We finally, after hearing so many people praise Cusco, made it there too. From Puno we took the nightbus straight to this famous city. Cusco, once the center of the Inca empire, now the starting point for tourists to reach Machu Picchu. I will make this blog post more structured, to find info. more easily.
Little history: Cusco was during the time of the Incas seen as the center of the world. From there the Inca empire divided into 4 directions: the cost, the south all the way to Argentina, the jungle or amazon and the north which reached into Colombia. So pretty big. One of the most important Inca kings was Pachakuta, who ordered to build Machu Picchu, Sacsayhuaman and other important temples and places. Cusco originally has the form of a Puma with Sacsayhuaman being the head of the animal. When the spaniards came they were quick to build churches on top of the inca temples and use the strong walls of inca architecture as base for their own colonial buildings. Thus now the original city of Qosqo lays 2 m underneath the modern city and since Cusco is a UNESCO world heritage, it’s not allowed to demolish the spanish buildings to explore the inca ruins. Luckily, there’s many more ruins in the region to see.
Where to stay: As any recognized south american hostel chain, there will be one in Cusco. Familiar names like Wild Rover, Kokopelli, Pariwana can all be found there. Unfortunately, since Cusco is quite visited also the prices are relatively high (min 40soles/night). If you don’t mind being just around the corner of the main plaza you will find smaller hostels a bit further away like in the neighbourhood of San Blas (cute place to go for many cafes and rests) which are cheaper. We stayed there in Sunset House, which was okay, especially for the low price. The staff seems quite a nice group but the hostel misses a proper common room, especially when it’s raining. We also stayed at Kokopelli where you can easily interact with other travelers and feel comortable. Finally we also went to Milhouse Hostel which is similar to the ‘big’ ones, central and cheaper (30soles).
Where to eat: Cusco, like Arequipa, is known for many good cafes and restaurants. We had quite a list of recommended places, so I will just go quickly through the ones we visited.
Jack’s Cafe: Great brunch, big plates. My fave was Avocado basil tomato on toast!
Valeriana Cafe: Chic cafe with lots of pastry and delicious infusions. Just a block away from the main Plaza.
Bohemia: Super cute looking place that serves some crazy crepes.
Green point: If you know me, you know I swear on miraculous benefits of Camu Camu. At green point I had my first actual camu camu juice which was delicious. They convinced us with their starters too, but the main dishes were meh and price was kinda not worth it. It’s by the way a vegetarian restaurant!
Organika: I half expected the same of this place but it’s totally not. All their veggies come from their own garden in the sacred valley (not far from Cusco). Each plate looks like a little garden with edible flowers and it’s just really yummy! Also visit Rucula (sister restaurant) with 15% discount after eating at Organika.
Bambu Sushi: Next to the main plaza is this little sushi place with really good rolls.
Marcelo Batata: For fancy dining you should come here! Delicious alpaca steak, plenty of vegetarian options and just really good peruvian cuisine.
Limbo Bar: Nice bar with a balcony with a view! If you write a review on trip advisor you get a pisco sour for free!
What to do: As always we started with a free walking tour. We went with the guys dressed in blue and were very happy! You can visit the Inca Museum. Mostly thtey have ceramics but also mummies and other things that explain life and culture of the Incas. The ministery of culture has some of the only remaining Inca ruins in Cusco center (except the walls below spanish houses) and entry is free! Visit the market of San Blas. It’s smaller than the main market but is more for the people from there. The food corners look really good too, although we did not try. From there you can walk up the city to the Christ statue for the view. Then continue to the old Inca ruins Sacsayhuaman and from there walk down, back to the main square. There’s plenty of churches to visit, of course the cathedral and adjecent religious buildings.
There’s many day tours around Cusco. We chose to see the rainbow mountain. This tour is only possible since a few years. Before that time the glacier was covering the mountain. Quite a sad reason, which I did not know before. To go there it starts at 5 am with a bus ride of 3 hours. After breakfast it still takes a little time until the starting point of the hike. At 4300 m the 6 km long walk starts, first easy then harder and harder. The scenery is beautiful though, already along the way. At one point you can already see all the people on the top and once you arrive it’s one big fight to get the best shot we as little people in the background as possible. The weather was cloudy and wothout the sun the colours od the rainbow mountain are not as strong. At least it didn’t snow, but it was very very cold! As you can probably tell, I don’t recommend to do this tour. There’s too many people and the fact that global warming made this tour even possible is just a sad fact that took all the fun out of it, for me at least.