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Cusco | Eight amazing things to do for free in the city

There is literally so much to do and see in Cusco you’d need weeks to see it all.  As well as the paid activities we found loads to do for free and being on a travellers budget we were amazed at how much we could see and do without spending a penny.  From archeological sites, to museums, markets, interesting squares and historical sites there really is something for everyone and its all within walking distance. 

Plaza de Armas Cusco
Plaza de Armas Cusco

Mirador desde el Cristo Blanco

Activity – Walk to view point, Cost – Free

The Cristo Blanco is an eight metre tall statue of christ on a hill over looking the town. Christ stands with his arms outstretched as a gesture of protection.  The white statue of christ was created by Cusco sculptor Francisco Olazo.

The walk from the main square, Plaza de Armas, is about two kilometres uphill through the streets of the San Blas district. It’s the same route you would take to reach the Archeological site of Sacsayhuaman.  When you get to the entrance  you take the route across the bridge to the right, then up a rough dirt path until you reach the viewpoint.

If you don’t fancy the walk you can get a taxi or there’s a bus that leaves from Rosaspata market and costs about 1.00 PEN.  To get back to town you can retrace your steps, get the bus or you can combine this walk with a walk to the temple of the moon archeological site.

Temple of the moon

Activity – Explore Archeological site, Cost – Free

The temple of the moon is about a two hour walk from the centre of Cusco or you can combine it with a visit to the Christo Banco as mentioned above.  From the site of the statue you just make your way to the main road, follow the road uphill, pass by Q’enko archeological site and you will come to a road off to the right. Follow the signs to the entrance.  It just looks like a field but you will see the path. You actually walk past the no entry sign.

The main part of the site is the rock formation with niches and the foundations of buildings that you can view from all angles, including the top where there are carved rocks that are not fenced off.  All around the site there are caves and other bits of carved rocks you can explore.  Don’t stay after dark as it’s not safe.

If you follow the signs down hill you come to what looks like a causeway which leads to another small group of carved rocks.  If you follow this causeway you will get to the main road that leads down into Cusco although it leads you through what appears to be a rather rough area of the town.  If you don’t fancy this just retrace you steps back the way you came and either walk back or flag down a passing bus or taxi on the main road.

Temple of the Moon Cusco
Temple of the Moon Cusco

Twelve angled stone

Activity – Landmark, Cost – Free

The twelve angled stone is a famous archeological  landmark in Cusco. It is part of an ancient Incan wall which is now part of the  palace of the archbishop of Cusco. Its on Calle Hatunruminyoc on the way up to San Blas, you won’t miss it there’s usually a crowd of people around it taking selfies.

Mercado San Blas

Activity – Foody Experience – Cost – Free to look & from 7.00 PEN for lunch

Mercado San Blas is a food and vegetable market with some small artisan stalls in a closed area adjoining.  However the main reason to visit are the food hawkers which have taken over a large part of the indoor area.  It’s a real must do.  It’s less crowded than Mercado San Pedro and feel a little more authentic. Tourists mix with a large contingent of locals on small stools and benches gathered round open kitchens.

They nearly all sell the small meals which are very cheap and in the most part very tasty.  We recommend the Menu Familiar for 7.00 PEN you get soup to start and then a choice of five or six mains accompanied by a drink of juice and a little bowl with line and onion.  There’s alway the choice of trout (Trucha) for and extra 3.00 PEN.

Down the back wall is another bank of hawker stalls selling freshly squeezed juice.  The ladies behind the stall enter a straight of frenzy in competition for your custom, but after you’re seated they all calm down and help each other with the preparation. If you have access to a kitchen it’s a great experience to go shopping but you’d probably get a lot more choice in the much bigger Mercado San Pedro. 

Twelve angled stone Cusco
Twelve angled stone Cusco

Siete borreguitos

Activity – Landmark, Cost – Free

Siete Borreguitos or Seven Little Lambs is a very picturesque sloping street. It is known by this name because it was the route used by the locals to travel with their packages and animals, including sheep.  If you’re heading to the Cristo Blanco then make sure the route you take is up this street.  It really is colourful with the walls and even the streetlamp painted with flowers and other local scenes. 

Plaza de Armas

Activity – Landmark, Cost – Free

Plaza de Armas is the very grand main square in Cusco’s unesco listed historic centre.  Its the main area where locals and tourist congregate and is surrounded by the magnificent Cathedral and the church of the society of Jesus, both of which are well worth a visit.  The square also is home to many restaurants, cafe’s and artisan shops and in the middle is the specular fountain with a gold Inca man on top.   The square is also the starting place for many walking tours of the city and here you’ll also find street food vendors and people selling tours, artwork, trinkets and all sorts of souvenirs.  

Plaza de Armas Cusco
Plaza de Armas Cusco

Mercado San Pedro & Surrounding streets

Activity Foody Experience & Shopping, Cost – Free to look 

Merado San Pedro is an amazing market, much bigger than the San Blas mercado mentioned above. The indoor market hall is home to many artisan stalls selling hats, scarves and other local souvenirs.  The other half of the hall is dedicated to food and this really is a treat as there are rows and rows of sellers selling everything you could imagine; teas, nuts, cheese, fruit, vegetables, fish, meats, sweets and so much more.  Adjacent to the indoor market is the local outdoor street market and here you’ll find all the local farmers selling their wares and it really is a feast for the eyes. 

Sapantiana Aqueduct

Activity – Landmark, Cost – Free

Sapantiana Aqueduct is a remnant of the colonial era situated in the heart of the San Blas district on the way up to Cristo Blanco. Unfortunately the three level arched structure no longer has water flowing through the channel but it does have a small stream underneath which you have to climb down into to gain access to get that perfect shot. It’s believed it was built with robbed out stone from the Inca shrine that was  adjacent to it. 

Sapantiana Aqueduct
Sapantiana Aqueduct

Our View 

The list above is by no means complete of all the free things to do in Cusco but these are the things we had time for and enjoyed.  There are other hikes, markets and parks to enjoy.  It really is the city that keeps on giving.  If you’re on a budget then you can still get a real feel for the city and its history without spending a penny.

Booking resources for your stay in Cusco

Flights

You can compare cheap flights on the Expedia platform or here on the Aviasales website.  Both will give you a good idea of how much its going to cost you to get to your chosen destination.

Accommodation

We have always tended to use Booking.com having said that if your on a tight budget another good site to try as a comparison is Hostelworld, If your looking to compare different sites you can do that on Hotellook, we tend to look on here first to make sure we are getting the best deal.

Tours & Tickets

You can book your visits as you go at the entrance to your chosen attraction or site.  Or you could use the following links to book in advance or just to find out what your choices are in the area. GetYourGuide and Tiqets are our go to choices you could try Viator to see how they compare.

For a full list check out our resources page. Don’t forget always shop around to find the best deal for you. What works for us should be good for you but it’s always reassuring to check.

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