When tourists head to Cusco, the majority stay in the historic center because it’s easy and convenient. Since I based myself in the city for a while at an Airbnb, I stayed in a more residential area called Wanchaq.
Wanchaq is a Quechua word. However, I can’t find the meaning of it, and I haven’t found anyone who can speak the language.
Proximity-wise, Wanchaq borders the historic center, so it usually takes me 30 minutes to walk to Plaza de Armas. There are also plenty of buses to get you around the city. The Moovit app is a great way to navigate around Cusco.
Plaza Tupac Amaru
Plaza Tupac Amaru is the hub of Wanchaq. On the weekdays, the area is open with trees and plenty of benches for people-watching. On Saturdays, the plaza becomes a big market. As this market caters to locals, you will not find any alpaca sweaters here.
A food court called Feria Gastronómica is located across the street from the plaza. This food court is only open on the weekends and holidays during lunchtime, and they offer many unique dishes that cannot be found in the historic center.
Chupe de camarones is a Peruvian shrimp soup. Each region in Peru has their own interpretation of this soup. Ridiculously large one-clawed shrimp come in the Wanchaq version of this dish. One massive bowl cost 18 PEN ($5.41) and comes with cheese and seaweed.
I also wanted to try another dish called kankacho ayavireño, oven-baked mutton with boiled potatoes and moraya, freeze-dried potato. Sadly, I had no room in my stomach to sample some.
And for those willing to try a Peruvian delicacy, there are plenty of stalls that sell cuy, guinea pig, cooked several ways. When you come to this place, come hungry. The portion sizes are massive.
This mercado is the typical local market you can find anywhere in South America. However, it feels more authentic compared to Mercado San Pedro in the historic center as it is not flooded with tourist stalls. You can pick up fruit, vegetables, an assortment of cheese, hardware tools, and other random stuff.
If you’re looking for an alternative to the historic center of Cusco, take a trip to Wanchaq and be like a Cuscaño.