Cusco is a city rich in culinary variety. Part of the charm of this city comes from food-oriented experiences.
From the up-market restaurants to the bustling market stalls and street-food sellers, there is always a healthy option for food and drinks. What’s more, which is not always the case in other countries, the healthiest options can be the cheapest.
One of the best ways to get to know a city is to visit the local market. Fortunately, local markets are a way of life in Peru and Cusco is home to many local markets.
The most central and frequently visited is San Pedro Market, located in San Pedro Plaza not far from the Plaza de Armas. You will experience a plethora of sights and smells when entering the market hall.
Inside you can find fresh fruits, veg, nuts, seeds, herbs, as well as souvenir stalls. There are juice stalls and food stalls, and although some question the sanitation of these local eateries, it’s still a good place to bargain for your fruits, nuts, and veg.
Asking at a few of the stalls that sell the same products will provide a good indication of price per kilo when making your purchases. Surrounding the market outside are people selling fruits and vegetables as well, usually at a slightly lower price.
As long as the fruit and veg are washed thoroughly, buying at the market is an excellent option for healthy eating and picking up healthy snacks for long treks or bus journeys.
In terms of restaurants, Cusco has plenty of vegetarian and vegan options on offer. Some restaurants offer both vegetarian and meat options, others are strictly vegetarian.
In Peru, lunchtime for the locals is the main meal of the day. There are lots of places that offer a menu del dia – a daily menu, which includes a soup, main course, drink, and sometimes a salad and dessert as well. It is by far the greatest value for money, considering that local places don’t hold back on portion size.
It is worth asking at each restaurant if they have a menu option, although most will display a board outside stating what the menu of the day is, along with prices.
Vegetarian Restaurants in Cusco
Green Point is one of the highly-recommended vegetarian restaurants in Cusco. There are two branches; one in San Blas (Carmen Bajo 235) and one in Plaza San Francisco, called Green Point 2.
Both are vegan, and offer a range of menu options, including a set daily menu with a soup, salad, main course, drink and dessert for 12 soles ($3.80). They also serve breakfast, fresh baked goods from the bakery, juices, burgers, and spaghetti. It is popular with locals, tourists, and expats.
Dharma, or El Olivo, as the sign once indicated, is located in Calle Pavitos (#470). It is also vegan friendly, and a great choice for a wholesome, healthy, and above all, a local experience. Come midday, there is a rush to get in and get a seat, so don’t leave it too late in the afternoon if you want all the available menu choices.
You pay at the cashier when you enter (6 soles, less than $2) and you receive a ticket, with which you can help yourself to the salad buffet. They serve a large bowl of soup, followed by a main course, with a drink and a small dessert. It’s definitely great value for money combined with an authentic local experience, not forgetting the tasty food, and particularly diverse range of vegetables in the salad buffet.
The San Blas Market also has a few fruit and veg stalls as well as stalls serving menus at breakfast and lunch. The market is open from 8am and tends to close around 5pm. Govinda Lila Restaurant Vegetariano is vegan friendly and sits in a corner of the market, serving local healthy cuisine and does a daily menu including a soup, salad, main dish, and drink for around 5 soles (less than $2).
Close to San Blas Plaza, NaturLandia is a vegetarian, vegan friendly cosy place to enjoy burgers, desserts, yogurts, juices, and smoothies. It is slightly more expensive compared to the markets, with juices starting from around 6 soles and the burgers around 8 soles. However, the vibe does encourage a vegetarian lifestyle, and highlights the benefits of healthy eating to its customers.
Working with the House of Culture in Cusco, lending economic support, NaturLandia also receives volunteers from all around the world who work there.