5 Exotic Things to Try in Cusco

Katelyn Mudd is a student at Grand Valley State University and an ISA Featured Blogger. She is currently studying abroad with ISA in Cusco, Peru.

  1. Alpaca Please

Tastes like chicken?!? Sorry, but not exactly. This unfamiliar dish has a unique taste all its own. It left me wondering… what does this taste like? Simultaneously delicious and a conversation starter, trying alpaca will get your study abroad experience off to a unique and adventurous start. Who knows?! After this meal, you may be next in line to try another famous native dish, guinea pig! (Good luck).

Maizito Grill, Cusco, Peru, Mudd-Photo1
Alpaca and Chicha Morada at a local restaurant in the Plaza de Armas, Maizito Grill.
  1. Hiking the Inca Trails

Cusco is any history or adventure junkie’s wildest dream, myself happily being both of these. Cusco is the capital city of the ancient Inca Empire and is therefore littered with leftover Inca influence everywhere you can possibly imagine. You might recall this city from the Disney movie, Emperor’s New Groove, which depicts the city’s surroundings surprisingly accurately. Smack dab in the middle of the Andes Mountains, the Incas have left their personal trails all over Cusco and the surrounding Sacred Valley. Waking up early and exploring the Andes Mountains with all the Inca trails and ruins is possibly the best way to keep off that study abroad weight! Be prepared to take many breaks though, as the altitude here in Cusco is sure to sneak up on you (11,000 ft), quickly putting Denver, Colorado to shame. Locals will tell you to drink Mate de Coca Tea to cure the altitude sickness, as well as to cure pretty much everything!

Pumamarca, Cusco, Peru, Mudd-Photo2
Saturday morning spent hiking around the beautiful Pumamarca area in Cusco.
  1. San Pedro Market

Cusco is full of colorful eye-catching shops and markets, but a spot that you just can’t miss is the San Pedro Market. Located only a few blocks from the Plaza de Armas, San Pedro is both my and my roommate’s weakness. San Pedro Market is filled with traditional ponchos, hats, scarves, sweaters, all the clothes and trinkets you could possibly want. Fortunately, it doesn’t end there! At the center of the market is made-as-you-watch colorful juice stands and of course the famous street food booths.

San Pedro Market, Cusco, Peru, Mudd-Photo3
View from inside the San Pedro Market.
  1. Combis

Every college kid’s dream is to be able to get around town for about 22 cents right?! The local busses in Cusco are quite the experience and are the cheapest transportation around. Costing .70 soles (centimos), there’s no guilt to running around and exploring the city. Also, combis are a great way to feel a little less like a tourist. As a tourist however, they are a little overwhelming at first. Sometimes the busses may be blasting loud local music or just loud local voices, and to tell the driver you need to stop, one must yell ¡BAJA! loud enough to make it to the driver. Intimidating, but it sure creates a memory.

  1. Chicha Morada

Chicha Morada is my favorite Peruvian beverage. It’s a purple drink, “morada”, and is made from purple corn native to the Peruvian Andes. Traditionally, the corn is boiled with pineapple, cinnamon, clove, and sugar. It is a perfectly sweet thirst quencher on a hot afternoon. But don’t forget to try Peru’s even sweeter Inca Cola!

Want to learn more about Cusco? Check out “Cusco:  A Two-Mile High Adjustment”