How do I start off a blog entry on one of my favorite cities I have ever been to? I know that is a huge statement to say but as soon as I arrived in Cusco this spell came over me that made me just fall in love. I lived here for 2 weeks and now I wish I would have stayed at least a month. This city is the gateway for any adventure you have in mind. The three types of outings I did while there was one full day trekking Rainbow Mountain, one full day seeing the entire sacred valley surrounding Cusco and of course we made our way up to Machu Pichu. But even inside the city itself there are so many markets and districts with food variations that the rest of Peru does not offer. So get ready to call this place a peruvian slice of heaven because it stole my heart.
The City of Cusco
We stayed at three different hostels during our stay but one truly had our heart that we spent 10 days at called Hookah Chill Hostel. Sadly, this hostel is now but closed but it was in the best neighborhood of Cusco called San Blas District. This district will make you instantly feel like you have found a place that you can call home. They have coffee shops, pizza shops and this amazing market that you can find lunches at for $2-$3 that include soup with a main course called the San Blas Market. Not only can you find an incredibly filling lunch but they have ladies selling juices to completely make your taste buds rejoice. We always left the market with vegetables, fruits and some snacks and never were disappointed by the food. They even have vegan and vegetarian food stalls in the market clearly advertised.
Make sure while you are in the city to take the free walking tour. Around the main Plaza De Armas you will find men in blue shirts offering free tours and your hostel will also tell you about it. Tip around $3-$5 USD for the tour since it is well worth the two hours. They will take you to a few of the markets and districts with some of the best viewpoints that I wouldn't have known about if I went to look for them myself. The biggest market that you need to check out is the San Pedro Market. This market for breakfast or lunch will be full of locals, tourists and people of all ages selling nicknacks and food galore. Don't forget in Peru bartering is a part of the culture. Locals know they can overcharge a tourist especially if they don't speak fluent Spanish. We went back to this market multiple times because I just couldn't get over the wow factor of the size of the place.
The food in Cusco is one of another magnitude compared to the rest of the country. One of the best places we ate at (besides the San Pedro Market) was a restaurant called Mr. Soups. They have many international soups and local ones that will make you want to go back for more. Another great place is La Caso Del Kebab. OH MAN. That was a great kebab. Especially at 3am when you are hungry and drunk. Besides those two restaurants I would say expand past the tourist area of the center of the city and go to the outskirts to find local lunch spots. If you don't know anything they are serving on the menu just ask the waitress for their recommendation and await the surprise! I have done that many of times and even if you don't like the meal it only cost a few dollars. One last place you need to find are little local bars called Chicharias. Confused by what that is? "Chicha is a fermented or non-fermented beverage usually derived from maize (corn). Chicha includes corn beer known as chicha de jora and non-alcoholic beverages such as chicha morada." Chicharias are places that are usually in someones home that are visable only by the fact that the only sign is a huge stick above the front door with a red bag at the end of it. That is it. So don't be alarmed just walk on in if the door is open or knock and enjoy a huge $1 beverage. I personally really enjoyed it! If you are still nervous check out my YouTube video above to see us going into one!
Sacred Valley Tour
There are so many different tours that one can do in Cusco. The first one we did for around 75 soles (not including the entrance fees) was the Sacred Valley Tour. We woke up very early around 5am to start our tour that was a 13 hour day. This tour included going to a few markets that you will have zero interest in (All for tourists, overpriced but good presents for friends and family back home if you want). Then we got to go to some sites including Pisac ,Urubamba and Ollantaytambo where you will see some incredible archeological landscape. I would say this tour was a great place to be able to see everything in one day but be prepared to feel rushed at every location. We were promised a tour guide that spoke English and Spanish but he spoke 80% Spanish and would paragraph details of sites in English that didn’t make much sense. My favorite place was the salt mines where we got to see how salt was naturally produced.
The second tour we did was the Rainbow Mountain tour! This was 65 soles to do and since it was the wet season (April 2017) it was completely muddy the entire time. My boyfriend Matt hiked the mountain like a champ as I paid another 70 soles to be able to take a horse to the top. I wish that I knew ahead of time that a poor Inca women would be pulling my horse the entire time to the top (3 hours one way) and bottom while wearing flip flops and exhausted the whole time because I wouldn’t have rode the horse if I knew. I shared my water with her but I would recommend if you want to take the horse to have snacks to give your guide. The tour started at 3am getting picked up close to our hostel and it is a 4 hour crazy drive to get where you will have breakfast (bread, jam, butter, tea and coffee). From there you will get to the bottom of the mountain and have three hours to get to the top. A lot of people struggled on this trek and fell over in the mud. But since I was on the horse I had it pretty easy. When we got to the top it was very cloudy and we would get glimpses of the beautiful rainbow mountain. This place I saw a million times on Pinterest so it was very exciting to see with my own eyes! Get ready for a lot of people around trying to get the perfect picture. But after you get your picture but your phone away and just enjoy the views around. On the way down the mountain it was raining and made it a bit miserable for everyone but once we got to the bottom and ate our lunch (rice, meat and vegetables!) we were glad we did the tour. I would have just next time did the trek along with everyone else.
That's my little tidbit about the city! You can't go to Peru and not visit this town so make sure to stick around for awhile and find your own magic there. Any questions? Always email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
5) Rainbow Mountain, Cusco, Sacred Valley
6) Machu Pichu
1) Copacabana and Isla Del Sol
2) La Paz
1) San Pedro De Atacama
4) La Serena
5) Puerto Iquazu
6) Buenos Aires