How to Spend 24 Hours in Cusco, Part 2

I clutched the top of my cross-body bag as we were weaving through the crowd outside of San Pedro. Two police officers stopped us, “Watch your bag here.” I looked down at my hand to make sure it hadn’t moved. “We’re looking for the potato museum,” I responded. They looked at us, shrugged, and walked away.

Museo de Papa?” We asked at least 5 people, pacing up and down the street. I almost tripped on a tub with a stack of roast cui (guinea pigs). We settled on “it’s probably closed,” and made our way back through the sea of Cusqueños for our next attempt at an adventure.

Moral of the story: If you’ve ever owned a guinea pig, walk quickly by any meat stations at San Pedro or the other markets.

General Information:

    Basics

  • Altitude: 11,152 feet, according to Google
  • Reference Point Used in this City Guide: Plaza de Armas
  • Money

  • The dollar is strong in Peru (S/1 is $0.31 as of October 2017), which makes it a budget travel-friendly country.
  • Most meals cost between S/5 and S/15, with fancier restaurants peaking around S/35.
  • Hostels and hotels will run you around S/65 per night.
  • Safety

  • Cusco is safe, but like anywhere else you go, be aware of your surroundings and keep valuables close.
  • Don’t be afraid to talk to people; they’re generally open to speaking with tourists.
  • Language

  • You do not need to be fluent in Spanish to visit Cusco, but it does help. Try to memorize basic phrases.
  • Cusqueños usually understand you might not know much Spanish and will speak more slowly for you.
  • Compared to other Spanish-speaking countries, the dialects and accents are easy to comprehend.

Timing

Start your day with 3 other stops around Cusco, then head into your night hungry and ready to dance. You should finish your daytime activities around 3:30 p.m. if you started between 7 and 8 a.m.

Fourth Stop: Plaza Regocijo

How to Get There: Foot (~5 minutes from Plaza de Armas)
Where I Stayed: Andean Dreams Hotel (~10 minutes by foot from Plaza Regocijo)

Get dessert first with a chocolate-making class at ChocoMuseo. The final class begins at 4:00 p.m. each day and lasts for 2 hours. They also have 3 other time options: 8:30 a.m., 11:00 a.m., and 1:30 p.m.

I took the Bean to Bar Workshop on a Monday; although I can’t speak to how busy the classes usually are at this particular location, there were only 2 other people in my class. The chocolates you make take 45 minutes to an hour to cool. During that time, you can tour the museum itself, which is free. You receieve 10% off anything you buy at the shop for taking the class. There is a café area next to the shop where you can purchase additional sweets. The staff is friendly, hilarious, and fluent in English (for those who have spent all their energy attempting Spanish during the day).

All chocolate-making classes at ChocoMuseo cost about $25.

Fifth Stop: Plaza de Armas – Tecsecocha

How to Get There: Bus, Taxi, Foot
Where I Stayed: Andean Dreams Hotel

If you read reviews about Urpi, they pretty much all say the same thing: the food is great, but it takes a long time to get it. When you go to Urpi, make sure it’s when you want to have a relaxing meal, and not when you’re in a rush. The restaurant is a short walk from the main square on Tecsecocha, next to a few bars.

The food selection at Urpi is eclectic ranging from traditional Peruvian food to Mexican to Italian. Since you’ll be heading out to dance afterwards (and you just had a bunch of chocolate), get some appetizers here. Their nachos were one of my favorite things I ate while I was in Cusco – wonton wrappers cut into triangles smothered in ahi, cheese, and guacamole.

For post-dinner, pre-dancing drinks, walk less than a minute down the street to La Chupiteria for a shot ski.

Final Stop: Plaza de Armas

How to Get There: Bus, Taxi, Foot
Where I Stayed: Andean Dreams Hotel

Head back to the main plaza for a free dance lesson at Mythology. They have classes every night from 9-11 p.m., and the instructors cover salsa and bachata. There’s another club, MamaAfrica, that has similar classes a few doors down.

The classes at Mythology are appropriate for all skill levels, and the instructors really take the time to help you learn the moves. Or, in my case, the instructors take time to help you if your partner decides to throw you into the other couples. In other words, choose your partner wisely for the coupled-up portion of the class.

Mythology turns into a typical club after the dance classes each night. The DJs do a great job of mixing up the playlist with U.S. hits, salsa/bachata music, and Peruvian artists.

Love dancing but want something a little more personal? Take lessons at Escuela de Baile Sara.

If you’re exhausted from dancing but don’t quite want to head back to your hostel, try out Nuevo Mundo, a craft beer bar across the plaza from Mythology. It’s the perfect place to cool down, and they have a wide selection of unique beers.

Getting Home

If you’re staying close to the plaza, you should be able to walk home. Most streets are well-lit and easy-to-find. That being said, cabs are probably a safer option if you’ve been drinking heavily. There are consistently a dozen cabs (minimum) waiting over by Starbucks to take tourists back to their hostels. Only go in cabs that have visible identification numbers on the sides. Many will also have a sign on the top of the car.

Cabs at night have a higher charge than during the day, but if someone tries to say a cab ride anywhere around the plaza is more than S/10, they’re probably upcharging you because you’re a tourist. Check at least 2 more cabs. If they all say over S/10, then it’s an accurate price, especially if you’re staying more than 15 minutes from the main square.

It’s easy to let yourself get pushed around if you’re not fluent in Spanish, but when in doubt, put on your “don’t mess with me” face and think about a time when you felt super confident.

If you have a few days in Cusco, you can space this guide out throughout your trip, or do some of these activities multiple times like salsa dancing or eating at local restaurants. Enjoy your Cusco adventure! And if you’re going to Lima before or after Cusco, another 24-hour city guide is coming soon.

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