Cusco [kusco] is located in the Urubumba Valley and many years ago, was once capital of the Inca empire. Each year, more than two million visitors come here with the primary reason to acclimatise to the altitude prior to seeing the mighty ruins of Machu Picchu. Sometimes it’s the only reason people visit however, there’s so much more to the city than I could ever explore in the week that I spent there.
After the Galapagos, we realised that time was becoming a premium and I had to make some serious ground if I am to get to Buenos Aries, Patagonia and back up to Chile. After doing the math, I could only afford to spend a week in total in Cusco which was a shame. Why do I always like every place that I go to??. During my time here, I felt that it was a city that offered great mystery, history and tradition that I couldn’t possibly wrap my head around even if I stayed for a month.
Walking around the city, you’re surrounded by ancient buildings with the old Inca foundations that neighbour buildings that had been built (on top of mostly the old sacred Inca buildings) by the Spanish conquistadors. On the outskirts of the city you could easily spend the best part of a day exploring old ruins for the day or spend a couple of dollars in a collectivo to explore towns such as Pisac which is at the start of the Sacred Valley. If I could, I would have spent at least another week minimum there.
If I had my time again here then I would have spent a bit more time reading up on the history and the roles of each of the towns played surrounding city rather than playing catchup when I arrived as well as on the Machu Picchu tour.
- Airport transport: If you’re flying, don’t take the taxi offers from the official airport taxi drivers. They charge 50 soles which is well inflated. It shouldn’t cost any more than 15 soles from the airport to the city
- Accommodation: I stayed at Loki Cusco: Quite the party hostel in a 16th Century building however the rooms are quite a way from the bar so it’s able to get a decent nights sleep. Just make sure you let them know you want to sleep in the evenings if thats what you want. The kitchen has a pretty nice menu and put on regular BBQ’s and all you can eat pizza. About US$10 a night for a room in a four person dorm.
- Eating: Kushka Fe Cafe, Calle Choquechaca in the San Blas area serves up a range of local and international cuisine. Try the stuffed spicy chicken dishes. Oh yeah, they also make a mean strawberry and orange juice.
Additional sites, other things to keep an eye out for:
- Pisac: The first village in the Sacred Valley. A beautiful area town 45mins from Cusco along the Urubumba valley. They have craft markets there every Tuesday, Thursday and Sunday so if you’re into that kind of stuff then check it out and support the locals. It’s also known as a town that offers alternative medicinal treatment therapies and healing. You can also hike from the town to the top of the ruins in the valley or do it the easier way like I did and hike from the top down. Cost: 70 soles to enter the ruins, 25 soles for the taxi ride up, 3 soles for a collectivo from Cusco to Pisac. If you have time on the way back, drop into the condor sanctuary, 5 mins outside of Pisac. I didn’t go but it looks cool and somewhat scary from some photos I’ve seen of condors flying around and being petted.
- Temple of the moon: About a 45min hike from the centre of town to the top of the valley. Not too challenging except for the altitude but offers great views down into the city.
- Pisco Museo: Not quite a museum but is a bar with a huge range of Piscos. Not cheap but quite potent and the staff are super friendly.
- San Pedro Market: Great market for food, juices, chocolate and knick knacks, llama featus’ (in case you need to bury it under your home for good luck). The quinoa soup is a must.
- Fast Internet for the digital nomad: Starbucks off the main square I found has pretty decent and reliable internet.
- Getting to Machu Picchu: I did the three night, four day jungle trek which can be organised when you get to Cusco instead of having to book the classic Inca Trek months in advance.
- Safety: Not quite the safest place especially for women at night if you’re walking outside of the main areas. Make sure you’re with somebody if walking around late at nights. During the day is fine