The fashion police would not approve of the plethora of sweaters with tassles and pictures of llamas, but it is possible to get a beautiful real alpaca sweater that doesn’t make you look like a cartoon tourist. Baby alpaca is just about the softest most wonderful wool and if you pay a bit more, you can get the genuine article in a range of modern, stylish designs.
Of all types and styles. There are mass produced colorful textiles, antique weavings using natural dyes and some fabulous, complex modern takes. Good places to find out about the various pieces of clothing, the significance of the patterns and the skills involved, is the Inca Museum or the Centro de Textiles Tradicionales del Cusco.
Silverware is the specialty of Cusco and Peru in general. Cusco is a great place to find some fine, hand crafted unique pieces. Ilaria has some exquisite original pieces often inspired by Inca designs. For more contemporary, chunky designs Jewely Esma in San Blas is a good choice. Chimu has funky pieces inspired by Chimu cluture and Spondilus uses gemstones in a stylish, sophisticated way.
The cool San Blas district has a growing selection of shops selling individually made creations. There are some cool funky Inca inspired T shirts or shops like Hilo whose hip, alternative creations are tailor made to fit perfectly.
Body and Soul
When you hear of the Cusco School of Art, this isn’t the myriad paintings of Andean children and Cusco scenes on sale around the main square. It refers to the local Andean take on the Spanish style of the 16th Century. It’s characterized by religious icons, gold and oddities like guinea pig at the last supper. There are plenty of examples on view but if you prefer your art more modern, local artist Elena Mendoza Altamirano’s labour of love is the Fractal Dragon Gallery. Housed in a beautifully restored colonial mansion, the gallery displays the best of local up and coming Cusco artists.
Don’t get put off by the touts offering massages. This isn’t the whole story as there are plenty of affordable and professional spa opportunities in Cusco and around. A local characteristic is the combination of spa treatments with Andean rituals of purification and the use of local herbs in therapies. The uninspiring location of Yin Yang in the shopping center on Av Sol is deceiving: they are massage pros and are happy to come to the hotel. Inka Spa gets great reviews for its massages and ritual treatments starting at $25. If all you really want is a bath, then head to Siluet for no-nonsense Jacuzzi and sauna.
The Sacred Valley has an increasingly wide range of places for retreats, shamanic rituals and yoga. San Blas also has some excellent yoga centers with internationally qualified teachers. “Yoga Inbound” in the Casa de Cultura on Carmen Alto do excellent Ashtanga Vinyasa classes as well as teacher training. Yoga Spirit Peru offers daily classes as well as biweekly free classes near the ruins of Sacsayuaman. Do yoga outdoors high above the city and next to a huge Inca fortress.
Stuff to Drink
Because of its position as one of the premier tourist destinations in South America there is a huge range of local and international places to eat and drink. For a taste of sophistication, Baco is THE place for a quiet glass of wine, Jack’s Café is famous, always busy and the coffee lovers favorite, for a boisterous, beery night, Paddy’s is the old Irish standard. If you prefer tea and cake, check out the cool couches at The Tea Rooms.
Lovers of all things food you can do no worse than head to the main market in San Pedro. There you’ll find all the herbs, spices, fruit and other produce that make up the hugely varied range of Peruvian cuisine. Did you know that there are over 2, 000 kinds of potato or that the tomato came from Peru?
It used to be that taking a salsa class in Cusco was an excuse for young men to chat up cute foreign girls. No longer the case, genuine and legitimate salsa schools are popping up all over the place. The non- profit Fair Salsa has a troupe of salsa professionals whose one to one instruction will help you swing those hips on the dance floor