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Alpaca tending fights hunger and empowers women in households
In an attempt to eradicate hunger and poverty, Garnet Hill and Heifer International offer the Pass on the Gift® in Peru Sweepstakes, which will award a trip for two to the ancient Incan Empire capital of Cuzco, Peru. The winners will work to foster sustainable development in the community while working on alpaca projects.
"Women's empowerment is at core of Heifer International's transformative work and the trip to Peru will highlight efforts to create income for women as household decision makers," said Cindy Jones-Nyland, executive vice president of marketing and resource development, in an email to The Daily Meal.
For a week winners will eat and work with local families while learning how to feed and tend to alpacas and seeing their wool made into blankets and ponchos and sold in markets.
Added Jones-Nyland, "The women in Heifer's Peru projects can sell their alpaca wool to processors or create traditional artisanal crafts to market directly to consumers."
This worthy project designed to help struggling families has potential to truly raise some awareness about poverty and women’s rights.
You can enter every Wednesday here and the contest ends March 12, 2013.
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RELATED: Hike Machu Picchu Without the Crowds
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RELATED: 5 Reasons to See Peru Now
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NO PURCHASE NECESSARY. Open to legal residents of the 50 United States and Washington DC (EXCLUDING RESIDENTS OF OVERSEAS MILITARY INSTALLATIONS, PUERTO RICO, AND OTHER U.S. TERRITORIES) who as of the time of entry are 18 years of age or older and at least age of majority in state. Sweepstakes is void where prohibited by law. To enter follow the entry directions at https://www.mensjournal.com/peru-sweeps. By entering, you agree to receive emails and join the newsletter lists of Men's Journal, AskMen, FitReserve and Nameless.tv. Sweepstakes begins at 9:00 a.m. ET on 2/1/2017 and ends at 11:59:59 p.m. ET on 2/28/2017. ARV: $4,900. No. of Winners: 1. Certain restrictions may apply. Complete Official Rules are available at https://www.mensjournal.com/peru-sweeps. Odds of winning depends upon number of entries received. Sponsor: Men's Journal LLC.
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Cuzco or Cusco (Qosqo in Quechua, Cusco in Spanish), in the Southern Sierras, is a fascinating city that was the capital of the Inca Empire. Cuzco is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is one of Peru's most visited cities as it is the largest and most comfortable city from which tourists can begin visits to Machu Picchu, the Sacred Valley of the Incas, and other Inca sites in the region.
Cuzco is a beautiful city with well-preserved colonial architecture, evidence of a rich and complex history. The city is the center of indigenous Quechua culture in the Andes, and walking the streets you see the layers of history. Spanish colonial buildings erected directly atop Inca walls line the square, while the modern tourist nightlife flourishes in their midst. The city is surrounded by a number of ruins, the most impressive being Sacsayhuaman, the site of the 1536 battle in which dozens of Pizarro's men charged uphill to battle the forces of the Inca.
Nowadays, Cuzco is known for its indigenous population—often seen on the streets in traditional clothing—and its substantial tourist-fueled night life.
At 3,400 m above sea level, altitude sickness (soroche) can be a problem. See the Stay healthy section for advice. Altitude sickness tends to sneak up on you and although its symptoms may not be apparent at first, it has the potential to develop into something extremely dangerous.
Machu Picchu is one of the most popular tourist attractions in Latin America, so prices are rising every year.
In and around Cuzco, lots of places and landmarks have multiple spellings: often a Spanish spelling and a Quechua spelling, and sometimes two or three of each! The name of the city, for instance, can be "Cuzco", "Cusco", or even "Qosqo", depending on where you look. Get used to confusion and extra searching when trying to find the name of a place, especially if looking online.
Has two defined seasons. The dry season: from April to October, with abundant sunshine. The wet season lasts from November to March (in February the Inca Trail is closed).
Tourist office Edit
More information on Cuzco is available from the official Tourist Office:
By plane Edit
- -13.535556 -71.943611 1Alejandro Velasco Astete International Airport ( CUZIATA ) ( The airport is at the edge of the city (taxi ride) ). There are daily internal flights to and from Lima, Arequipa and small jungle airstrips in the Amazon basin. LATAM has the most flights between Cuzco and Lima, followed by LC Perú and Avianca. It is best to book the earlier flights to avoid weather delays and overbooking.
There are international flights to La Paz (around US$100) and Santiago de Chile. The international departure area is a joke (some seats and a small kiosk), so bring your own stuff.
The closest major international airport is Lima. The cheapest one-way flights to Lima cost around US$70. LC Perú generally has the cheapest flights. Frequently, bad weather conditions can cause flights to be canceled, often up to two days on end. If you are flying straight into Cuzco, beware of altitude sickness for the first couple of days.
With only 5 gates and a few off the main terminal, this airport is fairly small but because it sees thousands of tourists a day, it has a lot of facilities. There are a few restaurants before and after security and some shops too. Massage facilities and communication services are also available. There are a few ATMs in the check-in area. If you have time, look across the parking lot for last-minute shopping. Moderately slow and somewhat unreliable WiFi is available (US$5 for two hours as of December 2017).
The market rate for a taxi from the airport to the Plaza de Armas is around S/15 (soles), not S/30 or more as the 'official' airport taxis may try to charge you. As a tourist, it's best to use the unofficial cabs outside and expect to pay around S/10-15 without much trouble. To find these taxis, exit the airport through the main gate and go to the street that is in front of the airport. Head right on the right-hand-side of the street for around 50 m until you hit the taxi stand.
The airport opens at 03:00 in the morning, so if you have to leave early in the morning, do not arrive before 03:00, if so, You will have to wait outside the airport (and it is pretty dark).
By bus Edit
The -13.534636 -71.965429 2 Terminal Terrestre is about a 20-minute walk from the centro down Avenida Sol. You can also take a taxi for a few soles. The toilet in the terminal is S/1 at the first level and free for the other one on the second level.
Buses are plentiful to and from other Peruvian and Bolivian cities like Lima (about 22 hr), Puno (6-8 hr), Arequipa (10 hr, S/25 (off season), S/40-S/120), Nasca (14-16 hr), Copacabana (9-12 hr, S/60) and La Paz (12-15 hr, S/90) but are quite long and slow, although the views can compensate. The main roads are mostly quite good, but some can be bad, making trips take longer than expected.
Buses in Peru are not operated to first world standards, especially the cheaper ones. The drivers work long hours and poor maintenance is common. There are frequent accidents, often with fatalities. If you are of nervous disposition, stick with the more upmarket companies.
Peru Hop offers high-end buses to Puno, La Paz, Arequipa, Lima, and places in between. It's geared towards tourists, with stops where you can choose to hop off for sightseeing along the way to Cuzco and back.
Also, make sure your bus has a bathroom or that it stops for bathroom breaks every couple of hours before you buy tickets. There are Puno-Cuzco buses that have/do neither, and that can mean a very long 6–8 hours.
- Expreso Los Chankas, Pje Cáceres 150. One of the only companies to offer direct service from Ayacucho to Cuzco. S/55 for a 22-hr ride on a semi-cama bus. Buses at 06:30 and 21:00.
By rail Edit
Cuzco is connected to Machu Picchu and Puno by rail. Rail service to Arequipa has been discontinued. Service is operated by PeruRail and Inca Rail. Trains to Machu Picchu (more exactly to Aguas Calientes below), generally operate from Poroy railway station.
- -13.52119 -71.983088 3San Pedro railway station ( Estación San Pedro ). ( updated Apr 2021 )
- -13.494524 -72.042219 4Poroy railway station ( Estación Poroy ) ( Northwest of Cuzco, 20 min by taxi from downtown. ). ( updated Apr 2021 )
The center of Cuzco is small enough to walk around, although you will probably need to catch a bus or taxi to the bus station, Sacsayhuamán or airport. Beware about walking around at night alone and/or drunk, robberies have often been reported.
Taxis are very common in Cuzco. Officially they cost 2-4 soles depending on distance. Call Cusco Taxi. Often many drivers are not locals. Beware when using taxis at night robberies have been reported in collusion with taxi cab drivers, at certain times radio taxis may be the safest option. The driver might also try to extort a hefty sum of money (S/15) for a short ride if you don't haggle before - which is likely if you're just arriving at night at the bus terminal and want to avoid the hordes of touts. Just pay S/5 and leave it at that.
Do not get in any taxis which already have a passenger. Do not get in a street taxi by night: order one by telephone.
If you are staying in Cuzco for a long time, the combis are a cheap and reliable form of transportation. These are the Volkswagen vans and small buses with names like Imperial, Batman, or Zorro. It costs about S/0.60 to ride them. If you are unsure if a combi will take you where you want to go, just ask. They will call out the stops as they go and if you want to get off, you just yell "Baja!", as in, "I want to get off!" They run until 22:00. But if you are a fan of lots of personal space, this may not be the best option for you, as they tend to be quite full. Carry your backpack in front of you.
For large groups, a tourist bus can be very convenient to get to places like Pisac and Ollantaytambo. Check with one of the many local travel agencies.
A boleto turistico is required for access to some of the sights in and around Cuzco. It can be bought at the entrance to the sites that require it, or at the Oficina Ejecutiva del Comité ( OFEC ), Av Sol 103 , ☏ +51 84 227 037 .
There are three kinds of tickets:
- A full ticket (valid for ten days and for all sites, single visit to each site, no multiple entry), S/130
- A student ticket (ISIC student card required as proof), S/70
- A partial ticket, (only valid for one day and a limited number of sites)
The full ticket gives access to the following 16 sites:
In Cuzco: Santa Cataline Monastery, Museo Municipal de Arte Contemporáneo, Museo Historico Regional, Museo del Sitio del Qoricancha, Museo de Arte Popular, Centro Qosqo de Arte Nativo Danzas Folklórico, and Monumento Pachacuteq.
Around Cuzco: Sacsayhuamán, Qénqo, Pukapukara, Tambomachay, Chinchero and the ruins of Pisac, Ollantaytambo, Tipón and Pikillacta.
Museums and galleries Edit
- Museo Municipal de Arte Contemporáneo . In the Municipal Palace at Plaza Regocijo, this museum has exhibitions of contemporary art. Admission with the boleto turistico
- -13.517601 -71.980376 1Museo Historico Regional. In the home of the Inca historian Garcilaso de la Vega, this museum has many paintings from the 17th and 18th century.
- Machu Picchu Museum ( Museo Machu Picchu, Casa Concha ), 320 Santa Catalina Ancha . M-Sa 09:00-17:00 . The largest collection of Machu Picchu artifacts in the world. These artifacts were collected by Yale University researcher Hiram Bingham beginning in 1912 and returned to Peru in 2011. The museum is housed in a late 18th-century house. Foreigners S/20, international students and Peruvians with ID S/10, Peruvian students S/5 . ( updated Mar 2018 )
- Museo del Centro de Textiles Tradicionales de Cusco , Av Sol. No. 603 . A beautiful (and free) museum inside El Centro's textile store featuring a gallery containing displays of traditional Quechuan and Andean textiles. The museum explains the historical significance of textiles and the techniques by which they are made. A must-see, and visitors can buy the traditional textiles as they come in. A large majority of the money goes to the women who produce them, and the textiles are of much higher quality than the synthetic and machine-woven textiles found throughout the city.
- Museo del Sitio del Qoricancha , Av Sol . With information about the different pre-Columbian cultures and fragments of ceramics and textiles of the Inca culture. A very small museum, the showcase room includes three mummies and skulls modified by the Incas with holes or sloped foreheads. Allow an hour to an hour and a half. English explanations are present but lacking. S/15 .
- Museo de Arte Popular ( in the basement of the OFEC office ). Displays a collection of popular art.
- Galleries the stunning scenery of the Cuzco area are often very well depicted by local artists. It is possible to find cheap prints that are of surprisingly good quality if you're prepared to shop around.
- Santa Catalina Convent . Also a collection of religious art. Admission with the boleto turistico.
- -13.520111 -71.975722 2Qoricancha ( The Sun Temple ) ( 4 blocks from Plaza de Armas on Av. El Sol ). The central site of worship for the Incas. Like so many other testimonies of fantastic Inca architecture, it was severely devastated by the conquistadores, the Spanish conquerors, who built their Christian church, Santo Domingo, on top of the ruins. Yet most of the bottom part of the temple is fairly well preserved and makes the site worth several hours of your time. The site is one of the best in Cuzco, or Qosqo in the Quechua language, containing both Catholic and Inca heritage with stunning views of the surrounding area. Looking at the outside from Avenida del Sol, you get a perfect view of the church standing on the temple and you see the differences of the Inca and the Spanish way of building. Qoricancha also is the starting point of the yearly processions at Inti Raymi, the Sun Festival, in the remembrance of the Inca tradition of celebrating the winter solstice. This procession then moves all the way up to Saxayhuamán. In order to understand, especially the remarkable remains in the Inca section, a guided tour is advisable. S/15 .
- ChocoMuseo, Calle Garcilaso 210 , ☏ +51 84 24 47 65 . 11:00-21:00 . A shop ("museum") explaining the history of cacao (free) and offering chocolate workshops (not free) as well as cacao farm tours (not free). Different recipes from around the world are available all made with chocolate from the factory inside the cacao and chocolate museum. Great artisanal and organically sourced hot chocolate. Free .
- -13.515697 -71.978142 3Museo Inka, Cuesta del Almirante 103 , ☏ +51 84 237380 . M–F 08:00–18:00, Sa 09:00–16:00 . Extensive museum of pre-Inca, Inca, and colonial artifacts. Labels in English and Spanish, though the descriptions in English are sometimes pretty different from the ones in Spanish. S/10 . ( updated Dec 2017 )
- The stone walls of the city are Inca, particularly near the Plaza de Armas. Unlike the colonial walls, they typically have stones with very straight lines and no mortar.
- -13.515938 -71.976188 4Piedra de los doce ángulos ( Twelve-angle stone ), Hatun Rumiyoc . A large stone in one wall has 12 sides and 12 angles. This one has become almost a symbol of Cusco and is a striking example of the precision of Inca architecture and stonework. ( updated Dec 2017 )
- 13.53167 71.96833 5Monumento Pachacuteq . Down Av. Sol, is a statue of the Inca warrior King Pachacuteq. The statue is placed on a cylindrical base and the total monument is over 22 m high. The cylindrical base can be climbed, but views are disappointing because the monument is in a lower part of town. Admission with the boleto turistico.
- -13.5164 -71.978 6Cusco Cathedral ( Cathedral Basilica of the Assumption of the Virgin ). The biggest church in Cuzco, in front of Plaza de Armas. As a tourist the entrance is S/25. If you go in a "misa" (mass) between 06:30-09:00, it is free. S/25 . ( updated May 2015 )
- -13.518711 -71.97582 7Palacio Inka del Kusikancha ( Dirección Desconcentrada de Cultura de Cusco ), Calle Maruri 324 . M–F 07:15–13:00, 14:00–16:00 . The ruins of an Inca palace, the home of 15th-century Inca emperor Pachakuti Inka Yupanki, which you can walk around in. The Inca and colonial stonework and architecture is interesting. No admission fee, but the attendant who lets you in and shows you where to go expects a S/5 tip . ( updated Dec 2017 )
In Cuzco City Edit
- -13.516754 -71.978882 1Plaza de Armas . The park square has churches, shops, restaurants and bars surrounding it, and is a great place to spend an afternoon. The historical center of Cuzco is beautiful, but you will have to deal with all the street vendors and hawkers of cheap paintings and other souvenirs. They are everywhere in and around the Plaza de Armas. They somewhat spoil the experience. ( updated Nov 2020 )
- Get a massage. You will invariably be propositioned by young ladies handing out flyers advertising massages, especially near the Plaza de Armas. These are legit, only cost S/15-20 for 1 hour, but are not done by trained masseuses. Still, for the price it can't be beat.
- -13.518445 -71.981475 2Plaza de San Francisco, . Which is a few blocks southwest of the center, and is a great place to visit one of Cuzco's many great coffee shops. Next to the Plaza is the main market, which is fairly traditional and is a worthwhile visit. The market has a mix of stalls selling food and other household items as well as clothing and souvenirs.
- Play Sapo, a traditional bar game played in chicharias all over Peru. The game involves throwing small coins, called fichas, at a table with a bronze sapo (toad) attached. You get points for making it into holes on the table, and a ton of points for making it into the sapo's mouth. Best played while drinking chicha (corn beer) at a local dive. Ask old men to show you the correct throwing form, as it's difficult to master.
- Talk to local store owners, curators, waitresses and bartenders. They typically know a little English if your Spanish is not good, and are generally happy to share interesting information about the city not found in guidebooks. This is also a great way to find the best places to try cuy,alpaca, and chicha.
- Once you are accustomed to the altitude, go for a jog! This is a very humbling experience, as the hills and thin air prove a challenge to even those in great shape. It's also a good way to explore. Head east or south of the plaza for the safest places. If you're a woman out exercising, you may get a few cat calls, as this is common in much of Latin America.
- -13.518583 -71.973299 3Salseros Cusco. Take a Salsa class, or three. This is a fabulous little salsa school offering private and group classes at minimal price in two central locations. With enthusiastic teachers and a number of styles taught, this is the perfect time to polish your moves and get ready to shine on the dance floor. Ask for Franshesco Efernetti if you want private classes.
- Plan trekking or other excursions in the area. The wealth of agencies and tour companies make Cuzco a good place to gather information and compare prices.
- Ladies in traditional clothing carrying baby alpacas will come up to you and ask if you want a photo. They will charge you S/5 for this. They might charge double if you take a picture with more than one lady. Beware, some of the supposed baby alpacas are actually baby goats or sheep.
- -13.5068 -71.986206 4Planetario Cuzco ( pickup from Plaza Regocijo ), ☏ +51 84 231 710 , ✉ [email protected] . 18:00 . Information about Inka astronomy, projection and explanation of the southern sky in the dome, observing stars/planets/other objects with telescopes. S/75 . ( updated Aug 2019 )
Day trips from Cuzco Edit
Most day trips from Cuzco follow the following format: between 07:00 and 09:00, you are picked up from your hotel or you meet with your group in a public plaza very near to Plaza de Armas, or at the front door of the agency with which you booked the tour, which is also very likely to be near Plaza de Armas. Then you drive for 1–2 hours to your destination. The day ends back where it started, at 15:00-16:00. In practice this means that you can do only one day trip per day and that it will most likely occur during the beginning part of the day. An exception to this is the day tour of Cuzco which starts later, around 13:00. For all these trips, ask in your hotel if you want them to call travel agencies.
Archaeological day trips Edit
- Day Trip City Tour or the Four Archaeological Ruins Tour bus around S/25 (Sacsayhuamán, Qenko, Pukapukara and Tambomachay) from 13:00 to 19:00. Alternatively, a local combi (bus) goes between the city and the four sites and costs S/1 to ride. Look for the bus that says "Huerto".
- Day Trip Sacred Valley (Pisaq, Ollantaytambo, Chinchero) tour bus around S/35 from 08:00 to 19:00.
- Day Trip Chinchero, Moray and the Salineras de Maras tour bus around S/35 (plus S/10 the entrance of Salinas) from 08:00 to 15:00.
- Day Trip Valle Sur (Tipon and Pikillacta) tour bus around S/35 (plus S/10 the entrance of Salinas) from 08:00 to 15:00.
Cuzco and its vicinity have many other smaller and less popular but still interesting Inca ruins, ranging from reasonably well-known ( -13.505811 -71.964636 12 Amaru Markawasi/Templo de la Luna ) to very obscure and difficult to find ( -13.497977 -71.963203 13 Chuspiyoq ).
Non-archaeological day trips Edit
- Cochahuasi Animal Sanctuary . A must see, one-of-a-kind rehabilitation center started by a family of biologists, which provides shelter to animals injured or victimized by poaching. It's a happy place where animals get better and those able are re-released. In 2012, there were three condors, llamas, alpacas, vicunas, macaws, pumas, an unusual furless Peruvian dog, local deer, all very friendly. This is the best place to see pumas, condors and vicunas up close. This is on the road from Cuzco to Pisaq. You can get there by motorcycle or there is usually person working for this refugee at corner of Plaza de Armas and Calle del Medio, which will organize transport for you in refugee's van for S/20 per person. Donations help with rehabilitation efforts. This place is ahead of its time, and very friendly and awesome.
- Whitewater rafting, but not in the Sacred Valley of the Incas where the water is very polluted and the rapids are relatively tame. Instead head upstream to the Chuqicahuana or Cusipata sections of the Rio Urubamba/Vilcanota where the water is much cleaner and the rapids are excellent fun up to class 5 depending on what time of year you are traveling.
- Inflatable canoeing. On the Piñi Pampa section of the Rio Urubamba you can paddle your own canoe, fun but not frantic class 1 and 2 rapids.
- Rio Apurimac-rafting, If you have more time, try and raft the 3 or 4 day Rio Apurimac - the true source of the Amazon and one of the top ten rafting rivers in the world. Class 3 - 5 all in the most amazing 3,000-m deep canyon. Go with the experts as accidents have occurred and in Peru you pay for what you get, so saving on the costs may seriously reduce the quality and the safety of your trip.
- Rent a motorcycle. There are several shops on Calle Plateros, just north of Plaza de Armas, that rent motorcycles for the day. You do not even need a motorcycle license, simply any kind of driving license from your home country. Prices are typically US$40/day which includes two helmets, gloves, and jacket. Sacred Valley Moto Tours, at Calle Plateros #399 (corner of Siete Cuartones), has new bikes in good condition. Where to go? A loop of the Sacred Valley, taking in the market at Pisac, lunch in Urubamba, and several Incan sites, can easily be done in one afternoon. The drive from Cuzco to Pisaq is a string of gorgeous switchbacks - and a great way to see the four Inca sites above Cuzco, the aminal sanctuary, and Pisaq on the same day on your own schedule. Or head south to some of the less-visited but just as pretty small towns and Inca ruins.
- Downhill Mountain Bike Tours are available either across the Chincheros plains, past Inca ruins and down through the spectacular MarasSalineras or the 75 km downhill from Abra Malaga to Santa Maria and onto the totally awesome hot springs of Santa Teresa (and easy and cheap access to Machu Picchu from here too). Again go with the experts as there are a lot of cheap bikes out there totally not up to the job.
- Go paragliding over the Sacred Valley. The scenery is gorgeous.
- Rainbow Mountain ( Vinicunca ) ( east of Cusipata ). A challenging early-morning, high-altitude hike to a beautiful multicolored mountain. Tours usually start around 04:00 with a breakfast break near or in Cusipata at around 07:00. Now there's a new path leading to the mountain from the west, the former 3-hour hike (from the east) is more a 90-minute walk now. Horses can be hired for a fee, children with lamas or sheep offer to pose for a photo (free/included in the entrance fee, but a small tip is appreciated). Highest point: Montana Winikunka, 5036 m. from US$25 including breakfast, lunch and entrance fee . ( updated Dec 2017 )
- ProPeru, A great program for students and part of the NGO ProWorld Service Corps. They do sustainable community development work such as building kindergartens, irrigation systems, and fish farms in rural communities in the Sacred Valley. They offer semester programs, internship programs, and short-term group programs, all ranging from a few weeks to a few months. Programs include living with a host family, sightseeing, Spanish classes and other coursework.
- Sacred Valley communities, For the adventurous, communities in the Sacred Valley often welcome volunteers to teach English or provide other skills to community members.
- Bruce Peru. In the city, there are many opportunities to work with street children. The most notable is called Bruce Peru. There are also opportunities to volunteer at one of the cities' orphanages.
- Peru's Challenge: Volunteering at this NGO has provided communities surrounding Cuzco a better quality of life since 2003. More than 800 international volunteers of all ages and walks of life have taught English, sport, dance, art, health and hygiene classes while building schools and infrastructure. Volunteers play a huge part in increasing the wellbeing of rural communities through health and social work campaigns, creation of small businesses and sustainable development. The program includes accommodation, Spanish classes, lots of tours such as a trek to world famous Machu Picchu, trips to the Sacred Valley, Lake Titicaca, Amazon Jungle and other Peruvian cultural experiences.
- -13.520925 -71.982677 1Mercado San Pedro ( San Pedro Market ) ( 1 block west of Plaza San Francisco it's on the block bounded between Calle Hospital & Calle Nueva and Tupac Amaru and Cascaparo just east of the train station for Machu Picchu ). The largest market close to the center. Though it's becoming more tourist-oriented it still has plenty of genuine local colour, a nice change from Plaza de Armas. If you're looking for a full blown market with a special isle for entrails, this is the place to be. Colorful, vibrant, packed, San Pedro Market is not to be missed. You can find all manner of fruits, vegetables, cheeses, chocolates, honey, meats, household items, clothing, gifts, fresh fruit juices, and even tailors to repair your clothes while you wait. This market is in a less (but still somewhat) touristy area. The market itself is somewhat poorly lit (shaded by an overhang). Watch your belongings.
- Casa Ecologica , 393 Triunfo , ☏ +51-84-25-5646 . Good for fair-trade textiles.
- T'Ankar Gallery , 121 Calle Palacio , ☏ +51-84-22-8936 . Good for well-made but pricey indigenous weavings and pottery.
The indigenous women at El Centro Bartolome de Las Casas have a store in which they sell homemade handicrafts and weavings. You can often watch them work, though they often don't speak Spanish, and rarely speak a word of English. It's a few blocks from the plaza on Avenida Tullumayu.
The further away you get from the main square, the cheaper things become. In the San-Pedro market where a glass of combination juices starts at S/3, and they give you a couple of refills. Don't go too far from the main square at night though, it can be dangerous.
Alpaca sweaters are not like they used to be. The only good ones are in upmarket shops. The best places to buy the cheap (i.e. alpaca-synthetic blend) sweaters are Arequipa and Cuzco but if you know where to look, you can find them at a good price in Lima as well at certain markets. Make sure you come to Cuzco with room in your suitcase, you will need it.
In Aguas Calientes and Machu Picchu, prices can be double what they are in Cuzco.
The Cuzco area has some extremely good international food with tasty options for all budgets. Excellent at the end of the Av. La Cultura. Be sure to try an alpaca steak (don't forget a llama/alpaca is normally kept and used for its wool - so only old animals will be slaughtered). You can get alpaca pizza as well.
The soups are amazing. Try sopa de zapallo, a type of pumpkin soup.
If you are looking for traditional Peruvian food try lomo saltado (beef tips stir-fried with tomatoes, onions, and spices, over a bed of French fries and rice), aji de gallina (chicken in a very good yellow pepper sauce with olives and hard-boiled eggs), or papa rellena (stuffed potato with beef, olives, hard-boiled egg, vegetables, and spices).
Cuy (guinea pig) is the absolute traditional holiday food of the region. You can buy a whole cooked cuy in many of the restaurants around Plaza de Armas. In 2018 cuy cost S/60-70 at all these places. There are also dedicated 'cuyerias' that serve much cheaper cuy.
Chifa is the Peruvian version of Chinese food. The neighborhood of Wanchaq has many Chifa restaurants.
As far as drinks, try Inca Kola, a bubble gum/tutti-frutti-flavored yellow soda. This drink outsells Coca-Cola in Peru (which is why it was bought out by Coca-Cola in 1999). Also, chicha morada is a Peruvian specialty. It's a spiced non-alcoholic drink made out of purple corn.
When leaving Cuzco, there is a place called Boing Appetit (in front of the airport, just if you want to have breakfast or a sandwich before take the plane to Lima) its the only place that provides a free internet connection in front of the airport.
- Los Angeles ( close to Ukuku's and near the Plaza de ArmasIf ). For late night food after clubbing, a very good fast food-type restaurant.
- Morena Peruvian Kitchen, Calle Plateros 348 ( just off the Plaza de Armas ). Traditional 3-course meals with a glass of chicha for S/7 and a comfortable upstairs setting. It is frequented by a mix of locals and tourists.
- Chifa Status , Av. La Cultura ( close to El Mega supermarket ). Good quality Chifa. Dishes for S/2-3.
- El Balcon . Soup, main course, and desert (no drink) for S/10. If you're looking for good quality food for not a lot of money, this is the place to go.
- El Encuentro . Reasonably priced vegetarian restaurant with good portions. The S/10 dinner includes soup, main course & mate. Free salads with lunch. They also do soy meat very well. There are two of these restaurants but the one in Calle Tigre near Plaza de Armas is S/8 for exactly the same menu. ( updated Dec 2017 )
- El Fogon , Plateros 365 ( Just off of Plaza de Armas, top floor ), ☏ +51 84 233596 . Nothing fancy but great cheap food: for S/10 you get a meal deal that includes a plate from the salad bar, a selection of soup, a selection of main dish, a dessert and a beverage. Or splurge with their more expensive menu offer for S/20. Very tasty Peruvian food. Friendly staff.
- El Mercado ( in front of the train station ). A roofed market where they sell delicious local bread, herbs, juices, souvenirs, DVDs and other items. If you want something truly more local, very cheap, and are willing to take risks of not the best methods of cleaning dishes, then head over here. At the end of the market are the food stands, where they serve local food. For S/2 you can get soup, an entree, and juice. All the locals know where the train station and El Mercado is. This is where many local workers go for their meals, not exactly a tourist place, but they are friendly towards tourists.
- Kukuly , Huaynapata 318 . A cozy place with friendly prices also attracting locals, run by a Swiss guy. Daily menu for S/6.
- Mercado Municipal . Fresh juices direct from the market. Fresh and great place to contact with local people. From S/2 .
- Prasada , Qanchipata 269 (sit-down restaurant lunch & dinner) & Choquechaca 152 (alley-way lunch) ( about half a block from Jack's Cafe, a bit hard to find in a small alley walkway, and is only marked by a small blackboard outside listing the daily specials ). Cute local vegetarian friendly spot. The food is delicious. For S/5 you can get plates like "falafel tacos" and "Mexican veggi burger". Also, they have lassies (a yogurt drink from India), and tasty desserts for a few soles. At the sit-down restaurant they do a daily menu (drink, soup and plate) for S/8. Can't be beat! US$3.50 .
- Victor Victoria , Calle Tsesequocha ( just off Calle Tigre ). Friendly service. Great salad bar buffet included in all main dishes. Gorgeous garlic trout with rice or potatoes for S/10 (including the salad bar buffet and lovely fresh bread) but only for lunch. Great value breakfasts. Regular glasses of freshly squeezed juice for S/6. Also they have a proper espresso machine for good coffee in the morning.
- -13.51472 -71.98063 1Chia Vegan Kitchen, Calle Tecsicocha 466 ( near the intersection with Calle Tigre ), ☏ +51 84 599055 . 10:00-22:00 . Arguably the best vegan place in Cusco, and very good value for money. Looks good, smells good, tastes good, and the staff is super friendly. Lunchtime offer includes drink and salad buffet for S/15. A la carte dishes more expensive, but worth it. If you're up for a hot drink and/or something sweet, try the enormous hot chocolate for the (very enjoyable) sugar shock of the day.
- Bagdad Cafe ( left of the cathedral ). This small restaurant seems to produce everything themselves. Local food is extremely good, in the evening small performance groups enter the restaurant and give excellent performances. The prices are mid-range, but it is sure worth it. The daily menu lunch special is more like a snack.
- Jack's Cafe , Choquechaca 188 ( on the corner and near the South American Explorers clubhouse ), ☏ +51 84 254606 . This is a great place to get a big breakfast complete with eggs, bacon, avocado, toast and fantastic thick shakes. Very popular with tourists. Try the homemade lemonades.
- Right outside of Jack's is an empanada stand which has great rocoto salsa, a spicy salsa that goes well on the cheese or meat-stuffed pastries.
- Cicciolinia, Calle Triunfo 393 ( at the end of the alley by the 12-sided stone ). Very tasty place to go for breakfast. There is an amazing bakers downstairs.
- -13.51824 -71.981079 2Emperador , 172 Granada . They have a 13-page menu with all sorts of foods from around the world. Try the pisco sour tall. ( updated Dec 2017 )
- -13.515563 -71.975938 3Encantasq'a , Choquechaca 131 . A nice place to have a break with coffee and a snack. Especially the chocolate cupcakes are delicious and make up for half a lunch. They also have fresh cakes, quiches and juices.
- -13.515882 -71.973846 4Green Point, 235 Calle Carmen Bajo , ☏ +51 84 431146 , ✉ [email protected] . Vegan restaurant popular with tourists, serving breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Various international dishes, and some Peruvian food. Gluten-free and raw options. Menu in English and Spanish. Wifi available. S/35–50 . ( updated Dec 2017 )
- Inka Grill ( On the Plaza de Armas ). Well-known and frequented by tourists but not a trap. Excellent food. Good place to try cuy (guinea pig) some people have reported mud butt after eating it, it is tastily done and served without the head so eating doesn't remind you of your pet hamster. Try the appetizer tiradito de trucha. Alpaca also on the menu.
- Restaurant Inkazuela , Plazoleta Nazarenas N 167 ( 8 m from Hotel Monasterio (2nd floor) ), ☏ +51 84 234924 , ✉ [email protected] . This place specializes in stews. Food is delicious and friendly waitresses will take good care of you. Well chosen music and a fireplace create a romantic atmosphere. Appetizers around S/15, mains around S/28 .
- Tunupa , 233 Portal Confituría , ☏ +51-84-25-2936 . They offer some of the best guinea pig or alpaca dishes from the local Novo Andino cuisine as well as other local specialities. Lunch entrées US$9–17 .
There are several supermarkets close to el centro:
- Gato's Market , Plaza de Armas ( across from Norton Rat's Pub in Portal Belén 115 ). Small and a bit pricey.
- Mega, has several locations: the most central is on Matara, just north of Ayacucho. A larger one is at Plaza Tupac Amaru, on Matará 271 at Av Garcilaso. They have a home-furnishings store next door as well.
- Maxi , Ave Grau ( just west of Matara ).
For larger supermarkets, take a combi or taxi a couple of kilometres south on Av. La Cultura.
- La Canasta , Av La Cultura 2000-block . Well-stocked.
- Mega ( a few blocks further past La Canasta, on the same side of Av. La Cultura ). This is the largest supermarket in Cuzco.
There are many clubs and pubs in Cuzco, and there are always people handing out flyers around the Plaza de Armas. These usually include free drinks. The clubs are almost always busy, even during the week, do not usually have cover charges, and most are open until 03:00 at the earliest and 17:00 at the latest. The hot spots change nightly ask around and you will quickly find the crowds of travellers.
- Mama Africa . On 3 levels. Snacks, a cafe on the rooftop, restaurant with a good cheap menu, 2 discos, the latest movies on DVD. Some of the decorations and paintings are by the owner/artist. Lots of people, good music, good atmosphere and free salsa lessons. Salsa starts at about 21:00 and goes until about 23:00. If you really want to learn some moves, dance with Carlos, Miguel, or Checo, who work there. It also plays host to the legendary 'crew' lively lot of Lima ladies whose exploits with gringo males have reached mythical levels. On the corner of Plaza de Armas.
- El Muki. Across the street from Mama America. A place with more locals than the Plaza de Armas. It has a unique cave-like interior and is one of the city's oldest discos.
- Caos , La Avenida de la Cultura ( next to the post office ). If you want to get away from the tourist crowd for a while and dance the night away with the locals, head to this very nice large club with a great mix of music and exotic drinks.
- Paddy's Irish Pub , 124 Calle Triunfo ( on the eastern corner of Plaza de Armas ). The night-brother of Jack's Cafe. Not exactly traditional Peruvian fare, but an excellent atmosphere among fellow travellers in a cozy upstairs pub setting. Purportedly the highest 'Irish-owned' pub in the world at 3,400 m, it offers a good selection of pub food (think cottage pie, casseroles, mash and gravy), local and international drinks (even had cider and Guinness), and a useful "No Gracias" T-shirt for sale.
- Mythology . Disco that offers salsa. If you want to learn Rueda Cubana, this is the place to go. Classes usually start around 21:00 and private lessons can be arranged with Cesar, the dance instructor. Mythology also offers a unique decor of gods and goddesses and has the cleanest restrooms of all of the nightclubs, by far.
- Ukuku's , Plateros 316 . Live music with local and traveling artists playing a variety of different music styles including salsa, meringue, criolla, and Afro-Peruvian. There are great decorative masks in the walls and a huge wooden woman statue with butterfly wings.
- Los Perros , Tecsecocha 436, San Blas . Chill restaurant/lounge. Ethnic food and comfortable couches.
- Norton Rats . Sort of a biker bar on the southeast side of the Plaza de Armas. They have pool and darts and a pretty cool atmosphere.
- Le Nomade . 2nd floor, cnr of Choquechaca and Cuesta San Blas 207. Bar/lounge with live music every night. Reggae, Latin, cubano, afro-Jazz, blues, bossa, funk, soul, rock and española. No cover. Friendly staff.
- The Lost City Bar ( turn left out of gringo alley, basement bar on the left before Calle Tigre ). nights . Small basement bar one block from the plaza de Armas. Very friendly place to watch American football or basketball and chat to the regulars and owners. Great pizzas and paninis, cheap happy hour cocktails and beers. A real bar for locals, expats and Cusqueños.
Loads and loads of options in Cuzco to suit all budgets. Most won't need to be booked beforehand. San Blas, many new hospedajes/hostales have opened in this area 4 blocks up the hill from the Plaza de Armas.
- Hospedaje Amanecer , 216 Choquechaca, San Blas District ( From the Plaza de Armas, head towards Plazoleta de las Nazarenas, walk down 7 Culebras, turn left and its on the right hand side, its white with a blue door ). A quiet place, private bathrooms, TV, wi-fi, hot shower. Twins S/40 .
- Hostal El Arcano, Carmen Alto 288, San Blas District ( go up Carmen Alto and it's almost all the way at the end (the road terminates at a T) ), ☏ +51 84 232703 . A great little hostal overlooking the city with a variety of comfortable, affordable rooms.
- [dead link] Amaru Hostal I, Cuesta San Blas 541 , ☏ +51 84 225933 , ✉ [email protected] . Quiet and cheap option about 3 blocks from the Plaza de Armas. Rooms are decent sized and have private or shared bath facilities and TV. US$30–55/room depending on type of beds, occupancy and season.
- Amaru Colonial Hotel, Chihuampata 642 , ☏ +51 84 223521 , ✉ [email protected] . Quiet and cheap option about 2-3 blocks from the Plaza de Armas. US$30–48/room depending on type of beds, occupancy and season.
- El Balcón Cusco Hotel, Tambo De Montero 222 , ☏ +51 84 236738 . Awesome interior design, delicious breakfast and moderate prices. From Plaza de Armas, follow Plateros a block and a half or so. The hotel is in a lane up the hill. About half a block up, look for the door on the right. The sign is above the door, so you may not see it unless you walk on the opposite side of the lane.
- Hostal Frankenstein, San Juan de Dios 260 ( 2 blocks from main square ), ☏ +51 84 236999 . Clean, friendly and helpful German chef, a lazy iguana, creative interior, cosy atmosphere. Double costs around US$20 (the one on top is quiet and offer view to Ausangate mountain).
- Hoteles Garcilaso, Calle Garcilaso #535 #538 , ☏ +51 842 233031 . There are two of them on the same block. Good location on the block between the Plaza San Francisco and the other small plaza that is one block from the Plaza de Armas. As in a lot of places, the inside rooms may be the way to go because they are quiet at night. Double US$75/night, however it is worth more like US$30–45/night.
- Orquidea Real, Calle Saphy 851 , ☏ +51 984 506 637 , ✉ [email protected] . The colonial building has original Inca walls and exposed wood beams, and the rustic accommodations are simply decorated in a cozy mountain lodge aesthetic. All rooms are oriented toward Cuzco below, offering panoramic views.
- Ninos Hotel, Calle Meloc 442 , ☏ +51 84231424 . Hotel with charitable purposes: all procedures from room booking and in-house restaurant go towards running an association that gives support to local unprivileged children.
- Gran Hostal Machu Picchu , Calle Quera 282 , ☏ +51 842 84 23 1111 .
- Hostal Rumi Punku, Calle Choqechaka 339 , ☏ +51 84 221102 . Rumi Punku means "stone door" in Quechua: the entrance to the hotel leads through an ancient stone door, obviously of Inca design. The doorway is all that has survived of an Inca palace. The door is considered a historic item by the city of Cuzco.
- Casa San Blas Boutique Inn, Tucoyeros 566, San Blas , ☏ +51 84 237900 . In the historic artisan's quarter 2½ blocks from the main square in a neighborhood of narrow, cobbled streets and whitewashed colonial-era houses. Friendly staff. US$110 a night for a single.
- Koyllur Hostal, Pumapaccha Nº 243 , ☏ +51 984004661 . Richly decorated and a nice place to splash out for a few nights. Big buffet breakfasts. Ask for room at top floor in the front - has skylights, lots of room, nice furnishings. CablebTV, wifi. US$20 in off-season.
- -13.51718 -71.97672 4La Posada del Viajero, Santa Catalina Ancha 366 ( Santa Catalina Ancha 366 ), ☏ +51 84 261643 , ✉ [email protected] . Free Wi-Fi, 2 blocks from Plaza de Armas, breakfast, hot water, kitchen. US$40 Double or twin room . ( updated May 2015 )
- 13.51845 71.96887 5Hotel Golden Inca, Calle Retiro N° 435 ( 10 minutes walk from the main square ), ☏ +51 84 240331 , ✉ [email protected] . Check-in: 11:15 , check-out: 10:30 . Very quiet, beautiful rooms, clean and cozy. ( updated Sep 2015 )
- Tierra Viva Cusco Plaza .
- Tierra Viva Cusco Saphi , Saphi street . Many of the rooms on the second floor have high ceilings with white-painted wood beams visibly charming. The hotel is organized around two interior courtyards. Breakfast is included. The staff are attentive, speak great English, and can help you make reservations. The most interesting aspect of Tierra Viva Saphi is the location it is at the boundary between fancy Plaza de Armas and the poor hills around Cuzco it's charming, but also somewhat out of place. Room 212 is excellent. 2nd floor rooms are preferable. 24 hour desk so it's easy to check out for those early Inca Trail departures. Free coca tea in the lobby a great way to warm up at night.
- Libertador Palacio del Inka, Santo Domingo 259 , ☏ +51 84 231961 . The hotel was part of the Koricancha temple and during colonial times it became property of the conqueror Francisco Pizarro.
- Amerinka Boutique Hotel, Calle Marquez Nº 272 , ☏ +51 084 224949 . Modern hotel that combines warm room atmospheres with professional and experienced attention. Near Plaza de Armas.
- The Garden House Hotel, LOS ALAMOS B-6 , ☏ +51-84-271117 , ✉ [email protected] . Family-run hotel in a wonderful private garden. Modern decor, wifi.
- Hotel Royal Inka I or II ( in front of the Plaza Regocijo, about 150 m from la Plaza de Armas ), Calle Espinar , ☏ +51 84 222284 . Royal Inka I is a renovated house while Royal Inka II is more modern with a spa (jacuzzi and steam room). Breakfast available.
- -13.5154 -71.9768 6Belmond Hotel Monasterio, Calle, Nazarenas 337 , ☏ +51 84 604000 , ✉ [email protected] . Housed in a former monastery, rooms are former monks' cells, but they are far from monastic. By far the most expensive place to stay in Cuzco. Avoid rooms 414-419, which are near a noisy generator.
- Hotel Marqueses, Calle Garcilaso 256 , ☏ +51 842 264249 , ✉ [email protected] . The official hotel of SAS travel. Good staff and comfortable rooms. In the tourist district, 2 blocks from the Plaza des Armas.
- Hilton Garden Inn, Av. Abancay 207 ( slight uphill walk from the centre, less than 1 km, part of which involves stairs ), ☏ +51 84 580130 . For those who wish for a quiet night's sleep. Beautiful views of Cusco city from the rooms, especially at night. ( updated Jun 2019 )
What to wear Edit
- June–August. Cuzco can be very hot during the day and quite cold in the early morning and late at night. If you get cold easily, you might want to carry a hat, gloves, and several layers in your day pack to use at night, that you can peel off during the day for complete summer mode
- Shoes. Cuzco is somewhat dusty and you will be very happy wearing a boot and sneaker mix such as Keens, rather than for example flip flops.
Law enforcement related to drugs is very severe in Peru - that is, years in prison and no pleasure. Consider that many "long resident tourists" are part of the scene. It is already a felony that you "consider to maybe accept" an offer to buy.
Although Cuzco is, in general, relatively safe, as in any urban area, muggings and petty thefts do occur. Use common sense and you should be fine. Don't wander alone away from the Plaza de Armas late at night. Don't flaunt your valuables around. Be conscious of what is going on around you. As Peru's main tourist attraction, Cuzco is a mecca for thieves and scammers. Pickpocketing (especially by children) is a major problem. New scams are being thought of all the time. For example, be wary if you are approached by people trying to sell you stuff in the streets and try to strike up a long conversation. It's possible that they are distracting you while someone else is pickpocketing you. By night, it's not wise to venture away from the main well lit areas. The markets, bus station and other crowded areas are the epicentres for these activities. Often targets are distracted by some strange going on (e.g. fight or dispute) whilst another person performs the robbery. Only take taxis that are well marked, and if you are taking a taxi alone at night, write down the number and call a friend (or pretend to call a friend if you don't have a phone) saying, so the driver can hear, that you are coming home in taxi #. Also, try not to set yourself apart as a clueless tourist by wearing expensive or flashy clothing or revealing clothing in a particularly conservative region of Peru (the locals do not wear shorts and tank-tops around).
Watch for the feral dogs that hit the streets at night, rummaging through trash. Peruvians love dogs, and most of the time the animals are friendly. Just use common sense and project confidence and you shouldn't be bothered. If you feel threatened let the dogs see you pick up a rock off the ground, or if there are no rocks simply act like you picked one up. The dogs seem to know what this means and they'll slowly back off.
There are a number of beggars in the streets of Cuzco, most of them children. They will tell you the money is for schooling. Giving to beggars is a moral decision each individual can make. If you don't want them to follow you around, a stern 'no' will suffice. Please see the article on begging.
For most travellers, at 3,400 meters, Cuzco is the highest point on their trip (or any trip for that matter) altitude sickness is a big problem - you may become winded after even minor exertion (other symptoms include headache and nausea). If you've had trouble at high elevation in the past, arrive a day early to acclimate. Remember on the first day to take it slow and stay away from the bars the first night. Most hotels offer coca tea (coca leaves are the traditional native remedy for altitude sickness) and finding products made out of coca like coca candy is easy to find in Cuzco, but their effect is doubtful. If you expect to get drug tested upon your return home, however, avoid all products with coca, drink plenty of water and look into Diamox Sequels in USA or Glaucozol in Peru (drug: acetazolamide) (available at a pharmacy) to help deal with the adjustment period. Acetazolamide is a diurectic (so, you will be peeing every 2 hours, quite annoying). Another option (probably the best) is the famous Sorojchi pills (drugs: Acetylsalicylic Acid, Salofeno and Cafeine).
To avoid upset stomach doctors recommend that you drink only bottled water and avoid uncooked vegetables and fruits that you haven't peeled, even in hotels.
At this elevation and not far from the Equator, there's a risk for serious sunburns. According to a study Cuzco is the city with the highest average level of UV-radiation in the world. Protect your skin and eyes!
- Clinica San Josè, Av. Los Incas 1408-B , ☏ +51 84 253295 . Should you get sick this is an excellent private clinic, also advised by locals, providing general and specialist assistance with all the modern medical diagnostic apparels. Usually they provide a private room with two beds, one for the patient and one for an accompanying person but be sure to carry a travel insurance with you otherwise be prepared to pay a lot of money. They'll get in contact with your insurance company to arrange things in order to have the latter paying directly the clinic on your exit.
- Hampi Land , Choquechaka Street ( just a few blocks away from the Plaza de Armas, and about one block away from "Jack's Restaurant" ). A clinic
- Hotel Doctor Internacional , ☏ +51 17 085586 , +51 9953-74658 (mobile) , toll-free: +1 800-869-4713 . available 24 hours, 7 days a week . a service that will dispatch a doctor to your hotel room usually within 10 to 15 minutes. For a very reasonable price the doctor will come equipped with medications and provide the traveler with the proper insurance forms for reimbursement. English and German spoken.
- Pisac, Colorful marketplace, climb up to the expansive ruins to the religious site and cemetery behind. 32 km (20 mi) from Cuzco. Accessible with the boleto turistico.
- Ollantaytambo, Religious center that doubled as a fortress during the Spanish conquest . A great place to visit on the return from Machu Picchu or an alternative if you don't want to visit Machu Picchu. Great place to stay too. 77 km (48 mi) from Cuzco. Accessible with the boleto turistico.
- Lake Titicaca, PeruRail connects Cuzco to Juliaca and Puno, and the journey is one of the most spectacular rail journeys in the world, passing through amazing scenery and the middle of small towns. The journey should take 10 hr, but there are often delays. The 'scenic stop' included at La Raya is a bit of a waste of time, though it's included anyway. Prices are high, and the cheap backpacker train no longer runs this route, having been sent to the Poroy (Cuzco) - Machu Picchu line. The trip from Cuzco to Puno runs about US$220 each way now.
- There are several buses that travel to Lake Titicaca, which are much cheaper and take less time than the train, while passing much of the same scenery. The more expensive buses stop at 5 or 6 interesting spots along the trip, including the "Sistine Chapel of South America".
- Machu Picchu: the atmospheric ruin perched below the Andes and above the jungle. For the best experience, walk there on the Inca Trail or one of the alternative trails, which is certainly worth the exercise! There are numerous tour companies which organise such trips, costing US$365–450 with all travel costs. There are lots of companies offering a 4-day "Jungle Trek" as an alternative to the Inca Trail, or 2-day, one-night trips for US$260-270 (Mar 2018) including hostel accommodation. A one-way train trip (Jan-Apr, it's a bus to Ollantaytambo and train to Aguas Calientes) on Inca Rail or PeruRail starts at US$65 each way. Prices rise depending on time of day, demand and class of train. Both companies can sell you tickets to the Machu Picchu site (for a $5 surcharge), tickets for the bus from Aguas Calientes to the site ($24 round-trip). This trip takes just under 4 hours. The trains begin and end at Poroy - you must take a bus or taxi from Cuzco to Poroy. You can also get to Machu Picchu from Cuzco in a "cheap" way, first a minibus for round trip for S/95 (May 2015) to Hidroelectrica, then walking 3 hr to Aguas Calientes or just take train for US$28 (May 2015) for more details about this option, see Aguas Calientes.
- Choquequirao: like Machu Picchu a big Inca ruin area at the edge of a mountain with great view. It offers much bigger area and terraces but less housing. Not as fabulous as Machu Picchu but definitely worth a visit. Only accessible by trekking (possibility to continue to Machu Picchu). Very few visitors are brave enough to make the trek. BTW, it's cheaper.
- Ausangate: a high-altitude, dramatic alternative to the treks above, without historic sites but with amazing scenery.
- Puno: visiting Lake Titicaca is the perfect way to complete a journey to the Southern Andes. It is possible to travel from Cuzco taking a direct 30-minute flight, traveling by train or by road, which allows stopping at various interesting sites on the route such as Andahuaylillas, Piquillacta, Tipon, Huaro, Raqchi or Lampa as well as witnessing stunning landscapes.
- La Paz (Bolivia): there are overnight buses direct from Cuzco to La Paz that pass through Desaguadero. The duration seems to be about 15-17 hr long. Or go from Cuzco to Copacabana, Bolivia, (about 10 hr) and from there onto La Paz (about 2 hr).
- Machiguenga Center for Tropical Research: 100% indigenous owned rainforest lodge in the Amazon. Macaw clay licks. Immediately downstream from the Pongo de Mainique canyon on Rio Urubamba. It seems like you have to go through a tour operator packages include flights in and out.
There are several smaller bus terminals in Cuzco that travel to other destinations around the Sacred Valley of the Incas.
Our itinerary with 7 days in the Sacred Valley Peru
Day 1 – We arrived into Lima on a red-eye flight from Washington at about 5:30 a.m. Originally we were going to stay a day in Lima to acclimate to the altitude…. until we realized that Lima is at sea level :-). Oops! We changed our flight to Cusco to leave at 8 a.m., meaning that we arrived at Cusco airport at about 9:30 and immediately used TaxiDatum for a USD$65 ride to Urubamba with stops at the Pisac ruins, Pisac Market and the Awanacancha animal sanctuary. TaxiDatum will get a direct taxi to Urubamba or Ollantaytambo for USD$30, which I believe is comparable to what other taxis will charge to go to those cities.
Days 2 and 3 – Due to the government strike / huelga in the Sacred Valley, we decided that we would just hang out in / near the hotel and in the Urubamba area. It was nice to be able to just relax in the pool and not feel like every day had to be non-stop “doing stuff” all day, every day. If you’ve got 7 or 8 days in the Sacred Valley or in Cusco, I definitely recommend a few days for relaxing.
We also took a day trip to Yucay, which is a smaller town just down the road from Urubamba. We walked there (about a 45 minute walk) and then took a mototaxi back (3 Soles)
Day 4 – Machu Picchu! I know that I said this was what we did BESIDES Machu Picchu but of course we had to go while we had 7 days in the Sacred Valley!
Day 5 – Maras, Moray and Chincheros
With the government strike calmed down, we took a full day tour to Maras (salt ponds), Moray (ruins) and Chincheros (ruins). Of those, I would say that Maras and Moray were more impressive to us. Here’s a video of the salineras (salt ponds) at Maras.
And I do know that the ponds are all community owned, so it’s possible that the lady I mentioned in the video was legitimately participating in that. It didn’t seem like that to me BWDIK. Here is a video and some pictures of some of the ruins at Moray.
Chincheros had more ruins as well as an old Spanish cathedral. This was probably one of my favorite of our days in the Sacred Valley Peru.
Day 6 – Return to Cusco
Then it was time to return to Cusco. We opted not to take an additional tour of the area but instead get to Cusco early in the morning so that we could explore some of Cusco itself (since on arrival we had immediately left from the airport to go to Urubamba. Here’s a panoramic shot of the Plaza de Armas in Cusco (click for full size)
We also visited some of the museums and cathedrals in the area
I didn’t think that the Qorikancha museum (pictured above) was that impressive, but it’s included on your “boleto turistico” which we had to purchase to see Ollantaytambo, Pisac or any of the other ruins. It was an interesting example of a Spanish church (Cathedral of Santo Domingo in the background) built on top of Incan ruins)
Day 7 – Return to Lima
Our last day in Cusco was a Sunday and so we started off by going to church (SEE ALSO: Do you go to church while on vacation? I do) and then to the airport. As I mentioned, we did negotiate with our TaxiDatum driver to drive us through the historic city center of Lima – we didn’t have time to do it justice unfortunately
Due to our CUZ-LIM flight being delayed a few hours, it was dark by the time we got to Miraflores, but we still walked down to the ocean and to the Parque del Amor
Getting from Cusco to Machu Picchu
The easiest way to get from Cusco to Machu Picchu is to take the train to Aguas Calientes. It’s a scenic 3.5-hour trip each way along tracks that run right along the Urubamba River in the Sacred Valley, with dramatic canyon walls on either side.
Some train tips:
• The so-called Cusco train station is actually in the nearby town of Poroy. It’s a cheap taxi ride, but give yourself at least an hour to get from central Cusco to the train station. Traffic in Cusco can be brutal and seemingly never-ending road work makes things even more congested.
• There are three train companies to choose from: Inca Rail, Peru Rail, and the Belmond Hiram Bingham train. The Hiram Bingham service is on a gorgeous train gleaming with brass and polished wood and includes a white tablecloth meal with wine during your journey. It’s also much more expensive than Inca Rail or Peru Rail, both of which offer comfortable passage on different types of trains — including ones designed with panoramic windows for an additional fee.
• Whichever train you choose, book as far in advance as possible. Tickets sell out weeks ahead in some months.
• If train tickets from Cusco are sold out, all is not lost. Try to buy a ticket to Aguas Calientes that departs from the town of Ollantaytambo in the Sacred Valley, or vice versa. Taxis and mini vans between Ollantaytambo and Cusco (just over an hour each way) are plentiful. If you have the time, plan an overnight in Ollantaytambo to check out the town, which still features many Incan-built streets and buildings, as well as the archaeological site of the same name. Arrive as early as possible to the site to enjoy sunrise light and beat the tour buses.
• You can also stay overnight in Urubamba, a 20-minute drive from Ollantaytambo, which has a bevy of luxury and boutique hotels such as Tambo del Inka, a Luxury Collection Resort & Spa Sol y Luna, Relais & Châteaux and Aranwa Sacred Valley Hotel & Wellness.
Savoring Peru: Machu Picchu, Cusco & Culinary Bliss
It was a cool, clear, sunny morning and the sun’s rays were at the perfect angles, making the temples and stonework glow. My husband and I had just hiked up to the perfect location to take in the wonder that is Machu Picchu. My favorite and most cherished travel memory of all time has most certainly been this: experiencing Peru, and specifically visiting Machu Picchu.
Chasing A Travel Dream
Since my very first job at a travel agency as a teen, I would look at a large poster on the storefront’s wall of this Incan citadel, high in the Andes Mountains and say to myself, “I have to go there one day.” I finally had the opportunity a few years ago and I must say, words cannot describe the sense of awe I felt when we arrived to the perfect spot to simply take it all in. I stayed there, taking in the incredible views of Machu Picchu as long as my tour allowed – I just didn’t want to turn away.
During our visit, our tour guide explained its history in depth including the major role the sun played in its development. What amazed me most was the amount of work it must have taken to construct a citadel of this scope during that era – it’s incredible. Archaeological studies estimate that Machu Picchu was built during the 15th century and stones must have been rolled uphill by hand. Stone masonry was a specialty of Inca architecture, which can be seen throughout the region. I was so impressed that I would love to visit again and see other surrounding sites.
Before visiting Machu Picchu, we were able to experience Lima and Cusco and it was so delightful. As a seafood lover, this was complete culinary bliss for me. Their cuisine has been celebrated among the best in the world and indeed it was amazing. My husband and our travel friends frequented local restaurants that served fresh ceviche, octopus, their famed lomo saltado, and pisco sour drinks. I would go back just for the food, let alone everything else Peru has to offer.
Back on board, there were so many excellent dishes from breakfast to dinner and dessert. But I can truly say I had the tastiest lobster dish ever in The Grand Dining Room. The texture was just perfect and it was cooked in a coconut curry sauce which was just delicious! And I tried escargot for the first time – simply amazing!
Cusco: Heritage Rich & Soaring Views
The city of Cusco was such a distinct, charming town with history and colonial architecture around every corner of its cobblestone streets. As we walked from place to place during our free time, it was interesting to see local Indigenous women wearing traditional Andean clothing and shawls dating back to the pre-conquest Peru era.
The city’s altitude is over 11,000 feet, which is higher in elevation than Machu Picchu. We enjoyed the city’s spectacular views from many points around town, visited an oxygen bar and acclimated before the next day’s train ride to Machu Picchu’s base town of Aguas Calientes.
Like many passionate travelers, I have a long list of places I’m yearning to explore. In the next few years I would most love the opportunity to travel to Japan, Thailand, Indonesia, South Africa, Greece, and French Polynesia. And, I will be back to Peru!
Sopa de quinoa, a soup made from quinoa, can be personalized with addition of vegetables like pumpkin and spinach
The outside world has now become aware of quinoa, a fashionable &lsquosuperfood&rsquo, but it has been eaten in Peru from time immemorial and was known to the Incas as &lsquothe mother of all grains&rsquo. In the Andes, it is combined with other locally-available ingredients to make a hearty and energising soup. A trip to Peru is the perfect chance to taste this much-vaunted health food in the land where it was originally domesticated.
6. Determine whether to take a solo trip or join a group tour
With a trip like this tour of Peru and its trek to Machu Picchu, there are so many moving parts and logistical contingencies that going with a service like Mountain Lodges of Peru can mean the best bang for your buck. In a country like Peru, transportation in and out of cities, up mountains, and to Machu Picchu (if you’re not hiking) can be difficult to lock down (especially if you’re not fluent in Peruvian-accented Spanish.)
It can be a huge relief to sit down to pre-made meals (breakfast, lunch, and dinner are provided by every lodge), enjoy guided tours worth experiencing, and get passes and tickets rolled in to one package. It’s nice to let go and let someone else take care of you—especially when the lodges offer hot showers, giant, fluffy beds, and unique ammenities like massages, private hot tubs, and backyard llamas. (They had me at llamas.) No one’s going to leave a hot water bottle in your sleeping bag or a chocolate in your tent every night if you camp, but it all depends on what kind of experience you want. Mountain Lodges of Peru also offers a Grand Andean Experience and Salkantay Trek to Machu Picchu, which are excellent options if you want a more rugged experience.
How to buy Machu Picchu train tickets
You can (at least in theory) buy Machu Picchu train tickets from the PeruRail website. The site looks nice, it’s available in English and should be fairly straightforward. I personally had some major problems completing a sale on the PeruRail website (READ MORE: It took me 15 tries to book Machu Picchu train tickets). I have read other people that have had problems, and have heard from other people who were able to book Machu Picchu train tickets on the PeruRail site with no problem.
The problem I ran into was at the end, when I was trying to pay with a credit card, it would either not even show me the iframe where I was supposed to put in my credit card information, or, if it got that far, it said it only accepted cards that had a “Mastercard Secure Code” or were “Verified by Visa”. All cards I tried were declined. I checked with my bank and they never even saw the transactions, so it was declined by PeruRail, not my bank.
You are also able to buy tickets at PeruRail stations in the Sacred Valley. If you’re traveling during the busy season (June – November), you run the risk of your train selling out. Our Machu Picchu train tickets were for June 1st, and I had no problems buying the tickets at the PeruRail ticket office on the grounds of the Tambo del Inka hotel in Urubamba. I paid with a credit card there (you can also pay in Peruvian Soles but I don’t believe you can pay in USD)
30. Road trip games
AFAR’s Pick: Psych! Outwit Your Friends , apps.apple.com play.google.com
Sure, you can pack board games for the cabin, but you’ll need something a little more portable for the car. It’s free to download Psych, a Balderdash-like game where each person takes turns creating fake answers to various trivia questions. If you guess the correct answer among the wrong ones, you earn points. Bear in mind that this game involves screen time—so the driver can’t play—but you can include them by reading the questions and answers out loud.
This story originally appeared in November 2018, and was updated on August 18, 2020, to include current information.
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