The San Pedro street market in Cusco has gone from a relatively unknown location within the city to a “must see” destination during a visit to the ancient city. The market to the locals is not just a place to buy groceries or to go for a nice bowl of sheep head soup, it is a way of life.
The San Pedro market is located very near to the center of Cusco, just a few blocks and a 15 minute walking distance from the main square or a 3-5 minute cab ride from your hotel depending on where you are staying. Once you arrive at the outside gates of the market you are instantly transported to a very “old cusco” way of life. The smells of local fruits, vegetables and several other products is abundant as soon as you step into the establishment.
Depending on where you enter the market you will step into a different section and where you step into the market depends on what exactly you are looking for. The San Pedro Market has very well defined sections where each specializes in certain type of products. For instance if you are looking for something to eat, you can enter through the cooked food sections, here you will find dishes like Sheep’s head soup, chanfainita (beef lung stew), friend fish, ceviche, potato soup, etc. You will find dishes which cater to meat eaters as well as the vegetarians visiting the market. Expect to spend anywhere from 3-15 soles for a very well served meal ($1- $5 us).
If you walk a few feet you will find yourself in the “juice section”, here you can order a juice made with fresh local produce including fruits and vegetables native to this part of Peru as well as the typical oranges, carrots, spinach, banana, etc. we usually add to out blended juices. If you ask for an “especial” they will basically make a juice with all the fruits and vegetables they have, this is usually enough for 5 glasses so make sure to bring company. The price for juice here ranges from $0.50 to $3.00.
Now let’s get into actually buying produce in the San Pedro market. There is a literal plethora of fruits and vegetables you can buy here such as Pitaya (also known as dragon fruit but sweeter), local papaya, maize, potatoes (there are over 2000 varieties of potato and Peru is said to be the original home of the potato) and much more. One of the more interesting aspects of purchasing produce here is that you are probably purchasing directly from the people that farmed it. There is also a section full of meats such as beef, lamb, guinea pig (yes, guinea pig), chicken, duck, etc.
When you head over to the spice and dry food sections you will find legumes, quinoa (farmed locally), Kiwicha, local pepper, pink salt brought from the Maras region ($1/lbs) and many more little treasures. Coca leaves are also abundant here as well as coca candy, coca chocolate and coca tea among other coca leaf based products.
Lastly there are even stands focusing on magical good luck charms, potions, lotions, dry llama fetuses (yes there are some local ceremonies that use those) and several other products such as alpaca sweaters, mittens, scarfs, t- shirts, ceremonial masks and the list can go on and on. I recommend going around the whole market before purchasing anything just so you get a good idea of what is offered. Once you do that you can go back to your favorite stands and shot away. No matter what you are looking for or if you just want to take interesting pictures of locals doing what locals do the San Pedro street market is a certain stop for any incoming travelers. Make sure you to include this market into your Peru tour package!