What to see when Volunteering or Interning in Cusco
There are countless sights, shops, and cafes to discover down each street in Cusco. Don’t make this a quick stop on your way to Machu Picchu. Clear your schedule and make time to wander the streets and take in the sights. Here are our recommendations for the best things to do in the city!
Plaza de Armas
One of the first things on your bucket list should be to soak in the atmosphere on a bench in the Plaza de Armas. This is the central plaza of the city and makes a lovely place to people-watch, read, or chat. You can also go into some of the churches surrounding the square and take in more beautiful architecture. There are also many lovely shops and cafes around this area to purchase souvenirs and relax with a cup of coffee.
Speaking of cafés, there are an endless number of charming ones to explore, especially in the San Blas neighborhood. Some of my favorites are: La Bo’M (the best crepes and stunning views), L’atelier Cafe Concept, Llama Cafe, and La Valeriana.
Next, the San Pedro and San Blas markets offer a variety of foods and souvenirs are must-see places in Cusco. Prices are more expensive inside these markets as opposed to in the shops surrounding them. Despite this, they are still worth visiting to experience a bit more Peruvian culture.
Don't miss these sites
Another must-do is hiking up to Sacsayhuaman and Cristo Blanco. The views from on top of these hills are stunning and you are able to see the entire city. The hike takes about 45 minutes and can be strenuous if you have not adjusted to the altitude. Another thing to note: Sacsayhuaman is only accessible if you have the tourist ticket. This ticket gives you access to many museums and archeological sites around Cusco that you cannot enter without the ticket. If you are visiting for a short time, this is a great investment because it unlocks so much more of the city and Incan history. Other sights on this ticket include the Pisac, Ollantaytambo, and Moray ruins, as well as museums and the Qosqo Center of Native Art which showcases beautiful traditional dances and costumes.
The Tipon ruins are also listed on this ticket. They are rarely visited by tourists because it is a bit outside Cusco, out of the way of other attractions. This provides an excellent opportunity to appreciate Incan architecture without the crowds that gather at many of the larger sites. Definitely consider adding it to your list!
The Inca Sun Temple
One attraction that you do not need the tourist ticket for is Qorikancha, the Incan sun temple that is now a church. Legends say the center of the temple was covered in elaborate gold, but when the Spanish came, they looted it all for their profit and turned the temple into a church. The tickets cost only 15 soles, or 8 if you bring a student ID card without the tourist ticket. This is a wonderful gem within the city. It is beautiful and explains much about Incan culture.
Be sure to visit the 12-sided stone as well. While it may seem fairly underwhelming by appearance, it exemplifies marvelous Incan architecture. The Incas used no mortar, but cut stones perfectly to fit together and even withstand earthquakes. To this day no one can replicate their stones with the precision they executed, not even being able to slide a piece of paper between them. Stop on your way from the Plaza de Armas to San Blas to see this marvel.
Spending time in Cusco is an excellent way to learn about how Incan and Spanish cultures have intertwined and Incan culture has endured throughout time and tests. Be sure to stop and spend some time here!