Being in Cusco is like being in a place where evey single rain drop colored the roof tops of the entire city in red and marked it as an unique piece of peruvian jewelery. Even locals confess that the mysterious energy of the city is enough to keep you mesmerised and happy for a prolonged period of time. It's a place where you start feeling like home within a couple of hours and just don't want to leave.
I have spent 5 days in Cusco, before and after the trip to Machu Picchu, time which was enough to get a feeling of the city. An unforgettable Inca capital that kept its detailed architecture, exquisite churches and amazingly narrow streets. It didn't matter which way I took, I was convinced I will have a great view. The mountain breeze hugged the city during the day, kept it cloudy and cosy, while during the night you had to find a way to stay warm.
From the great variety of museums, cathedrals, squares you can visit in Cusco, I have 3 favorites spots. Mercado San Pedro is one of them, an incredible market where you can find everything you need starting from wool gloves ending with kilos of pork. I actually took the time to buy some snacks for the Inca trail here: like nuts, dried fruits, winter hat, woolen socks. In case you didn't have enough time to prepare for the trip, don't worry, San Pedro got you covered.
San Blas it's a small square from where you can buy handicrafts, souvenirs, paintings sold by the artists themselves. It also provides a spectacular view over the city during the day time, but also at night. A tiny, nice lady took me to the back side of her gallery and showed me the extravagant paintings of the peruvian beauty and luckily I found a great Machu Picchu masterpiece which I brought back.
And of course Plaza de Armas. It's the downtown of Cusco, all the roads lead to this place. Here you will find a great selection of restaurants, bars, clubs where you can spend your evenings. I had the chance to celebrate New Years Eve in Plaza de Armas and took part in so called "ritual" of the locals. The tradition tells that circling 3 times with your suit case around the plaza will bring good luck in your up coming year and also will make you travel the world all year round. Also wearing yellow underwear on this night will bring some luck in your love life.
During the day, there are a lot of travel agents who are willing to baragin some great deals. It was quite hard to choose from the long list of activities, but in the end I had to prioritize. River Rafting sounded great for me since I've never done it, so was worth trying it now. Moray and Salinas is a wonderful archeological site which I booked only one day in advance and they still had the Quad bikes available. Another "must-do" for me was the bungee jumping from 122 m (you can check the video at the end of the article). I would definitely do it again and highly recommend it to you too. Had a sandboard session in Ica and a ride on a massive sand buggy. And of course Machu Picchu, this trip was the reason I flew for almost 22 hours to Peru.
When talking about Peru, you can not miss such an important topic like the food. With a great influence from spanish, italian, german, chinese, japanese cuisine it makes it the best example of fusion cuisine. What else to expect when the country has more than 3000 types of potatoes. The main dishes will usually be served with staples like: corn, quinoa, legumes. Trying to stand out, a lot of restaurants have an imacculate decor and a very wide selection of national and international food.
Getting around the city is easy and quite cheap. Most of the taxi drivers don't speak english, but they know the city very well. You can see a lot of old cars and buses which look like they are not going to make it to the top of the hill, but guess what? They do. A short taxi fare will usually start from 5S-10S (1-3$) but in case you want to go for a day tour you'll have to negotiate rates in advance. Taking a bus in Peru is cheap, comfortable. When I went to Ica, I booked a VIP bus ticket with PeruBus for 50S (~ 15$, 5 hours drive). It included everything you need for a comfortable trip: AC, TV, headsets, reclining seats and refreshments which were served twice. Local rides on a city bus are about 0.60S which is equal to 0.18$. I missed this experience but I've heard it's fun.
Cusco is one of the places which I would definitely like to visit again. The ambiance of the city in a mix with a great welcoming from qusqenians is just the perfect reason for a come back. The amplitude of the old architecture and hystorical ruins can brings you back in time and make you imagine the thrilling past of the South American lands. Next time I will try to bring back at least a tiny amount of mountain energy and spread it around. Maybe people will be able to heal their souls just the way I did...in Peru.
"The use of traveling is to regulate imagination with reality, and instead of thinking of how things may be, see them as they are."
- Peru is a country of cash, that's why it's better if you have cash on you because most of the ATMs charge a fee (10-18%).
- If you need to buy hiking gears, Cusco is a great place to find some cheap yet useful stuff.
- Bargain on pretty much everything.
- If you want to visit more than 2 sights it's better to buy the tourist ticket, it's a lot cheaper and usually available for 10 days.
- Most of the hotels agree to keep your laugage while you go for hiking, so don't worry about that part
- Cusco seems to be a safe place, but never leave your stuff unattended.