8 free things to do in Cusco

Chances are that the Inca capital, Cusco, is on the programme during your tour through Peru. From here you can make trips to the surrounding Inca ruins in the Sacred Valley and of course your excursion to the not-so-hidden Inca city of Machu Picchu.

Cusco is well-organised, friendly and you will find many remnants of the resourceful Incas here. It means that many travellers like to stay in the city for a little longer. And even if you’ve just booked an expensive excursion to Machu Picchu or are travelling on a limited budget, these eight tips for free activities in Cusco prove that a few extra days don’t have to cost much at all

1 – Take a free city tour

Several times a day, a Free Walking Tour starts at Plaza de Armas or another central point in Cusco. A local guide will guide you in a few hours past important sights and other interesting places in the city. In addition, the guide tells you about the history, architecture and building style of the Incas and gives useful tips for the rest of your stay in Cusco. It is the ideal way to get to know the city.

Ask at your hostel or accommodation for the Free Walking Tours and go to the agreed meeting place before the start time. The guides can be recognised by their shirts with a print along the lines of “Free Walking Tour”. It is customary to tip the guide at the end. Of course you decide how much you think the tour is worth.

2 – Visit the chocolate museum

No shortage of good chocolate in Peru. There is even an entire museum dedicated to this local pride. When you enter the ChocoMuseo on Plaza Regocijo, the scent of cocoa already meets you. During a tour you learn about the history and the harvesting and production process of cocoa and chocolate.

As long as you resist the temptation, a visit to this museum is free. But if you do yield, a workshop where you make your own chocolate bar, a souvenir from the gift shop, a tasting or chocolate fondue including hot chocolate in the accompanying restaurant is no punishment.

3 – Get involved in the festivities

During your trip through Peru you probably notice that there is always something to celebrate in this country. Therefore, chances are that during your stay in Cusco you will fall in love with your nose and witness a ceremony, procession, or festival.

During an average holiday, for example, the women proudly swing their skirts from left to right and the cusqueños form a parade through the streets in traditional costume. It’s a beautiful sight, but watch out. If you visit Cusco during the carnival, in February or March, then as a spectator and a tourist you are not safe when the water and foam fight erupts around the Plaza de Armas. So make sure you are prepared!

4 – Learn salsa

Your tour through Peru is actually incomplete without having learned a few steps from the salsa. And to keep the threshold low, various clubs and schools offer free salsa lessons. For example Inka Team, on the corner of the Plaza de Armas. Here you learn the basics of Peruvian salsa every evening between 9 am and 11 am. Mythology and Mama Africa also offer free salsa lessons.

Hang on after the lesson to immediately demonstrate your new dance steps on the dance floor, to find a dance partner, or to see how advanced salsa dancers take over the dance floor.

5 – Score a free drink

You undoubtedly got thirsty from all those dance steps. In the entertainment area around the Plaza de Armas, proppers await you with vouchers for free drinks in clubs such as Mythology, Mama Africa, Inka Team and Groove. If you are confident enough after your free salsa, you have the opportunity to swing your hips and to look for a dance partner to expand your dance repertoire with.

Is salsa dancing or the disco not for you? Then have a drink at the Indigo bar, which is popular with backpackers and Spanish students, where you get every second drink for free during Happy Hour. Take the opportunity and taste the national drink of Peru: Pisco Sour!

6 – Visit the cemetery

It may not be the first thing you think of when you make a tour of Peru, and probably the least pleasant place you will visit in Cusco. The Cementerio General de Almudena is nevertheless an interesting sight. From the San Pedro market you can walk there in fifteen minutes.

Contrary to what you are probably used to, the Peruvians do not bury their deceased relatives, but keep them above the ground. The long, high walls offer space for five or more graves stacked on top of each other. They are all provided with a notch where there is room for flowers, cards and other decorations and keepsake of the deceased. Some even have a hatch, so that the grave decorations are well preserved.

It is impressive to see how much attention is paid to these last resting places of the locals. Nevertheless, don’t forget to treat the graves with respect and consider other visitors.

7 – Climb to Cristo Blanco

Allow yourself a few days to get used to the altitude before you head for the climb to the white statue of Cristo Blanco. The eight meter high symbolisation of Jesus Christ can be seen from every corner of Cusco and is illuminated at night. Like Christo Blanco, from the statue you look out over the green hills around the orange roofs and the historic center with the Plaza de Armas in the middle.

Now that you’re upstairs, you walk from Cristo Blanco to the ruins of Sacsayhuamán in ten minutes. Although the entrance to this archaeological site is not free, you will get an impressive picture of the ingenious architectural style of the Incas here. Meter-high rocks collapse like giant bricks, without the need for masonry. Together they form a zigzag wall with the sloping Rodadero rock formation, which has been used as a natural slide for hundreds of years. With the Boleto Turístico (ten-day tourist pass) your entrance to Sacsayhuamán is a lot cheaper.

8 – Visit a market

Of course, strolling around the market will not cost you anything. And of course in Cusco you almost stumble over the amount of markets. In addition to large mercados such as San Pedro, Centro Commercial and the local Saturday market Baratillo, you can easily walk past smaller markets tucked away in alleys. Here you apply the concept of ‘looking, watching, not buying’ to stalls full of vegetables, fruit, juices, but sometimes also whole pig heads.

At least if you succeed. Because in addition, on the average market you are overloaded with a bulk of sweaters, bags and other accessories in the same llama or brightly colored aztec print. But the more often you walk past it, the harder it is to resist. Bargaining is fortunately permitted due to the large selection.

If you are tired of the Peruvian knick-knack, visit the art market in the San Blas district on Saturday, mingle with the locals at the Wanchaq market or watch the black market El Molino at the bottom of Avenida del Sol. Pay attention to your valuables and be aware of pickpockets that are active in many markets in Cusco.

Do you know some more free activities in Cusco or do you want to get to know more about Cusco? Let us know by leaving a message!

Translated and adapted from ZuidAmerika.nl