Alternative Tourism in Cusco in 2021
Having already written about must see day trips from Cusco in Peru in this article, this text deals with those readers who are looking for more alternative experiences in and around the city.
It is true that the Machu Picchu tourism machine is extremely influential as most people are ultimately here to visit this UNESCO wonder of the world. There is nothing wrong with this, but it is often a nice breath of fresh air to do something completely different than the Cusco ‘must see’ sites.
Outlook for 2021
As of late January 2021, Peru and Cusco are still open for tourism, only requiring a negative COVID test for entry. The tourism industry is desperate for visitors and so the current offer is outstripping demand by a large margin.
This means that this year might be a unique opportunity to visit while avoiding large crowds while taking advantages of cheaper prices on hotels and tours in Cusco.
Also, it appears that the city’s vibe has completely changed since COVID and now feels much more local, like the vintage Cusco of the 1970s. This might be a unique opportunity to see Cusco and its surroundings in this unique light.
Water activities in Cusco
The rafting, kayaking, SUP scenes in the sacred rivers of the region of Cusco have been steadily growing in popularity but still remain relatively unknown to most tourists. Rafting is probably the most accessible water activity given the availability of rapids in the nearby Urubamba river in the Sacred Valley.
Several tour companies operate these water activities and is a good way of seeing the natural beauty of the area around Cusco. I have also heard of other tour companies offering multi-day rafting expeditions on the mythical Apurimac River which is totally under-rated and well-off the beaten track.
The must-see real Cusco
If the places you want to visit in Cusco include the local slums (‘pueblos jovenes’ or ‘favelas’) where the working class Cusqueños live, alternativeperu.org offer half-day tours in association with several NGOs so that you can see what life in Cusco is really like outside the historical center.
They let you mingle with local men and women and explain the social and environmental challenges that are a must see for anyone wanting to see the real Cusco.
Swimming lengths at 3600m
Another alternative thing to do in Cusco for any swimmers out there who would like to experience swimming their regular daily lengths like a Cusqueño could visit one of Cusco’s to do municipal swimming pools which have partially opened in the city.
If you are happy getting changed outdoors in the cold for this water activity in Cusco, this could be your chance to set you swimming at altitude free-style record. Trust me, when every gasp of air carries only a portion of the oxygen at sea-level it makes it much tougher.
A guinea pig feast
Guinea pig is a delicacy in Cusco as these rodents were domesticated by pre-columbian cultures for food and manure hundreds of years ago.
You can find it served in most restaurants in the historic center where most of the tourism in Cusco is concentrated, but you will get it nicely served, probably as a fillet which is not normally how it is eaten.
If you want the real deal and want a fully-roasted guinea pig without any make-up, head up the hill to ‘El Moqueguano’ restaurant. It’s not fancy by any means, but its the top pick for local families looking to feast on the rodent while sinking a few beers or Inka Colas, all for a portion of the price.
Other things do to in Cusco
Other unorthodox tourist attractions in Cusco (Peru) include quad biking in the surrounding ‘pampas’, going to the many markets like ‘San Pedro’ and ‘Wanchaq’, attending Ayahuasca or San Pedro ceremonies in Pisac or perhaps simply taking the tourist tram from the Plaza de Armas.
If you want to see the alternative side of tourism in Machu Picchu, it is also worth staying with us in Aguas Calientes for a unique Machu Picchu experience. We offer traditional vow renewals, spiritual encounters as well as luxury banquets and traditional spa treatments.