(Cheap and easy) ideas for your free days in Cusco

Cusco CathedralI feel like this may be my area of expertise.  I have now been in Cusco for close to 4 months, and I am well-versed on the art of stretching my nuevo soles while getting the most out of my free time in  a city that puts it all on the table.  My favorite leisure activities here are free or cheap, and fortunately provide a regular routine of physical activity to counter the addiction to the little caramel filled pastries sold on every corner.  If you have a free day in Cusco between your multi-sport adventures, I suggest:

-Find one of the smaller, quieter plazas to read a book or people watch.  The Plaza de Armas is beautiful, but it is rarely quiet and is a central hub for intrepid vendors offering you every souvenir under the sun.

-Go for an ‘urban hike’.  The stairs winding up through San Blas  offer the opportunity to explore Cusco’s historic neighborhoods and colorful gardens while providing a serious glute conditioning workout and great views.  Besides, you can break up your hike with a coffee in one of the artsy cafes lining Tanda Pata or take a break in the Plaza San Blas.

-It’s obvious I have a thing for the fresh markets here – my post describing them was almost a love letter – but they really are worth a visit.  Peru’s diversity of climates and craftsmanship means these markets offer produce and durable goods you’ll probably never come across again.

– visit one of the art museums (Contemporary or pre-Columbian).  The entrance fees are low (10 soles), and the collections are impressive.  If you want a free glance at Peru’s art scene, check out the galleries in San Blas.

And, of course, there’s always the option to enjoy a great meal.  Most restaurants offer an inexpensive fixed mid-day menu of 3 or 4 courses that you could follow up with the ultimate free day activity: a siesta.

Hopefully your rest day in Cusco recharges your batteries for your climb up Mt. Ausangate or your multi-day mountain biking trip in the Sacred Valley.  If not, you can always give it another shot when you get back into town.