Cusco (Day 10-12)

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Cusco

Topping the lists of every traveler to Peru is Cusco- a magnetic city, offering nearby Inca ruins, cobblestone streets, museums, markets and churches. No where else in Peru can you descend from the beautiful Andean peaks down through cloud forests into the lush lowland of the Amazon jungle as quickly as you can in Cusco and its surrounding areas.

Getting to Cusco:

  • Flying- Flights go to and from Lima. Leaving Cusco, make sure you triple confirm your flight (72 hr/ 24 hr) arrive 2 hours before your flight as flights are often overbooked or cancelled. Airlines servicing Cusco include:
  • Bus- international buses leave for Copacabana/Puno (13 hours) La Paz (14- 18 hours) and domestic buses leave for Lima (20 hours). I recommend using a higher end bus company as there have been numerous accident from Cusco to Lima.
  • Train - trains to Puno (9.5 hours) there are 1st class and non- reservable seats in economy class for an eight of the price of the first class tickets.
    • www.perurail.com to book tickets and check train schedules.
    • Tickets for the Machu Pichu train to Aguas Calientes can only be purchased Huanchac Station (you need a passport to buy tickets) . During tourist season there are at least 3 trains to Machu Picchu a day.

Tip: Cusco’s booming tourist industry has led many unsuspecting visitors to become easy prey for Roguish tactics. Unfortunately, more tourists are robbed in Cusco than any other Peruvian city. Robberies, such as pick-pocketing and bag slashing can happen anywhere around the the train station and central market and violent cab robberies have also been known to happen. To stay safe: make sure you only take official taxis (look for the taxis lit number on top of the car), look your doors from the inside, don’t walk alone late at night, take no valuables with you (lock it in your hostel safe or lock it in your bag). While there is an abundance of drugs in Cusco, don’t buy them from locals on the street, oftentimes police and drug dealers work in tandem and you can buy drugs and be arrested all within a matter of minutes. Lastly, there have been several reports of women’s drinks being spiked- ladies, make sure you watch your drinks throughout the night.

Cusco, Peru

Activities in Cusco:

    • Rio Urbamba- is the most mainstream, yet beginner trip. You can either venture off on a half day trip, around 3 hours, ($25 and up) or a full day trip including lunch visit to Pisac (class 1 rapids) or Ollantaytambo ruins (class 3 rapids).
    • Rio Apurimac- these 3 day trip are offered only between May to November. Rafting trips offer adventures through deep gorges, protected rain-forests and remote landscapes. Rafters sleep on sandy beeaches and have the chance to see condors and pumas.
    • Rio Tampobata (class 3-5 rapids!!!) – if you want to venture off on a 10 day trip you need to try your hand at the wild Rio  Tampobata which only runs between June to October. The trip begins in the Andes mountains north of Lake Titicaca and ends at Reserva Nacional Tampopata in the Amazon jungle. Travelers will have a chance to see a range of Amazonian creatures including Jaguars, otters, tapirs and caiman.
    • Rafting Agencies:
      • Amazonas Explorer- This reputable tour company offers top quality gear and guides. They offer trips on Rios Apurimac and Tampopata. Private tours may also be arranged.
      • River Explorers- an extremely professional company, offering a range of activities in Cusco and surrounding areas including, white water rafting and treks.
        • Garcilaso Street 210 int 128 CC Casa del Abuelo Comercial Center Casa del Abuelo Cusco 84
        • $60 for 1 day trip; $385 for a 3 day trip; $510 for a 4 day trip; $890 for a 6 day trip; $1800 for a 9 day trip
      • Loreto tours- this cheaper agency runs one day trips along the Rio Urubamba and shorter trips on Rio Apurimac and Laguna de Huacarpay
        • Medio 111
  • White Water Rafting the Rio Urbamba, Rio Apurimac or Rio Tampobata

  • Horseback Riding- either arrange a half day ride from a Cusco travel agency or walk to Saqsaywaman and negotiate  you own price/tour length. Day tours travel around Saqsayhuaman, where you will have an opportunity to visit the magnificent Q’enko temple, Puca Pucara, and the temple of the water Tambomachay. Pretty much all tour operators charge the same price and take the same trial so its really about where you can get the best deal.
    • Kantu Tours- Portal Carrizos 258 – US $10 for 6 hrs,
    • Cusco for you- this top rated horseback riding agency, offers well trained horses and beautiful trekking options. The owner Adriana is very in touch with her animals and nature. She cures her ill horses with natural remedies and packs delicious homemade lunches with all natural ingredients from her farm
    • T.O.P expeditions, traveling outdoor peru – this reputable company offers a range of services, including, treks to Machu Pichu, mountain biking, horseback riding and an array of rural tours
  • Mountain biking excursions down the into the Amazon jungle- bikers can choose between day trips ($10- $20 p/d- better bikes tend to be more expensive) and explore Sacred valley or more experienced bikers can opt for a multi day trip (make sure you find an experienced guide as some serious accidents have occurred). Bikers on long trips can take a bus to Abra de Malag and ride downhill into the Amazon jungle.
    • Agencies:
      • Amazonas Explorer- offers a variety of tours including: half day Inca heritage tour; day trip through Manus and Moray; 3 day trip descending 3000 miles through Inca ruins; 5 day Inca trail; 6 day Ausangate Circuit
        • Collasuyo 910, Urb Marivelle
      • Loreto tours- agency that specializes in mountain biking. Offers 1/2 day tours around Cusoco’s ruins; day and overnight Sacred Valley trips; 4 day trips through the Amazon
        • Medio 111
  • People watch from a cafe in Plaza Armas, Cusco’s centre
  • Experience the beauty of the Sacred valley from an aerial view. Globos Los Andes runs hot air balloon rides
    • $300 p/p for an extended tour which includes 4WD or $60 for a shirt trip
  • Peruse the artisan workshops in Cuzco’s eclectic San Blas barrio. The higher you climb the better the view.
    • I bought several beautiful alpaca scarves, knitted with intricate flowers, in San Blas that I still get compliments on and keeps me super warm.
  • Travel through the Sacred Valley to the frantic markets of Pisac and the picturesque town and Inca ruins of Ollantaytambo.
  • Explore the city’s many museums. Check out:
    • Museo de Arte Precolombino ( admission adult/ student $6/3) Spanish colonial museum with artefacts dating from between 1250 BC and AD 1532
      • Open 10 – 6
      • Plazoleta Nazarenas 23
    • Museo Inka ( adult/ student $1.65/ 85) situated in a beautiful colonial mansion, check out Museo Inka for the best Inca collection in the city. The museum houses a splendid array of metal- and gold-work, jewelry, pottery, textiles, mummies and supposedly the world’s largest collection of drinking vessels.
      • Tucuman at Ataud- Custa del Almirante 103
      • Open Weekdays 8-5, Sat. 9-4

Calle Cuzqueña

Sleeping in Cusco:

  • Loki backpackers hostel (dorms $8- 10 and twins $27)
    • This national monument hostel while only a few blocks away from Plaza Aramas is at the top of a steep hill. While it’s a great hostel, if you don’t feel like daily exercise, then avoid Loki- as you need to climb a slew of stairs. Loki offers basic facilities at a reasonable cost.  While the forms rooms are clean and adequate the double rooms (book in advance as these fill up very quickly) are extremely spacious, comfortable and are very charming. The hostel offers a range of facilities from free breakfast and free internet access (Wi-Fi in lobby) to pool tables, BBQ area, on site bar and an outdoor terrace.
    • Cuesta Santa Ana #601
  • Pairwana Hostel
    • This top rated hostel is set in a 16th century Spanish colonial house, situated only 2 blocks away from Plaza Armas. This friendly, clean hostel offers an arrangement of accommodation options from 12 person mixed dorms to double bed with en-suite. This vibrantly decorated hostel offers an on site bar, free continental breakfast, free internet access, common area, games room (including pool table), helpful staff and low cost international calling.
      • Mezón de la estrella 136, Cusc 01
  • Walkon Inn-
    • This highly great value hostel is just 2 blocks away from Plaza Armas (FYI- the hostel is located at the top of a hill and takes about 10 minutes walking). While the mattresses are hard, the staff is extremely friendly and helpful.
    • Suecia 504, Cusco 051
  • Hostal Marani- (s/d/t/q $32/$51/$62/$78)
    • For a slightly more upmarket place to rest your head, check out the charming Hostal Marani. Located in San Blas, 5 minutes from Plaza Arenas. This cozy hostel offers spacious, clean rooms with en-suite bathroom, 24 hour hot water and free buffet breakfast.
    • Carmen Alto 194
  • The Point (dorms from 8.50- 11.50; twin $12 p/p/ ; single $15)
    • This hostel is situated only 2 blocks from Plaza Armas, just off of Plaza San Francisco which makes for a short trip returning home from the bars.
    • If you are looking to party right into the wee hours of the morning and make tons of friends doing it, the point is the place for you. With an onsite bar and condoms sold at reception, the party goes on all day and night. On site facilities include: travel agency, 24 hour hot water, common area with TV. and DVD player, laundry, book exchange, BBQ, bike rental and one of Cusco’s best places to party- the horny llama bar!
    • Meson de la Estrella 172
  • Hostal Malqui
    • This quaint hostel in the centre of Cusco offers only double/ single/ family rooms. It’s a great place to treat yourself to clean sheets a hot shower and cable TV. Facilities include: bag storage, safety deposit boxes, free continental breakfast
    • Calle Nueva Alta 444
  • Hostel Kilombo- ($7- 10)
    • This hostel set a beautiful colonial house set in Spanish style is a great place to meet other travelers without the crazy party (see Loki above).  Set in a quit area 4 blocks away from Plaza Aramas, this hostel offers comfortable accommodation and great facilities; including, free internet access, free breakfast, gym 24 hour reception,  common area with cable TV and DVD and mini supermarket on site.
    • Calle Vitoque 631

CUSCO TRAVEL

Eating in Cusco:

While the food is Cusco quite as spectacular as its neighbouring capital, Lima, it does run a pretty close second for deliciously prepared food at reasonable prices. Many of the restaurants off cheap 3 course menus including a cocktail for under $5. While most of the restaurants bordering Plaza Armas are very touristy and nothing special, by merely veering off the central tourist track you can discover some great options.

  • Granja Heidi ($ 3- 8)
    • This open and airy restaurant with beautiful views of San Blas offers great food at a reasonable price. Make sure you try their fresh breakfast.
    • Cuesta San Blas 525
  • Sara the Organic Cafe ($5- 15)
    • For those craving a healthy bite, check out this restaurant for modern healthy twists on traditional Peruvian cuisine
    • Santa Catalina Ancha 370
  • Indigo
    • Careful with this spot, as you could spend endless hours in this funky restaurant that plays live music and serving decent Thai food, offers board-games, free WIFI and great cocktails.
    • Tecsecocha #2
  • Jack’s cafe ($3- 8 )
    • Great food and huge portions. Also a great option for breakfast! For lunch try one of their salads or gourmet sandwiches.
    • Choquechaca 509
  • Chalom Cacol ($3-6)
    • due to the abundance of Israeli travellers in South America, tons of great Israeli resturants have sprung up offering authentic middle eastern cuisine. Make sure you try the falafel and malawach.
    • This restaurant is a great spot to book cheap flights and tours.
    • I can’t remember the address but this restaurant is directly off of Plaza Armas. Just ask an Israeli traveller and they can point you in the right direction.
  • Inka Grill ($5-$12)
    • This restaurant right in the centre offers simple yet scrumptious food for a fantastic price. While guinea pig in the average restaurant could make the unseasoned guinea pig eater ill, this place is a great place to taste out your guinea pig palette
    • Portal de Panes,115 Plaza de Armas,

Six times better than chicken

Partying in Cusco:

Some bars charge admission after 11 pm but you can manage to get in for free and receive a free drink (beware the alcohol is very bottom shelf) by obtaining an entry pass from one of the girls hanging out around Plaza Armas

  • Mama Africa- this classic gringo joint is packed practically every night with backpackers and is open as late as you can keep your eyes open. The vibe is relaxed with comfy cushions sprawled everywhere, reggae music, with a free intermittent bursts of 80′s rocks and pop. Unfortunately, due to the overflow of tourists, this bar is also infamous for a heavy drug scene, pick pocketers and scams.
    • 2nd fl, Portal Harinas 191
  • Ukuku’s Pub - this popular bar plays live music at around 10:30 and then turns into a full club playing a good selection of music
    • Plateros 316
  • Up town – this club facing Plaza Armas is always packed playing great dancing music.
    • Calle Suecia 302
  • Bar 7 – trendy bar in San Blas
    • Tandapata 690
  • Indigo - this bar/ restaurant as mentioned is a great place to eat but it is also a cool lounge serving cocktails
  • KM O - This intimate 2 story Spanish bar is located right off San Blas and is an expat haunt. It often has live Latin music after 8:30. Arrive early to sample their $3 dinner menu.
    • Tandapata 10

basic voices raised

Cusco is a must for any traveller to Peru – I suggest spending at least 3 days here to relish in the architecture and activities.

Backpacking Bex