5 green, fair and local choices for travelers in Cusco | The city of Cusco is a hotspot for touristic activity in Peru. Being the ancient center of the Inca Empire, it today combines culture, history and a modern way of living in itself. Every year around 1 million tourists come to the city of Cusco to take tours of the famous ruins, to visit museums, to explore Machu Picchu by train or doing a trek, and they enjoy the local, colourful festivals. However, the concerned tourist won’t fail to notice that awareness of nature conservation, emission reduction and waste management has not yet reached everybody here in Peru. So, how can we behave as a responsible tourist in order to comfort a little of our “green consciousness”?
Here are 5 opportunities where you can make the better choice during your stay in Cusco: 5 green, fair and local choices for travelers in Cusco.
Eating out in Cusco
Cusco is famous for its cultural richness and historic sites, and it is getting more and more famous for its cuisine, too! By that I don’t mean the McDonalds and Kentucky Fried Chicken restaurants you can find at Plaza de Armas, but the local, Peruvian restaurants that offer fresh and delicious food.
As much as the Peruvian kitchen loves meat, you can surely find more and more lovely vegetarian and vegan places to eat at!
Blue Alpaca Restaurant,
Calle Choquechaca nro. 278, second floor
(Between Plaza de Armas and Plaza San Blas)
Here, vegetarian food is served as well as traditional Peruvian options.
Mr. Soup, Calle Saphi,
(Extension of Calle Plateros from Plaza de Armas)
Serves a delicious variety of freshly prepared soups. A good alternative for a cold and rainy day in Cusco. Soup or “crema” is an important part of the Peruvian diet.
Santa Catalina Angosta, Cusco
(Plaza Santa Catalina, close to Plaza de Armas)
This restaurant uses only organic products to prepare their delicious food. They buy all their products from local suppliers that preserve sustainable agriculture and breeding practices.
BARS AND CAFES in Cusco
Cusco has not been spared by the coffee company Starbucks. A lot of tourists and travellers chose to go to here; Starbucks in Cusco is centrally located in the Plaza de Armas and it promises high quality coffee. In a coffee-producing country (Peru is fifth place in the export of Arabica coffee) however, there should be equally (if not better) alternatives to have a good coffee while supporting local vendors. There are!
Café Eusebio & Manolo
Carmen Alto 116, Cusco (at Plaza San Blas)
Calle Almagro, 133, Cusco
(Between Plaza de Armas and Quricancha)
Calle Choquechaca 229, Cusco
(Between Plaza San Blas and Plaza de Armas)
GETTING AROUND IN CUSCO
The traffic in Cusco might seem quite chaotic to a tourist´s eye at first. Most cars seem to be unregistered –not to mention the exhaust filters to reduce emission. So how is it possible to turn on our sense for global warming and do something to reduce emissions even when we are travelling?
The first option is to simply walk short distances during the day instead of taking a taxi (those are probably the worst climate-sinners I can think of).
If you know where you are headed and feel a little adventurous, another option can be to take the bus! Did you know the city does actually have a local bus system? It just takes a little practice to get used to it.
The bus system in Cusco is not a government-run program but rather consists of dozens of privately-owned bus companies that all operate a separate route.
Each company and the routes have a name that both are posted in nice big letters or in aggravatingly small letters on their windshields. With the advent of large buses on most of the lines, descriptions of destinations on the sides of the busses have also been added. But to be safe just quickly ask the young male who is most likely going to scream all the next stops while the bus is stopping. You will also pay him the small fee (in the city 0.50 – 0.70 Soles) when you get off the bus or during the bus ride. It is also acceptable to ask the bus to make a personal stop.
- Ask if the bus is going where you want
- Get in
- Pay fee
- Let the bus-driver or his assistant know where you want to get off
- Get off (and pay if you haven’t paid yet)
BUYING SOUVENIRS IN CUSCO
Does it seems a little odd to you that most sweaters and jewelry you can buy for souvenirs in Cusco are sold in markets that say “manufacture” and yet most of them look exactly the same? While any purchase helps local Peruvians, some are truly handcrafted and provide more direct value to the people,, their families and their livelihood than others. Here are some of your best options for buying souvenirs in Cusco.
Center for Traditional Textiles of Cusco
603 Avenida El Sol, a main street leading to Plaza de Armas
Here you can buy a great variety of woven textiles, like sweaters, hats, gloves, blankets, guitar straps… This centre is a non-profit organization that promotes and preserves the Andean textile traditions. It serves as a fair-trade dealer and thus supports local weaving communities.
Andean Magic Art Jewelry
Parque España E-3 Ucchullo Grande, east of Plaza de Armas
Selling and manufacturing jewelry in Peruvian designs, this shop is dedicated to train and hire people from rural areas. The trainees learn sustainable artisan skills in an eight-year program. They also offer tours through the workshop for tourists where you can see the manufacturer work!
SHOPPING FOR GROCERIES
If you aren´t just passing through Cusco, you might have the chance to cook for yourself. It would be better to avoid the food at the local markets and instead cook in your apartment or hostel´s kitchen. Although eating meals in the markets should be avoided, Cusco has three centrally located markets that offer locally grown, fresh products for you!
San Pedro market
Close to Plaza San Francisco, going through the archway.
This big market has already reached the status of a tourist attraction. It offers fruit, vegetables, juices, cheese and touristic souvenirs.
San Blas market
Close to Calle Lucrepata and Plaza San Blas
Smaller market that offers fruit, vegetables, cheese and fresh juices
Wanchaq market Close to Avenida Tullumayo (Parallel street of Avenida del Sol)
Big market that offers not only fruits, vegetables and cheese but clothing, kitchen supplies and probably all you need 😉
It is recommended, however, to buy meat at the supermarket.
And, don’t forget to bring a reusable bag to save some plastic bags 😉
We hope you enjoyed our 5 green, fair and local choices for travelers in Peru.
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Thanks to Meike Zimmermann (Cusco, 2016)