ISA students on a hill in Cusco, Peru.

The Cusco Bucket List

By Alan Thompson, Site Specialist & Kaitlyn Webster, Marketing Associate

Whether you’re studying in Cusco with ISA or simply visiting, the ISA Cusco staff recommend you take advantage of the sights and activities that make the city truly unique. Sample local delicacies, explore ancient Inca ruins, and immerse yourself in the rich culture of Cusco. For more travel inspiration, check out this bucket list of things to do in Cusco curated by ISA Cusco staff.

Qorikancha in Cusco, Peru
Qorikancha in Cusco, Peru

1) Contemplate Qorikancha

You may have heard of Machu Picchu, the abandoned Incan citadel nestled high up in the Andes, but the Temple of the Sun, located in the religious complex of Qorikancha, is considered the most sacred site in the Incas’ religion. The Temple of the Sun was known as the “Court of Gold” due to the fact that it was once decorated with 700 gold-plated walls before the conquistadors looted Cusco of its gold in 1533. This prime example of the Incas’ former splendor and masterful masonry combined with its accessibility make it a great destination to add to your Cusco Bucket List. You can find Qorikancha at the Plazoleta Santo Domingo where it costs just 10 soles (about $3) to visit these famous Inca ruins.

2) Try “Lomo Saltado”

If you’re looking for a traditional Peruvian dish to try, look no further than the beloved Lomo Saltado. This local delicacy is a stir-fry dish that typically contains thinly sliced strips of marinated steak, onions, tomatoes, and french fries and is served with rice. Needless to say, it’s a favorite among ISA Cusco students and the perfect introduction to the local cuisine. If you don’t eat meat, opt for one of the city’s vegetarian restaurants instead.  

Two girls dining at the Limbus Restobar in Cusco, Peru.
Taking in the views at the Limbus Restobar.

3) Take in the View at Limbus Restobar

ISA Cusco Student Services Coordinator Gabriela Espinoza Peña recommends you visit Limbus Restobar if you want the best view of Cusco, not to mention ample Peruvian and international food options and a diverse beverage selection. “Watching the sunset over the city of Cusco from the balcony is a must,” says Gabriela, who added that you can leave a lock on the balcony and ask for a wish with someone special.

4) Try Your Hand at Handball

Handball, or “frontón,” is a popular Peruvian sport for people of all ages. You can try it for yourself at Parque Zonal, which is just a 15-minute walk from the ISA Cusco Study Center. The entrance fee is one Peruvian Sol, and it’s just five Peruvian Soles (about $1.50 USD) to rent a frontón court for the hour. Parque Zonal facilities also include a basketball court, soccer field, swimming pool, and a running track. “Fronton is a sport that works all the muscles of the body, and increases mental agility,” says ISA Cusco Resident Director Andy Osorio Mollenedo, who says his father brought him and his brother to play there since he was a kid.   

Locals in Cusco, Peru.
ISA students conversing with the locals after their Quechua class.

5) Catch Up With the Locals in Quechua

The Quechua people are often considered direct descendants of the Inca but are in fact any and all speakers of the Quechua languages, which originated among the indigenous people of South America. The language of the Quechua is considered “the people’s language,” and ISA students have the opportunity to take classes to learn the language of Quechua during their time in Cusco. Speaking with the locals in their native language can be a rewarding and challenging experience that most tourists will never be able to cross off their bucket lists. Immersing yourself in the Quechua culture and learning to speak the people’s language is a great way to get the authentic Cusco experience.

Don‘t forget to add to your Cusco bucket list! While the above must-dos are staff and ISA alum favorites, each person will discover their own café, panaderia or music venue that speaks to them. And if you need more ideas, feel free to reach out to the ISA Cusco resident staff for help!

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