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Cusco: 24 hours in South America’s oldest city

While filming in South America, Tour the World’s host Adam Ford had the luxury of a free day in captivating Cusco – the former capital of the Incan empire and one of the continent’s most intriguing cities. He enlisted local guide David Arce Nunez to show him around.

Cusco casts a spell over all who visit. South America’s oldest city – and one of its most significant archaeological sites – has much to offer visitors whether they're staying for just a day or a whole month. The city is packed with historic churches, monasteries, monuments and museums to explore by day. And at night Cusco offers a fabulous dining scene and exciting nightlife. 


9am: First stop of the day – a visit to the lively Wanchaq Market for a taste of the amazing fresh produce available in Cusco. This is also a chance to learn more about the Peruvian superfoods craze sweeping the world – grains and legumes grown in the unique micro-climates of the highlands that are packed with antioxidants.



11am: We make our way to the centre of the old city – the Plaza de Armas – with its gorgeous colonnades. The plaza is also home to the imposing Cusco Cathedral, constructed by the Spanish on the site of an Inca palace around the mid 1500s. Entry costs 25 Soles – well worth the price for the collection of colonial art inside, including a replica of Da Vinci’s The Last Supper depicting Jesus and the apostles dining on guinea pig – Cusco’s traditional dish for special occasions.



12: 45pm: Time for a coffee and David recommends Café Ayllu in Marquez Street – a Cusco institution. In the plaza, head for the eclectic Cappuccino Café directly opposite the Cathedral. The entrance is hard to find amongst the tour touts working this side of the square, but persevere.  Go through the small door on the square and up the stairs to the left. Snaffle one of the balcony tables for great views.



1.15pm: There’s no shortage of museums in Cusco. The Mueso Machu Picchu Casa Concha is a relatively new option, housing a collection of relics from Machu Picchu that were taken back to the USA by Hiram Bingham following his discovery of the overgrown citadel in 1911. They’ve recently been returned to Peru.


2.30pm: Time for a late lunch and David suggests any of the small traditional restaurants along Pampa del Castillo, for the chance to try chi charon – pieces of deep fried pork, or cuy – better known as roast guinea pig, which is served whole on a platter. The meat is delicious – delicately flavoured with rosemary and basil.



4pm: Time for another museum visit, with a difference. The newly opened Museo del Pisco is dedicated to Peru’s national drink (bordering on national obsession), which generally comes in the form of the ubiquitous – and very delicious – Pisco Sour cocktail.


6pm: At night Cusco’s wonderful plazas and squares come alive. Take a stroll down the narrow cobbled streets between San Blas and the main square, or for stunning views of the city lights head for the hills at the foot of the Cristo Bianco statue.


8.30pm: There are hundreds of restaurants to choose from in Cusco. We try Casa Qrikancha, just off Plazoleta Santo Domingo. Peruvian cuisine is among the world’s best – an exciting fusion of influences. And while the bistro’s interior is a little bland the food is excellent. Try the Carpaccio de alpaca – thinly sliced alpaca served in Goldenberry and Dijon vinaigrette, and the sautéed beef tenderloin. The Trufas de Chocolate is incredible.


10.30pm: Choose any of the small bars along Cuesta de San Blas for a nightcap. Salut!


Tour the World’s The Best of South America (Part 2) screens Wednesday July 23 at 8pm AEST on free-to-air digital channel 74 4ME. For more information, visit



Adam travelled as a guest of Evergreen Tours.


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Written by: Adam Ford
Published: 21 July 2014

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