Don't Rush through Cuzco!
It is an amazing city and you need more than two days to see the city alone. This is not even mentioning side full day trips to Machu Picchu or to the Sacred Valley. Here are some travel tips for things you might like to see or do.
- Walk around the Plaza de Armas; the square has churches, shops, restaurants and bars backing on to it and is a great place to spend an afternoon. The historical center of Cusco is beautiful, but you will have to deal with all the street vendors and hawkers of cheap paintings and other souvenirs. They are everywhere in and around the Plaza de Armas. They spoil somewhat the experience.
- Check out the Plaza de San Francisco, which is a few blocks north of the center, and is a great place to visit one of Cusco's many great coffee shops.
- Play Sapo, a traditional bar game played in chicharias all over Peru. The game involves throwing small coins, called fichas, at a table with a bronze sapo (toad) attached. You get points for making it into holes on the table and a ton of points for making it into the sapo's mouth. Best played while drinking chicha (corn beer, traditionally fermented with saliva) at a local dive. Ask old men to show you the correct throwing form, as it's difficult to master.
- Talk to local store owners, curators, waitresses and bartenders. They typically know a little English if your Spanish is not good and are generally happy to share interesting information about the city not found in guidebooks. This is also a great way to find the best places to try cuy, alpaca, and chicha.
- Once you are accustomed to the altitude, go for a jog! This is a very humbling experience, as the hills and thin air prove a challenge to even those in great shape. It's also a good way to explore. Head east or south of the plaza for the safest places. If you're a woman out exercising, you may get a few cat calls, as this is common in much of Latin America.
- Go Whitewater rafting but not in the Sacred Valley of the Incas where the water is very polluted and the rapids are relatively tame. Instead head upstream to Chuqicahuana or Cusipata sections of the Rio Urubamba / Vilcanota where the water is much cleaner and the rapids are excellent fun up to class 5 depending on what time of year you are traveling.
- Try inflatable canoing on the Piñi Pampa section of the Rio Urubamba where you get to paddle your own canoe down, fun but not frantic, class 1 and 2 rapids.
- If you have more time, try and raft the 3 or 4 day Rio Apurimac - the true Source of the Amazon and one of the Top Ten Rafting Rivers in the World. Class 3 - 5 all in the most amazing 3000m deep canyon. Go with the experts as accidents have occurred and in Peru you pay for what you get so saving a few $$$ can seriously reduce the quality and the safety of your trip.
- Have a Downhill Mountain Bike trip either across the Chincheros plains, past Inca ruins and down through the spectacular Maras Saltpans or the 75km downhill from Abra Malaga to Santa Maria and onto the totally awesome hotsprings of Santa Teresa (easy and cheap access to Machu Picchu from here, too) Again go with the experts - there are a lot of cheap bikes out there, totally not up to the job.