Guide to Cusco

Cusco was once the capital of the Incan Empire, and is now a tourist destination visited by more than 2 million people a year. Most tourists visit Cusco as a gateway to Machu Picchu, but this beautiful city has more to offer than just a post-trek hot shower and a place to wash your hiking socks.

Lunch – Green Point

Green Point is a very highly recommended Vegan restaurant with a great value lunch set menu. Just 18 soles (about £4.50) for 4 courses and a bottomless drink. We visited twice and both times there was a salad buffet entrée, a soup starter, a choice of 2 mains, a dessert and a flavoured water drink. It was actually nice to get a meal with so many vegetables to replace some of the nutrients I may be missing from several weeks of carb-heavy Bolivian meals.

Rating – 4/5

Lunch – Chakruna Native Burger

Another great lunch option is Chakruna Native Burger who offer a lunch menu consisting of a burger, native fries (made from 5 different types of potatoes) and a drink for just 16 soles (about £3.50). I had the quinoa burger which was delicious, and one of 6 vegetarian burger options.

Rating – 3.5/5

Dinner – Beer and Burger

This small restaurant offers a build-a-burger style menu with alpaca burgers on offer. The chips were great and at just 45 soles (£10), dinner was good value. However, vegetarian options were not great so I ended up ordering just a “sandwich” with cheese, avocado and salad.

Rating – 3/5

Dinner – Tacomania

We mostly chose this place based on a TripAdvisor review that claimed we would be “tacomaniacs” to miss out on a meal here. And it was pretty good! Tacos, chimichangas, and burritos are on the menu. Plus you get some free chips and dips whilst you wait. Although expect to pay around 80 soles (£20) for dinner for two which is a little pricey for Peru!

Rating – 3.5/5

Dinner – Korma Sutra

We enjoyed dinner here with friends after returning from the Inca trail. Perhaps it was the delicious Indian food, perhaps it was sheer fatigue but I thought this place was great. The onion bhajis were tasty, and the naan breads were pretty good too. This is owned by the same people as Tacomania so having tacos first gets you a 10% discount card for Korma Sutra.
Rating – 4/5

Evening – Planetarium

We love space, so the opportunity to spend an evening stargazing and learning more about Incan astrology sounded ideal. We weren’t able to book online but read that the tour starts in a square in town, so headed there and waited. The staff were easy to find as they had planetarium signs, and we were able to hop on the bus and join the tour. The planetarium is run by a local family, and has a presentation dome where you can enjoy a projection of the stars and an astrology presentation. After the talk we were invited to go outside and stargaze, wrapped in blankets with fresh mint tea. We saw Jupiter, Saturn, clusters of stars and a star emitting 2 different colours of light. The experience lasted around 2-3 hours including transportation to and from the centre of Cusco city. It was an interesting evening, but at 75 soles (£17.50) each it was a little expensive.

Rating – 3/5

Activity – Choco Museo

With a few hours to kill one afternoon we decided to visit the chocolate museum, but discovered it’s not so much a museum as a shop. However – they do offer a chocolate making experience/workshop for just £9 each.First we learnt about the process of making chocolate, from beans to bars. Our guide, Manuel, had us laughing from beginning to end. Then we were able to create our own chocolate bars using a huge selection of different ingredients – from gummy bears and oreos to rock salt and coffee. We were given chocolate moulds (that had llamas on them) and melted chocolate, and left to get creative.

We had so much fun making our own weird and wonderful creations, and then left them in the shop’s fridge to set for an hour. On our return we were beyond excited to taste the fruits of our labour, and are disappointed to report that it was not delicious. What can I say? It’s just not the same as Cadburys.

Rating – 2.5/5

Haircut – Paris Barbers

Desperately in need of a haircut before our Inca trail trek I asked the man on our hostel reception for a recommendation. He directed us to Paris Barbers, where the barbers wear retro leather aprons, and the haircuts cost 15 soles (£3.50). I explained in very limited Spanish what I wanted and then crossed my fingers whilst I very sweet Peruvian man chopped away at my hair. Thankfully I didn’t end up completely bald, and Frazer didn’t end up with an intricate design shaved into the side of his head.

Rating – 4.5/5

Hostel – Magic Packers

Magic Packers was the cheapest hostel we had stayed in so far in Bolivia and Peru. It is just £5.50 each a night for a bed in a six bed dorm, including a free breakfast. The hostel had a really nice chilled vibe, comfy beds, big lockers for storage and hot showers. The only downside was that, as many people are staying here before/after treks, lots of people arrive late or leave very early. And when you’re trying to get as much sleep as possible before your trek, a 3am wake-up by someone opening and closing their locker at a decibel level of 6000 is not ideal.

Rating – 3.5/5

View of the City – Siete y Siete

We walked up to this cafe after reading about the fantastic views and weren’t disappointed. We only stayed for hot drinks but they have a full menu of sweet and savoury goods too!

Rating – 3.5/5

Are you planning a trip to Cusco? Read about our experience of the Inca Trail!