All of us at Nativa Expeditions would like to extend a warm welcome to our home, the beautiful city of Cusco. There is so much to discover here from ancient archeological sites to unique cafes and 5* restaurants.
Peruvian cuisine is the culmination of three distinct food cultures. The indigenous food practices of the Inca Empire met Spanish culinary traditions in the 16th century, forming the basis of Peruvian cuisine. A strong African influence which came from the influx of slave labour during the colonial period and an influx of immigrant groups in later years from Japan, China and Italy added their own ethnic flavours to the pot, creating a varied cuisine often known as Peruvian Fusion. Each region has its own speciality and Peruvians are fiercely proud of their national and regional dishes.
The local diet in Cusco has been based on corn, potatoes, rice and indigenous animals for hundreds of years. This is still the case today and restaurants and street vendors reflect these culinary traditions as well as embracing more international influences. Typical dishes you will find in Cusco include; Cuy (guinea pig), Lomo Saltado (stir fried beef with rice and French fries) and Anticuchos (Skewers of marinated, grilled meat. Dishes from other parts of the country like Ceviche (‘raw’ fish marinated in lime and chilli, served with sweet potato, onion and corn). The Pachamanca, ‘earth oven’, is a special banquet usually reserved for large celebrations amongst Peruvian families. Various meats, including cuy, vegetables and herbs are wrapped in banana leaves and slowly cooked underground on a bed of hot stones,then shared by everyone. You can get in on the act in Cusco too where restaurants are preparing their own Pachamancas for customers.
Including the best Pisco Sours.
Cusco plays host to many types of travellers, and whether you are looking for cheap local ‘eats’, vegetarian only or a fine dining experience, there is something for everyone.
Boasting an unbeatable view over Cusco’s thriving central Plaza de Armas, Limo is a chic and contemporary restaurant and Pisco bar. Its décor has a minimalist design of bare red tiled floors and wooden tables, while retaining many beguiling historic features of its original colonial architecture. It is an easy place to spend a long, luxurious evening with a glass of a pisco-based cocktail (a grape brandy and Peru’s national drink). The kitchen specializes in Peruvian-Asian seafood dishes with fantastic sushi and tiradito, Peru’s very own version of sashimi.
A restaurant by Chef Erick Paz Gallegos, Uchu is a rustically stylish, playfully sophisticated Peruvian steakhouse. And the food is fantastic.
The “Loco Carnes” dish, comprising 4-ounce chunks of alpaca, lamb and beef on a sizzling stone, is something many continue to dream of. The chili mash is melt in the mouth.
A popular sandwich restaurant up in San Blas, with fillings ranging from lomo saltado to Philly cheese steak. Sandwiches are reasonably priced around
18 soles (£4.50/ $6).
Not only is it a place where locals shop, it is a tourist destination; there tourists can enjoy 2 many of our traditional day to day activities.One of the most attractive aspects of the market are the booths selling natural juices. They are made with a range of fresh fruit, from common to exotic brought from the jungle area of La Convención near Quillabamba, as well as other parts of Peru. San Pedro is the best place to try the typical dishes of the valley at a very cheap price. Here you can eat a simple meal of trout ceviche, fried pork and the famous chicken soup.
Fine dining and culture are combined at MAP Café, an elegant eatery that is located within the city’s Pre-Columbian art museum. Dominating the central cobbled courtyard, the restaurant inhabits a light-filled, glassen closed conservatory where smart, blacksuited waiters serve gourmet Peruvian fusion food to its well-heeled diners. Once the sun has set, you can enjoy an intimate candlelit experience and choose from a great assortment of dishes from the fixed-priced three-course menu. The place does a superb version of chicken estofado while its irresistible desserts resemble more objets d’art than edible treats.
This tasteful seafood spot is known for serving up a modern spin of coastal seaside classics like ceviche, leche de tigre and arroz con mariscos. With it’s laid back and modern décor, the exotic, one-of-a-kind pisco-based fruit punches that really steal the show.
Eat like a local:
Lunch and dinner can be very cheap in Cusco if you aren’t afraid to eat “off the beaten track”. Everywhere you go you will see sign-less restaurants with blackboards outside, advertising the set “menu” of the day. They usually come in at 6 to 8 soles for lunch and 8 to 10 soles for dinner. The menus usually begin with a type of soup, a main (normally you can choose between 3-5 options), some sort of sweet and a drink. The portions are often plentiful and the quality great without all the frills. When it comes to choosing a restaurant the rule of thumb is always the busier the better. Peruvians view meal times as a very important part of their day; a chance to socialise with friends, family and colleagues. Usually, the restaurants will be busy form around 2pm-4pm and again from 6pm to 9pm. Another option is a type of Chinese food called ‘chifa’. It developed from the dishes of Canton brought to the 2 country by Chinese Coolies in the nineteenth century. Once in South America, however, the food began a long process of Peruvianization. Chifas can be found throughout the city and the quality is always very high. A set meal is price around 9/10 soles and includes a soup and main meal.
Pollo A La Brasa is the most simple but a favourite of the locals in Cusco. According to food historians, whole chickens roasted over coals have long been a Peruvian specialty especially for its elites. The chickens would be marinated, skewered on a pit, and rotated over hot coals. No matter the power of modern markets and the mass publics they create, it is still a delight to enter a pollería filled with families and order one’s own chicken and fries. In the colonial area of Cusco, there are some thirteen pollerías to choose from.
For the young and the not so young, Cusco is a great place to stay for a while and also one of the best places in South America to party. The city is full of bars, nightclubs and discos with something to suit everybody. If you like modern music than there is a bar for you. If you like to dance the night away in a disco than you will not be disappointed. Alternatively, if you like to relax and have a few drinks than a nightclub will be for you. Cusco nightlife has something for everyone so let us go through some of the most popular places in the town.
Bars Museo del Pisco and Republica del Pisco offer tasty cocktails from the classic Pisco Sour to unusual creations. Both establishments are lively with nightly live music.
Limbus known as the ‘panoramic bar’ has the best view in Cusco, with a balcony to enjoy local beers and cocktails.
Mama Africa and Mythology are two of the biggest clubs in Cusco, with the partying running until the sun comes up.
Like everywhere there some lively and cheap bars filled with locals that provide traditional music and cheap rum.
Brilliantly located in the heart of Cusco’s historic centre. The hotel is just a five minute walk away from the Plaza de Armas. Cusco’s Sacred Gardens are just a short stroll down the street and from the upper floors of the property you can catch glimpses of one of the city’s most famous archeological sites, Coricancha.
The style evokes classic colonial Cusco and there are delightful artistic finer touches like a golden headboard around the bed and a hand-painted floral motif surrounding the television. There’s a modern, state of the art hydrotherapy pool, several massage therapy rooms, a sauna and steam room.
High Season: £280/ $370.
Low Season: £230/ $304.
El Retablo has a slightly elevated position in town, three blocks back (and up) from Cusco’s main square, Plaza de Armas. It is a comfortable walk of less than 10 minutes to the square and the majority of the town’s restaurants, bars and shops, plus key sights such as the Cathedral, Inka Museum and the atmospheric streets of San Blas.
The look and feel of this boutique property are the endeavours of the Fine Arts School of Cusco. The courtyard garden is the big draw, and there is live music every day from 5.30 pm to 7.30pm accompanied by happy hour and a bonfire.
High Season: £86/ $115.
Low Season: £68/ $90.
Ecopackers Hostels offers some of the best-shared dormitories and private bedrooms with orthopedic mattresses, hot showers and lager than your average sized single bed. For travellers who come in groups of friends or are travelling alone as a backpacker and are looking for a quality budget hostel, Ecopackers is a perfect option.
There are many party and chills hostels in Cusco and this one provides both in the right measure.
The hostel has a clean and well kept courtyard area with a fully stocked bar and kitchen.
Private room: £45/ $60.
6 Bed Dorm: £10/ $14.
With Inca ruins, beautiful cobblestone streets and alpaca shopping – Cusco has something for everyone. The only difficult part is figuring out what to do first. This is our shortlist of the best and unique places to visit and things to do while you are there.
The artisan neighborhood of San Blas is notable for its architecture and quaint shops. Just a short walk from the plaza, the terrain becomes steep on the way up to San Blas Plaza. The Inca road Hatunrumiyoc is a remnant of the city’s past and a remarkable cobble-stone construction that leads through the neighborhood. Small boutique shops and galleries line the streets, making for more authentic gifts or souvenirs than the trinkets found in the Plaza de Armas. The San Blas Plaza contains picturesque Iglesia San Blas, as well as homey shops and restaurants.
For the Inca, astronomy played a huge role in day-to-day life, influencing planting and harvesting of crops, religious ceremonies and architecture. The Inca calendar was detailed and accurate, evident from the position of buildings to coincide with solstices. The wonders of such phenomena are explored at the Cusco Planetarium, where visitors learn about Inca astronomy and conduct star-gazing of their own.
Before visiting the many archaeological sites of Machu Picchu and the Sacred Valley, learn about the empire’s history at the massive Inca Museum. Run by Cusco’s San Antonio Abad University, this huge artifact collection is housed in the equally impressive colonial home of a Spanish admiral. Twenty-four exhibition rooms are filled with information dating from pre-Inca societies to the height of the Inca Empire to Spanish conquest. The museum’s mummified bodies are a highlight, as well as the courtyard where Andean women weave textiles.
A 45-minute walk from the city center, this ancient Inca site is worth the trek for both the stunning views of Cusco and the incredible stonework. Sacsayhuaman (easily remembered by its pronunciation ‘sexy woman’) was a religious site as well as the scene of a bloody battle between Inca forces and the Spanish conquistadors. Valuable as a precursor to Machu Picchu and sites in the surrounding Sacred Valley,a walk to Sacsayhuaman also includes a glimpse of Cristo Blanco – the massive statue of Christ that stands above the city.
Welcome to Nativa Expeditions! We are a tour agency based in Cusco, focusing on providing the most authentic and exciting trips in Cusco.
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