Bringing our Cusco portion of the trip to a close started with a pleasant, but ultimately unnecessary bus tour in the morning and spending some more time independently checking out some of the remaining sights.
Centro de Textiles Tradicionales del Cusco Store & Museum
Avenida Sol 603
Monday-Saturday: 7:30 a.m. – 8:30 p.m.
Sunday: 8:30 a.m. – 8:30 p.m.
This was one of the sights at the top of my list coming to Cusco, but I may have hyped myself up a bit much. Not to say it wasn’t interesting and a great value (the museum is free), I was just a bit underwhelmed. The showroom is what you walk into when you first enter, so make your way to the back and the left to get to the museum exhibit. It’s pretty small, even smaller than the coca museum, but the displays are very interesting and you do get a lot of information and textile examples. If you’re lucky, you’ll be able to see women on the showroom floor making the textiles on the loom. The items in the showroom are very nice, but very expensive. So unless you’re in the market for something specific, don’t go in there thinking you’ll be able to get just a nice souvenir.
Pampa del Castillo at Plazoleta Santo Domingo
Monday-Saturday: 8:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.
Sunday: 2:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m.
Looming over the city of Cusco is the Qurikancha, an ancient Incan temple which was later turned into a Spanish church. This place is another great deal at 10 soles and it’s very much worth hiring a guide for an additional 10 soles to give you a tour (the guides will be milling around the front wearing grey jackets). The temple is a nice combination of ancient Incan structures displayed (still standing despite the numerous earthquakes due to its advanced design) and fine Spanish oil paintings depicting the standard religious scenes. Under the field in front of Qurikancha is a museum housing more paintings, mummies, and relics (we didn’t visit this however). Again, very few photograph opportunities are allowed here.
Mercado Central de San Pedro
Cusco Artesian Market
Avenida El Sol and Av Tullumayo
A great place to find a souvenir or get a sense of the local culture is at the markets. The Cusco Artesian Market is located near the bus stop and is mainly full of touristy items. That being said, you can find some great textiles and cheap finds for gifts to bring back. Walking up and down the vendors was surprisingly a pleasant experience. Unlike the shitshow souqs in the Middle East, the vendors here are very friendly and respectful. They’ll approach you and obviously ask if you were interested in seeing anything, but will leave you alone and drop back with a smile if you decline; much more polite and not pushy at all.
Now if you want to see something really crazy, check out the Mercado Central de San Pedro. Not only will you have the usual offerings of vegetables, fresh juices, breads, and souvenir items like at the Cusco Artesian Market, but you’ll get to straight up see butchering of llama and alpaca (there was a dude with a f**king axe hacking away at the body of an alpaca or whatever. I too frightened to take a picture of him). The smell of blood definitely made my stomach turn when I first walked it, but the sensation did go away after a while. Making sure that we weren’t just being nosy outsiders looking in, we started to chat up one of the llama head sellers and she was surprisingly very friendly and open to answering our questions. Definitely a deceptively cool place once you get over how shady and dirty it looks.
La Cusquenita restaurant
Looking for a good local place to eat in Cusco, we asked our guide from the Machu Picchu trip for a recommendation and he said La Cusquenita was a great place to have a taste of what the locals eat. I hate to say, it was not very good and I would not recommend going there. Granted, you get a TON of food for the price, but the food was kinda gross. Especially nasty was the cuy that they served which was dry and had a nauseating licorice spice. I’m not going to even bother with the address and hours of operation, but if you’re near the Cusco Artesian Market and you see this place, I’d probably recommend trying somewhere else. (In fairness, it seems like on TripAdvisor the majority of the folks do like it and had pretty good things to say about the dinner and show. Since we were there at lunch, perhaps the dinner time experience is a bit better.)