I haven’t spent really much time in the city or rather most of the time was spent on getting used to the altitude and getting some rest after the Inka Trail. Few things though I wouldn’t miss. One was a trip to a local market, a very colourful one. I highly recommend it, especially if you have some space in your backpack for few Peruvian souvenirs. Prices and quality are very decent, or at least were when I was there in 2009.
The other thing we did was to take an antique tram trip to the hills around town. It takes you to a tall Christ statue from where you have a spectacular view of the whole city. And you can also visit some nearby ruins called Saksaywaman – which might actually pre-date the Inka.
It is also a great place to taste two of the dishes you might not find anywhere else. First being an alpaca stake – pricy but tasty, and second, quite controversial amongst some, a guinea pig. Some restaurants even put it in a pose on a plate. To me it looked like a deep fried rat, tasted like a rabbit. On the Inka trail later on we have seen some local houses that still kept guinea pigs as potential food source.
The town itself, although quite hilly is very walkable. In comparison to both Lima and Puno it’s cute. On every corner you can see remainders of the city’s history. It was founded by the first Inka ruler Manco Capaca in 12th century. It is UNESCO World Heritage Site and is officially considered by the Peruvian constitution as the historical capital of Peru. It is a major tourist destination not only because of its origins and history but also because it functions as a gateway into the Andes and of course everyone who is visiting Machu Picchu stays there to acclimatize themselves to the altitude.
And while you’re in Cuzco, please try the Pisco Sour.