The former capital of the Inca Empire and a UNESCO World Heritage Site, historic and scenic Cusco, set 3400 above sea level, enjoys celebrity status on any traveler’s South American traverse. The Cusco region is also home to Machu Picchu – and you can imagine the influx that brings to the town. As tourists stream into Cusco to learn about and marvel at the Incas and their way of life, here are five ways to savor Cusco at a slower pace, giving you time to observe the local life.
5 Local Ways to Enjoy Cusco:
1. Drink Local
Whether you’re having simple dinner or celebrating a special occasion, order a Pisco Sour. The alcoholic drink is a commonly a mixture of Pisco (a pretty strong grape brandy with 44% alcohol content), egg white, lime juice and a sugar syrup. Some restaurants will even have a mixer and separate the ingredients in the right proportions for you, so that you can have a go at shaking up your own Pisco Sour! Too manly for cocktails? try Chicha, a type of corn beer. Places selling Chicha actually have a red and white flag (sometimes red and white plastic bags mounted onto a long wooden stick is used instead) outside the restaurant, so you know exactly where to go to get your Chicha.
2. Plaza de Armas
Get your shoes polished at Plaza de Armas the main square in Cusco at a low price. While that’s being done, enjoy the Andes mountains and scenes of school children on their way to school. Hop across the road for eateries, museums and cathedrals, but the best ones are hidden a walk away from the main square.
3. Chew on Coca Leaves
Coca leaves are known to help with altitude sickness and living at 3,400m above sea level, it’s no wonder locals love these leaves. You can have it in the form of Coca tea – just add 4-5 leaves to your cup of hot water! Coca tea to the local people is like our daily dose of Starbucks (yes, it’s also that easily available!). Coca leaves are also common gifts, so this is a great way to say thank-you to your porter if you’re doing the Inca Trail!
4. Dig In to the Local Delicacies
Cuy (guinea pig) and Choclo (sweet corn). Choclo is very common in Peruvian cuisine and you will find them in eateries and also along the street for a sole or two. Having an entire guinea pig served on your plate might not sound appetizing.. but the meat tastes just like chicken, only a wee bit tougher!
5. Forget Hotels
Stay a little longer at a family lodge like this one (pictured) with Roomorama. Roomorama is your one-stop shop for global short-term rentals that allow you to live like a local and among locals, to savor the things that make a place special.
This post was brought to you by Roomorama.
Reminds me of our trip to Cusco this fall! We tried Pisco Sour, Cuy, and Alpaca (as well as the coca tea, which didn’t really wow us). I definitely agree, it’s important to take in a taste of the local culture.