Bohemic Travel in Cuzco, Peru

Posted on August 17, 2009 by

As night falls, glittering lights of colonial buildings and churches illuminate Cuzco (also known as Cusco) in a golden shade. What used to be an important headquarter for the Spanish conquistadores during the colonization days, is now an enchanting city littered with cobblestoned paths, fountains and ancient churches. The heart of Cuzco lies in Plaza de Armas, where a multi-hued park is surrounded by the Grand Cathedral, the Palacio de Ayuntamiento and several touristic bars.

By day, the old city center is beaming with tourists and activities. Cuzco is flanked by gigantic mountains, so standing right in the middle of the city gives the feeling of being protected by the Gods of the mountain. Evidently the view of the mountains around you is one in a million.

Night view of Fountain at Plaza de Armas

Situated at 3,395 meters, Cuzco is definitely one of the highest cities in South America. Besides the thin air and ultra-sunny weather, you might not feel the effects of its high altitude. For those who would like to take preventive measures against altitude sickness, Coco tea is available at every other restaurant.

Bars and restaurants on the second floor of buildings overlooking Plaza de Armas, offer an unobstructed view of the square and white houses perched on the mountain slopes. Cafe Trotamundos is my personal favourite –  check out their chocolate brownie!

Grand Cathedral in the main plaza

San Blas – Bohemia District

Climb the steep cobblestoned pathways to the city’s rooftop where hippies, street performers and a bohemian atmosphere surround you. It’s a charming and quiet little district where travelers and Peruvians alike enjoy hanging around for a slow and tranquil breathe of fresh air. From the Plazoleta de San Blas, a view of the old city center and mountain range greets you warmly.

Plazoleta de San Blas

Along the narrow streets of San Blas, the white-washed walls and blue windows seemingly resemble architecture in the Mediterranean. That sunny and bohemian feel almost made me wonder if I was in Santorini, Greece.

The bohemian people of Cuzco love to sit out in the cafes, under the sun, sipping Pisco Sour especially on a Sunday afternoon. I particularly enjoyed watching people pass by, travelers’ look of amazement and hippies strutting their stuff on the streets

Take the historic route starting from the Cathedral towards the Museo Inka and upwards on to San Blas.

The People of Cusco

The native Quechuas of Peru adorn stunningly beautiful costumes, made of thick wool (for the extreme mountain weather) and intricate patterns. Worn for thousands of years since the Inca civilization, it still remains unchanged especially in the Andean mountain villages.

A traditional Qechua family

On the streets of Cusco, old ladies set up artesania stalls where handmade mats, belts and accessories are on sale. At Museo Inka, highly skilled natives demonstrate the traditional weaving process that has been used to produce mats since centuries ago.

An old lady at work

Food in Cusco

 Pinchos on the street

Peruvian food is well-known for its sassy, fresh and varied taste. Cusco has such a huge range of local culinary delights on offer – from simple and economical street food to classy high-end restaurant.

Pinchos (meat skewers) are found along the alleyways of Cusco, especially along the southern end of Avenida del Sol. Thick and tender slices of meat along with a small potato are put on the grill, and then spiced up with savory brown sauce for a touch of perfection.

Ceviche (fish salad) plays an important role in the gastronomic world of South America, especially so in Peru since many claim it to be the best here. Raw fish fresh from the sea is mixed with onions, lettuce and most importantly lime juice to create an extraordinary concoction.

Llama or alpaca steak is sizzling and tender unlike the usual beef steak. El Emperador Restaurant overlooking Plaza de Armas has the best alpaca steak in town!

Fresh ceviche

Pisco is a truly authentic Peruvian liquor, that’s original and alarmingly tasty. Tasting similar to a tequila, it can definitely kick some ass. The most popular concoction is the Pisco Sour, tasting a little like margarita but stronger and feistier. It’s a must-try in Peru!

Pisco Sour

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About Nellie Huang

Nellie Huang is a professional travel writer and blogger with a special interest in off-grid destinations and adventure travel. Her mission is to visit every country in the world. In her quest, she's climbed an active volcano in Iceland, swam with sealions in the Galapagos, built a school in Tanzania, waddled with penguins in Antarctica, crossed into North Korea and drank beer in Palestine.

33 Responses to “Bohemic Travel in Cuzco, Peru”

  1. Deb and Dave August 17, 2009 10:08 pm #

    Cuzco is such a beautiful town. Thanks for bringing back memories for us. I have to say, I loved the Ceviche in Peru. Mmm, your post is making me hungry. I love your photo of the fountain at night. Beautiful

  2. Keith Jenkins August 17, 2009 11:25 pm #

    Tell me about altitude sickness! Coca tea absolutely helps – take it from me! :-)

    Fab article Nellie!

  3. Oisin August 20, 2009 10:42 pm #

    absolutely great photos. I have never heard of altitude sickness before what is it like?

    Cheers Oisin

    • Nellie October 12, 2009 2:35 pm #

      hey Oisin, thanks for the kind words! Altitude sickness is quite common in South America due to the high altitudes. Symptoms include a headache, nauseous, and dizziness. Many travelers we met along the way, suffered from altitude sickness, especially when they flew from home right to cities that are at high altitudes, such as La Paz, Cuzco and Quito. I'm glad I didn't get any altitude sickness, thanks to the coca leaves and coca tea!

  4. Alex Simpson December 9, 2009 3:09 am #

    What gorgeous photos, really inspiring and making me want to visit Cuzco. I have heard many good things about Peru and would love to travel South America. This article has made me want to add Cuzco to my list of places I want to see. The food sounds amazing and is making me hungry just thinking about the Pinchos. I have heard from a friend who spent 10 months in South America that coco tea is a life saver. Sounds very interesting, does it taste nice? Perhaps a lot tastier than Pisco? I wonder if the coco tea will help settle a stomach after a night of drinking too many Piscos?

    • Nellie December 9, 2009 4:10 pm #

      hey Alex thanks for the kind words! Yes, Cuzco is definitely worth a visit – it's got so much culture and energy all congregated in one city.

      Coca leaves actually taste pretty good, at least to me. Many don't like the bitter taste of it. It's actually illegal in many countries, 'cos people get cocaine from it. Coca tea tastes just about the same as usual English tea. Pisco on the other hand, tastes like tequila. Oh never thought of that, but I bet coca tea does help you get rid of that hangover! ;)

  5. Gordon January 3, 2010 5:34 am #

    Cusco is an amazing city, I was a week and I could know a lot of places like Sacred Valley of Incas, Machu Picchu , and the Fortress of Sacsayhuaman and Ollantaytambo. Also, the food is delicious and people great. During my time in this wonderful city I stayed in Libertador Hotel which I recommend because has an excellent service. They helped me to organize all my tours. Its website is if you want more information.

  6. Travel January 17, 2010 5:53 am #

    I’m totally with you :)

  7. Amanda March 12, 2010 8:51 am #

    Oh South America! I just cannot get enough! Fantastic site that enlightens yet inspires the desire to travel to this wonderful part of the world.

    Well done

  8. waitinginthedark March 26, 2010 10:36 am #

    Awesome photos, Nellie! I love Peru. One of the most beautiful countries I visited so far…

    • admin March 26, 2010 8:02 pm #

      Thanks Simon, yes Peru definitely is one of the most beautiful places I’ve seen, especially its people and culture. I hope to go back someday, especially to the Northern parts of the country.

  9. Josh Johnson June 7, 2010 11:23 am #

    Beautiful photos, and a great summary of Cusco.

    I was traveling through Peru, only intending to stay in Cusco for a few days.. and ended up staying for several months. Besides the freezing rain in the winter, it’s a nice place to chill out for a while. Great people, super friendly and welcoming.

  10. Rafael August 5, 2011 12:24 am #

    Great review of Cusco, visit Andean WIngs Boutique Hotel, it is a great place to stay!

  11. @Velcro108 March 11, 2012 10:27 am #

    I was just there this time last week, eating a grilled alpaca steak, overlooking the plaza. What a great city. Fortunately, the altitude didn't affect me, but then again, I was sipping on the warm coca tea nonstop. I highly recommend Pariwana Hostel for inexpensive accommodations and a great way to meet other travelers from around the world.

  12. mike April 8, 2012 4:12 am #

    Love, Love, LOVE Peru. We took a horse ride up above Cusco, the ruins were so amazing.

  13. Neacsu Rodica November 26, 2012 9:39 am #

    great photos! some of them are so funny

  14. Diana April 30, 2013 7:11 am #

    I really enjoyed this post. I'm going to Peru this summer and i am really nervous about it.

  15. curso de aerografia July 4, 2013 12:14 pm #

    86657 64718you might have a fantastic weblog here! would you wish to make some invite posts on my weblog? 594512

  16. nieruchomości legnica July 4, 2013 2:38 pm #

    How to consult them in at the airport, prompt? Should you
    must scratch that itch, wash your hands, and then administer hand sanitizer.

  17. Artesanatos August 8, 2013 11:17 am #

    Peru is a fantastic place to visit! Also, the peruvian food is awesome! I totally recommend!

  18. Renuka October 24, 2013 7:21 am #

    Cuzco Sounds like an interesting city with so much to offer – trails, culture and food! Lovely pictures!

  19. wikipolis January 29, 2014 6:54 am #

    You had altitude sickness? I like costumes of the natives, i think is a beautiful country.

  20. rochii pret February 3, 2014 8:18 am #

    I like peruvian food and also the culture. I never visited Peru, but i'ld love to! :)

  21. Chirieac Bogdan February 18, 2014 5:12 am #

    A really special country, with beautiful people. I hope I`ll visit it again someday :)


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