Cusco’s San Pedro Market is famous for its fresh produce, unique handicrafts, and unexpected dishes. These three things all come together in one must-visit place: San Pedro Market. Though just a few blocks from the Plaza de Armas, walking into Cusco´s San Pedro Market feels like stepping into a whole other world, with something to discover around every corner. Here, you´ll find seemingly endless rows of fresh fruit, produce, and herbs, all locally grown in the nearby Sacred Valley, fresh baked bread, giant wheels of local cheese, and every type of meat you can imagine. (Seriously…every. Don´t be surprised to see a cow´s head on display, a donkey´s snout, a guinea pig, or a jar of pickled snakes!)
The constant hustle and bustle of vendors trying to attract your attention, shoppers briskly moving from booth to booth, and men walking down the aísles with giant sacks of vegetables may seem a bit overwhelming, but take a deep breath and enjoy the organized chaos that is the San Pedro market!
First, make sure you have plenty of energy to browse the market by fueling up with a freshly made juice. As you enter the market, you´ll see (and hear) a row of ¨juice ladies¨, more lovingly called caseras by the locals, seated behind blenders and surrounded by fresh fruit eager to blend you up a custom juice. Choose a stall, take a seat, and for just a few soles, any casera will be happy to combine any mixture of fruits and vegetables you´d like into a tasty juice.
Once you´re hydrated, take your time browsing the stalls, and if things aren´t too busy, stop and have a chat with one of the friendly vendors. Don´t be afraid to try the many exotic fruits, like the sweet and juicy granadilla seeds, the custard-like chirimoya inside its tough green skin, or the capulí, a small, red cherry-like fruit.
After buying some local fruit, walk around and try to count how many different types of potatoes you can see. (Hint: there are over 4,000 types of potatoes grown in Peru, so don´t be surprised if you lose count!) If you´re feeling light headed from the Cusco altitude, you can buy a sack of coca leaves for just 1 sol. Add some hot water to the leaves to brew a tasty, altitude sickness-fighting tea, or grab a handful of manzanilla flowers to brew your own calming chamomile tea, the perfect treat at the end of a long day.
Once you´ve experienced all the sights, sounds, and smells of Cusco´s San Pedro Market and have worked up an appetite, it´s time to treat yourself to some lunch. The market is full of little booths where you can pull up a bench alongside the locals for a delicious (and wallet friendly!) lunch, ranging from the popular caldo de gallina (hen soup), to fried fish and breaded chicken. You can enjoy this tasty and authentic lunch from anwhere between 5 to 15 soles, and it is a nice change of pace from the bustling tourist restaurants in the plaza.
Or, if you´d prefer to enjoy your lunch outside in the fresh Cusco air, head to the bread aisle, where you can buy 5 rolls for just 1 sol (about 30 cents), a few slices of Peruvian cheese, and a giant, delicious palta (avocado) ¨por hoy día¨, meaning it´ll be perfectly ripe today. Pack all the ingredients in your backpack and hike up to the Temple of the Moon ruins just above the city, where you can enjoy a tasty and easy picnic lunch with a killer view.
Every time you visit the San Pedro market, you´re sure to discover something you´ve never seen before, so don´t be afraid to dive in, try new things, and shop like a local!