Travel tips

Published on May 9th, 2014 | by Amanda Linardon


8 things to look out for at Cusco’s San Pedro market

Read time: a bit over 3 minutes

‘Wander through the bustling market to get to the heart of the city’. This is said so often that it’s become one of the top travel clichés. But there’s a reason for this and that reason is that, well, it’s true. Markets are an awesome place for tourists to visit because their sole purpose is to provide the freshest produce for the locals. So you actually get to see everyday life; nothing’s been prefabricated for your viewing pleasure.

There’s probably no better market to experience everyday Peruvian life than Cusco’s San Pedro Market. Eyes open, ears alert, nose unblocked, tastebuds tingling? Good. Here are the top eight things that will assault your senses, and perhaps even your sensibilities, at San Pedro Market.

1. The animal heads

The meat section is not for the squeamish but that’s why it’s so awesome. Not only will you see whole animal heads staring back at you but you’ll get a good whiff of a variety of offal, snout and plenty of blood. There’re all the usual suspects too but this stuff is the best – nothing goes to waste.

2. The fruit juice stands


Image courtesy of pululante, Flickr

The drinks you’ll get here taste amazing, and that’s a promise. There are at least two dozen identical stalls so after you do eeny, meeny, miny, moe pull up a plastic stool, take a seat and choose any fruit you want to see blended into your juice. Go crazy – mix a banana and a papaya with a beetroot, chuck in some mint, sprinkle in some carob powder. The possibilities are endless. And delicious.

3. The herbal remedy guy


Photo courtesy of Dianne Muldoon

If the animal bits have made you a little nauseous head over to the herbal remedy guy and tell him that you’re feeling a little under the weather. He’ll concoct a magical mix of herbs into a funky looking drink that will cure all of your ails. You’ll have to block your nose to drink this one and it might make you run to the bathroom almost immediately, but you’ll be cured. Worth it.

4. The chocolate


Photo courtesy of Amanda Linardon

You don’t often think of chocolate coming from Peru but it sure does. You can pick up a big block of dark chocolate to grate into boiling milk to make one delicious hot chocolate beverage. The best thing about the chocolate is the awesome vintage wrappers covering it featuring drawings of exotic ladies beckoning you to eat.

5. The soup stalls


Photo courtesy of Dianne Muldoon

If you’re up for something a little more legit then take a seat with the locals and get a big bowl of steaming mystery soup to slurp on. Some of the soups are simply chicken with noodles but in others you’ll see the aforementioned nose to tail of various animals. We’ve heard the frog soup is popular.

6. The bread, the cheese and the olives


Photo courtesy of Amanda Linardon

Grab one of the big flat breads, some of the soft Andean cheese and the ridiculously plump olives and make a delicious sandwich to munch on as you walk around the market. Perfect.

7. The purple Corn


Photo courtesy of Amanda Linardon

Not only purple corn of course – there is every vegetable and herb grown in Peru in this market – but how cool is purple corn? I’m not sure where else you can see purple corn so frequently and it looks awesome. Plus, it’s what chicha is made from and chicha is delicious – a fragrant purple drink boiled from purple corn, spices and sometimes pineapple.

8. The crazy frog lady


Image courtesy of Kathy, Flickr

We’ve left the best till last. This characteristic lady sells live frogs that sit in a plastic box and will prepare them for you – y’know, to eat – on the spot. But she’s also pretty cranky. If you get too close, don’t look directly at her for too long or, God forbid, point your camera at her, she will get extremely vocal and might even start chasing you. You have been warned.

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About the Author

I love eating and I love to travel so my favourite activity is eating on my travels. Sampling American BBQ on a road trip through America’s south-west, sweating into my pho in a hole-in-the-wall eatery in Hanoi, burying meat under the earth and waiting for it to slow cook on coals in Peru and being overwhelmed by the number of side dishes that come with a simple bibimbap in South Korea have been my international food highlights. I’m Geckos PR Manager which means I can talk about travel all day without feeling like I’m boring my friends half to death. Just don’t tell me there’s a crisis.

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