Thinking of going to Cuzco, but don’t want to spend a lot of money? There are always great things to do off the typical “tourist” path, so never fear! This article originally appeared on another site, but it is such a great resource that we wanted to include it here. So without further ado, here are 5 great things to do for free in Cuzco.
The highlight of most Peru travel packages is Machu Picchu and this typically includes a stopover in Cuzco, either on the way there or on the way back. If you didn’t book a city tour, whether because of time or budget limitations, or if you’re lucky enough to have some extra time in Cusco, here are 5 activities that you can do on your own and without spending a dime. Just bring water and your Cusco city map!
Find the 12-sided stone. Walk 1½ blocks from the Plaza de Armas to a street called Hatun Rumiyoc. Here, you will find the palace of the emperor Inca Roca (turned Archbishop’s residence and now museum) and the most famous and most photographed stone in Cusco. The wall consists of enormous stones, perfectly fitted together so that not a piece of paper can be inserted between them, even though the Inca masons did not use mortar or cement. The 12-sided stone, or piedra de 12 angulos, weighs an estimated 4 tons (8,800 lbs or 4,000 kgs). Walk around the corner of this building into the artisan alley, and try to find the shapes of the puma and the snake formed by the stones.
Explore San Blas neighborhood. From Hatun Rumiyoc, cross Choquechaka, and continue up Cuesta San Blas. After a short climb, you will reach Plaza San Blas, Cusco’s bohemian heart, where you will find countless small art galleries and artisan workshops showcasing paintings, sculptures, carvings, and textiles. Of special interest and scattered throughout San Blas, are the workshops of the Mendivil family, the members of which are famous for their statues of saints with distinctively elongated necks.
Visit San Pedro market. In the opposite direction, about 5 blocks from the Plaza de Armas, keep walking until you reach San Pedro church. Here you will find Mercado San Pedro, which is where the locals go to buy base staples including fresh fruits and vegetables, meats, nuts, and grains. There are also sections for textiles and crafts, as well as food and fruit juice stalls. Consumption of any food product is recommended only for travelers with steely stomachs.
Climb up to San Cristobal Church. From the Plaza de Armas, take Calle Suecia to its end, swing a right on the road, and you will reach this church which has a terrace from which you can take in awesome panoramic views of the city below. Watch out – this steep climb will make your heart pound, but take your time, stay hydrated, and you’ll be fine.
San Cristobal is probably the most difficult on the list so far, simply because of the steepness of the hill. If you can accomplish this ascent easily and are up for a bigger challenge, there is one more longer and difficult hike that you can do:
Hike up to Cristo Blanco. Donated in 1945 by Cusco’s resident community of Arab-Palestines, the statue of Cristo Blanco (White Christ) stands guard over the city of Cusco and serves as a luminescent landmark by day or night. From Choquechaka, find the cross street Atoqsaycuchi and start climbing. You’ll reach the top after about 20 minutes of stairs – Stairmaster has nothing on Cusco’s vertical construction. Take a left along the road and in less than 100 meters you’ll reach the footpath that takes you directly to the base of the statue. The view from this lookout point is simply amazing. You can also see Sacsayhuaman from here. Take the same route back down to Cusco or continue along the same footpath until you reach the cobbled street that leads back into the city via Pumacurco.
Visit these sites in Cusco and you will be sure to come away with special memories of your trip to Peru.
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