Location: Cusco // Theme: Tips & Insiders // Readtime: 7min
Before traveling your first time to Cusco, the big question you ask yourself is “what are the places to visit in Cusco?”. It’s like for every new destination you’re about to visit...especially with only a limited amount of time and tons of things to do, Cusco doesn’t make it easy for us.
And of course, alternative attractions are on the top of our list: something, to really feel and experience the place and not being with touristic tours, large groups, and one guide you don’t get a word of as he stands too far away except “let’s hurry up, we need to get to the next spot”.
We are not a flock of sheep (but we would like to see a flock of llamas!).
We are here to enjoy and experience Cusco!
Thus, let me show you a few attractions of Cusco and nontouristic spots that might help you to make your visit to Peru unforgettable.
Next, to our beloved Machu Picchu and other impressive ruins of the Sacred Valley, mother nature made several gifts to Cusco, a flora and fauna that leaves you breathless.
1 of 4: Admire the crystalline water of Humantay Lake
It was like seeing two mountains, fascinated by the mirrored Salkantay Mountain that piles up himself like a giant behind that beautiful lake (14,100ft - 4,300m asl). Not even 3 years ago, this route was discovered as a one day trek from Cusco, and before only visible from far when enjoying the alternative Inca Trail, the Salkantay trek. So until now, only a few people had the possibility to visit and experience this magical place. It’s fascinating how many natural beauties are around Cusco and still get discovered. Many trekking-lovers who visit Peru make use of those short hikes to get used to the altitude and enjoy other incredible places next to the famous Inca Trail and Machu Picchu, as we travelers should! From beginner to expert, with only 1.5 hours this trek is for everyone.
What’s best for this place to visit in Cusco? Not being “labeled” as a touristic spot yet! Thus, you share this incredible moment with only a few groups and travelers as I did, still feeling the real magic of Humantay and perfect to make some nice pictures.
If that was already enough, the next beauty is the most recent and still undiscovered place. A place for exploorer who like a short hike and see untouched nature.
2 of 4: Discover the Ananiso Canyon and its ancient local Ananaiso Community
I opened my eyes and had this deep (150m foot) Ananiso canyon in front of my feet. As one of the deepest canyons of South America, this place can be described in one word = incredible. Already on our way down there, in the South of Cusco, we passed several small villages and had some views over landscapes you can’t imagine, you have to see them. Hungry to see more we climbed up to enter the place where you’re about to have this magical view over the Canyon itself.
Feeling how the fresh air crossed my face I saw Roger with a huge smile, knowing that I was very impressed with what I just saw.
“How many travelers have seen this place this year so far, Roger?”
This should describe how exclusive and undiscovered this place still is. And that’s not all, on our way to the local ananiso community "Añas ñishu", we saw several llamas enjoying the sun on the edge of the canyon.
Arriving there, was like landing on Mars. A for us unknown culture that welcomes you. As if those people would have never seen a foreigner before.
Same for me, seeing those people you usually see on pictures of National Geographic photographers finally in real life. Fascinating, two cultures, traditional and modern, so interested in knowing more about each other like two dogs that meet up on the street and start to get to know each other. An impressive story I have to share with you another time.
My next candidate is one only a few hundred travelers have seen yet, even as his brother is filled with hundreds of tourists every day. I’m talking about…
3 of 4: Hiking the alternative Rainbow Mountain
I bet I know what you’re thinking right now: “Visiting the Rainbow Mountain is really not unusual as an attraction for Cusco”. And you’re right; the usual Rainbow Mountain Trek is already the new star of Cusco everybody wants to see. And here comes the problem: everybody. It’s a mountain overcrowded with groups of tourists. That’s not what I want to see. Neither do I like the 3-4 hour hike there. Hiking of 3-4 hours is no problem for me, but with an altitude close to the Mount Everest camp even I prefer to keep it slow. Luckily there’s a solution for everything: The Alternative Rainbow Mountain Trek to a different mountain with an incredible view over the mountain chain. The perfect non-touristy alternative to the usual one. If it’s passing by the red valley, a huge part of the mountain chain with red ironed stones; seeing some wild llamas grazing on the fields next to the mountains; or a friendly “hola” coming from a Peruvian lady on her way to her village passing miles to get there. Only some of the impressive moments you might experience on your way to the top, 17,000 feet.
As you might see and know, those spots are at a high altitude and traveling in Cusco is well known for its challenges. Yes, I’m talking about the altitude changes and what comes with it, the soroche = altitude sickness. That’s why it is important to know how to avoid the altitude sickness.
Now we covered 3 interesting places to visit in Cusco, new striving stars and I’m sure that you won’t miss the chance to be one of the first travelers there. But, there are not only locations that are still very unknown to travelers...also the way how well-known locations are discovered is an option. Let me tell you a bit of this cultural and gastronomic experience I had with Mariagracia.
4 of 4: Paint in the Sacred Valley or Sacsayhuaman
It didn't even search for an alternative attraction to do in Cusco at this point in time.
But a close friend who lives in Cusco told me about it...long story short, I found myself straight in the Sacred Valley, enjoying the sun, cheese, and wine while painting my fascinating view over the Valley and the mountains that couldn’t be more epic. Not only did we paint but Maria gave us some great lessons about the history and culture of the Valley itself. Thus, a perfect mix of gastronomy, arts, and culture. Who can say that this Sacred Valley painting in her or his living room is made by her- or himself?! I do and maybe you’re motivated too, experiencing the Sacred Valley differently, especially as this experience takes not even half a day. So plenty time to still visit some ruins afterward as we did.
I could continue sharing my stories while discovering those beauties, experiencing what others are pursuing and waiting for to enjoy too. Well, I hope I could inspire you to explore Cusco in a slightly different way and to enjoy your Peruvian adventure as you desire!
And maybe you have a specific attraction you’d like to share with our exploor-community and me, something that’s off the beaten paths. I welcome your comment ☺
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