect the tribe to whom they belong. See if you can identify the differences in the hats. While at it, notice their beautiful features and see if you can find consistency in their features reflecting their Inca heritage.
2. Take a free walk.
The free walk in Cusco, run by Free Walking Tours, was exceptional. Not only did we get the lay of the land and see historical churches, we also got serenaded by tribal entertainers, took a bus to Saksaywaman, learned the differences in alpaca fur and how to dye it, visited a local manufacturer of 10-string guitars, and learned how to make a pisco sour. Although the walk is advertised as free, my family of three tipped the guide $30. Please note that there are several “free walking tour” guides at the meeting point. Be sure you find the tour I mention.
3. Learn to make chocolate.
One of the most fun times I’ve had with my husband and 12-year old daughter was to take the Beans to Bar chocolate cooking class at the Choco Museo. We started with cacoa bean, roasted them, peeled them, ground them, and produced a delicious paste. From that paste, we brewed several different warm drinks and then we crafted truffles to take home with us. Not only did we learn why Peruvian chocolate is so amazingly delicious, we had an absolute blast learning the ancient tradition of chocolate making.
4. Go on a corn treasure hunt.
There are at least 8 varieties of corn grown in the sacred valley. Take an hour and visit the local mercado. Walk down the aisles and see how many types of corn you can find. If you’re lucky, one of the ladies will have a big boiling pot full of the large-kernel corn that you can taste. She’ll sell you an ear with butter or cheese for about $.25, and you’ll get to taste some of the best corn flavor you’ve ever eaten.
5. Enjoy the dogs.
Sadly, Cusco’s dog run rampantly throughout the city. Most of them belong to someone, yet there are many strays throughout the city. It can be heartbreaking. But they are beautiful and can be quite entertaining. Take a few minutes and see if you can capture a great shot of one of these Cusco dogs, and post it below for me. I feel it’s the least we can do to raise awareness of the stray population.