Free Time in Cusco and Peru
Whether you plan your entire trip in advance or decide to wait until you get to Peru, our team in Cusco are all very well travelled and can offer advice and help in planning the perfect itinerary for your weekends or for travel before or after your placement. Combine your volunteer opportunities with many of the wonders Peru has to offer!
Peru's biggest international airport is located in it's capital city, Lima. This airport is a popular choice for people flying into Peru as from there you can choose to travel onwards by road or plane. Cusco also has an airport so this is an ideal option if you are intending to head straight to your placement. If you have more time and are planning to travel before or after your volunteering, the Peru Hop bus is a popular option chosen by many tourists and Globalteer volunteers! This bus has several options and allows you to travel between Lima and Cusco in a minimum of 3 days.
Peru has so much wonderful food on offer, with so many restaurants to choose from in Cusco! Famous Peruvian dishes include Ceviche (seafood), Lomo Saltado (pork in a delicious sweet sauce with vegetables) and also Chifa (a range of dishes inspired by a Chinese and Peruvian fusion). However, you can also eat lots of other tasty food in Cusco from around the world including Japanese, American, Italian and also a range of vegan options. There are also options to try food from stalls and markets, but these aren't always good for a western stomach so be careful!
There are so many sights around Cusco and in the rest of Peru. If you can, try and allow yourself some time to travel before or after your placement because Peru has a lot to offer, including the famous Incan citadel - Machu Picchu.
Surely the number one reason that many visitors come to Peru is to visit the incomparable wonder of the Inca Empire; Machu Picchu. Whatever you read and no matter how many photos you have seen, nothing can quite prepare you for the first time you see the Inca citadel rising high above a bend in the river.
Machu Picchu is easily accessible from Cusco. You can go there by luxury train, trek the amazing Inca Trail high in the Andes or take any other number of routes all ending with lost city itself. Built, but never completed by the Incas around 1450 the Inca capital was only re-discovered in 1911. The breath-taking lost city of the Incas is now discovered by hundreds of enthralled visitors every day.
The Sacred Valley
The Sacred Valley of the Incas is a must-see on anyone’s Peru itinerary. Barely half an hour’s drive from Cusco and you will find a magical, steep-sided valley where fresh mountain rivers and streams tumble between ancient mountains and majestic glaciers.
The Sacred Valley’s centuries-old towns and villages are home to remarkably preserved Inca fortsand citadels. Markets with traditional textiles and souvenirs draw visitors to lovely towns like Pisac, Chinchero and Ollantaytambo. The amazing salt terraces and pre-Inca agricultural terraces at Maras are also an easy day trip from Cusco.
For a truly unique experience, you can also visit the Amazon Rainforest. The small rainforest city of Puerto Maldonado in the amazing Madre de Dios Region of the southern Amazon basin is only 10 hours from Cusco by bus and under an hour by air.
For long weekends or those travelling before or after their placement with us, Lake Titicaca, the highest navigable lake in the world is under 5 hours from Cusco by car or 7-8 hours by bus. Here you can take a cruise on the lake, visit the famous floating Uros Islands or do a spot of star gazing in one of the least light-polluted skies on the planet.
You are almost certain to travel through Lima on your way to Cusco. Peru’s capital is worth a stop before or after your placement with us. There is excellent shopping in the ocean-side district of Miraflores, wonderful galleries and museums in trendy Barranco, some truly impressive Spanish colonial buildings in the historic centre and amazing restaurants throughout the city.
Less than a day’s drive from Cusco, the city of Arequipa is Peru’s second largest city. It is known as the white city due to the colour of the historic buildings constructed using local white stone called sillar. Like Cusco, Arequipa is located in the Andes mountains bit at a lower altitude so enjoys almost year-round warm and sunny weather. The city is overlooked by the magnificent dormant volcano, El Misti.
Arequipa is also the staging post for trips to the Famous Colca Canyon.
Free time in Cusco
Cusco is a beautiful city that has something for everyone; from Inca ruins and splendid Spanish colonial architecture to elegant squares and outstanding mountain scenery. The historic city centre is a lively hub of cafes, restaurants and bars with dozens of boutiques and markets, such as the thriving San Pedro Market. Many shops offer an astonishing range of unique locally made goods to take home as souvenirs of your trip to Peru. There are museums, galleries, churches and monasteries to visit and every Sunday sees a magnificent civil parade in the City’s stunning main square, the Plaza de Armas.
Cusco’s Indian and Catholic traditions are frequently celebrated with street parades, live music and food stalls springing up across the city at any excuse. There are also some wonderful walks and hikes in and around the city centre. You can stroll amongst whitewashed houses and along the cobbled lanes in the Bohemian quarter of San Blas. Maybe climb high above the city to the Inca fortress at Sacsayhuaman and take in the unrivalled views of the city and the surrounding Andes.
Cusco has a rich culture as the ancient capital of the Incas. From many museums, incredible Inca and Spanish architecture, religious festivals to the biggest festival of the year, Inti Raymi. For more detail on events in Cusco, you can read our blog on the Best Time to go to Peru; you could be there for the Chocolatada in December or the amazing Inti Raymi Festival in June.