Hello dear readers,
If you read my last post you got to see a little bit of my wedding. Today I want to share with you a little bit about the trip that followed. Why? Because it was a lot of fun, but also, because Cusco is a must see destination and some of this information could be useful if you are planning to go.
So, we were 9 people in total (7 americans, a peruvian resident and me) and we were looking to have a nice trip on a budget.
When you start looking for tickets you will find the big airlines first, but they have different rates for peruvians or peruvian residents and for foreign folks. So, if you don’t happen to be in the first category they will charge you a lot more. Now, what you could do is check with this two local airlines: Peruvian Airlines and Star Peru. They only fly within Peru and charge the same price to everybody. You can end up saving a lot. Note: If you are in Lima and you want to go to the airport make sure to get a taxi from a company, it is just more secure. You can ask your hotel for help or try to arrange it yourself using an app like Easy Taxi or Taxibeat from your phone. They even give you the estimated price.
In Cusco there’s an option for everybody depending on what you are looking for and how much you want to spend. At any rate, I would recommend you to stay close to the main square, because it is a lot more comfortable. We stayed at a nice cozy place called Hostal Santa Catalina(pictures below). It is just a block away from the main square, breakfast is included and they are very nice people, although I think they don’t speak much english. If you are looking for something more affordable you can check La Posada del Viajero or Pariwana Cusco, were you can get the complete hostel experience. Now if you have a bigger budget and you are looking for a nicer place you can alway try the Marriott, Casa Andina or Libertador.
Machu Picchu – Aguascaliente
If you are going to Cusco you are definitely visiting Machu Picchu, right? So, make sure to get you train and entrance tickets on time. We used the Expedition train, which I think is the most affordable for foreigners. It would be a good idea to spend the night in the town of Aguascalientes, that way you could go to Machu Picchu as early as possible. Don’t forget that if you are taking the bus to go all the way up Machu Picchu you should purchase the ticket in advance. Also, the seats are not numbered and you get in the bus in order of arrival. So, it is not like you purchased a ticket for the 6:00 o’clock bus. Buses will leave as they get full, so try to be early. Remember, it will probably rain, so it wouldn’t be a bad idea to have a rain jacket or a plastic poncho. I forgot mine and got wet to my socks and then I got sick, so… don’t forget your rain jacket. Once in Machu Picchu I would recommend you to hire a guide, especially if you are in a group. The first time I went we didn’t have a guide and we missed a ton of information! This time we had one and I really feel I gain a lot. I think we paid between $10 or $15 each one of us, but was completely worth it. Coming back from Machu Pichu you might have some time in Aguascalientes town before taking the train back to the city. If you do, try going to the hot springs, we did and it was fun.
Close Ruins and Sacred Valley
If you want to see the rest of the attraction and I recommend that you do, you will have to purchase a turistic ticket that will cover the entrance to pretty much every place you’ll want to go. It would be a good idea to take a tour that takes you to all these places. You will probably be visiting Sacsayhuaman, Cristo Blanco, Pisac, Quenco, Puka Pukara, Tambomachay, Chinchero and Ollantay Tambo. My favorite ones are Sacsayhuamán , Pisac , Chinchero and Ollantaytambo. Each one is special in its own way. We took the tour the day before Machu Picchu and stayed in Ollantay Tambo to take the train to Aguascalientes.
Cusco is a magical place. The mix between pre hispanic and colonial is impressive and you will see it everywhere. In the city you cannot miss to visit the Coricancha, which is one of the few places not included in the turistic ticket, but is very affordable and a must see. You should also try to visit the Cathedral (they have Rubens paintings in there!), which is also not included in the ticket, but it opens for service at 6:00am – no pictures allowed. If you feel like walking I totally recommend you to go to the San Blas neighbourhood, which is very artsy and has all these nice cafes and galleries. Also, try checking the churches, there are some pretty ones. If you are into museums and you are already in San Blas, you might want to check the Pre-columbian Art Museum. We didn’t visited it in this trip, but I’ve been there before and I liked it. And last but not lease, go to San Pedro’s Market one morning and drink fresh juice! It is a great experience. I’m sure I am leaving out a LOT, so if you are interested in those secret places that I haven’t mention here check this “Bizarre Cusco Guide”, you might like it.
For food in Cusco there’s one thing I never miss: Corn and white cheese! It will probably be the most humongous corn you will ever eat. They sell it everywhere for ridiculously low prices, and I tell you, it is deliciouuus!! Don’t miss it!
Another thing that I always like to eat when I’m there is… pizza. I know it doesn’t sound right, but the pizza in Cusco is different, cooked in stone ovens, topped with andian cheese and served with a garlic mayonnaise that makes it even better. Don’t get me wrong, it is really heavy, specially when you are at such high altitude, but still tastes amazing. The place to go for that is Marengo.
Other places to try are Chicha and Cicciolina for a fancier type of food, Mamá Oli and Greens for vegetarians, and the two more relaxed ones that we visited Salvatore and Norton’s Tavern. Actually, in Cusco you will find lots of good places to eat, drink and have fun.
So in this trip I found about two new things that I had never heard or tried before. One was a adventurous rock climbing / rappel / zip lining type of excursion to Via Ferrata that 5 of our friends did. The other one was a peruvian cooking class, that 6 of us did. I had my doubts about taking a cooking class in Cusco because it seemed awfully touristy, but wow, once I went to see the place, met the chef and saw the menu I was sure I couldn’t miss is. It is the type of experience to share as a couple or in a group, you’ll enjoy it more like that. The place was Cusco Culinary, and I swear, as a peruvian I thought I knew how to cook the dishes they were going to teach us. Uh-uh, mistake! I actually got to learn a lot about peruvian cuisine while having fun with friends. It was a great experience that I highly recommend.
Anyway, I think I have rambled here for a long time now. I hope you find any of this useful. If you still have questions about Cusco or Perú in general you can find more information in Peru Travel Info.
For now that’s it.
I’ll see you soon, reader!