Cusco Is More Than Just An Overnight Stop Off…
Cusco, Peru’s ‘gringo capital’ is top of the list for many travellers heading to their bucket list destination Machu Picchu, the ‘lost’ city of the Incas.
The historic centre, with its cobbled streets, beautiful churches and colonial buildings surrounding the bustling Plaza de Armas, is both a colourful and inviting place to spend a few days.
Before setting off on the Inca Trail, here are our top picks if you get the chance for an extended stay in Cusco…
1. Soak up the sights and enjoy Cusco’s friendly atmosphere by taking a ‘Bus Tour’ around the city.
2. Visit the Cristo Blanco statue located high on a hill above Cusco and take in the wonderful panoramic views.
3. Treat yourself to some traditional Peruvian hand-made woollen goods from Cusco’s colourful Artesan markets.
4. Not for the faint hearted… Wander around the San Pedro Food Market and see the local produce on offer. A great introduction to Peruvian culture.
5. Appreciate the ornate architecture that surrounds the Plaza de Armas, particularly the Santo Domingo Cathedral. Also a perfect spot for some night-time photography.
6. Sample Peru’s number one cocktail, a Pisco Sour, and (if you can stomach it) feast on guinea pig, a local delicacy.
7. Just for fun! Hold a lamb or stroke a llama and have your photograph taken with Peruvians in their traditional dress.
8. Not to be missed! Be wowed by Peru’s stunning landscape and the legacy of the Inca’s by taking a tour to the Sacred Valley.
We visited Sacsayhuaman, Pisac and Ollantaytambo on an organised day trip from Cusco.
9. Peruse the many shops in Cusco’s historic centre selling outdoor clothing and top up your hiking gear.
It is good quality and a fraction of the cost compared with back home. (We got a real bargain buying a pair of walking trousers and goose down thermal jackets for less than £100 in total).
10. Listen to the soothing sound of panpipes and move along to the rhythm whilst watching a traditional Peruvian dancing show.
(You can do this for FREE whilst enjoying a meal in a local restaurant situated in Plaza de Armas).
Machu Picchu – The Star Attraction
As our overland route was changed at the last minute due to escalating troubles in Venezuela, we only headed to Cusco briefly on our way north, simply as a rest stop en route from Peru to Ecuador to Colombia. (We are hot-footing it to Colombia in time for ‘Carnaval’ in Barranquilla).
From Cusco, travellers usually head on the gringo trail to Machu Picchu to wonder at the mysterious ruins and revel in the fascinating architecture of the Incas. The majority of tourists choose to hike the traditional ‘Inca Trail’, however we have decided on an alternative route that was recommended to us.
We will be returning to Cusco in April, (Part of Sector 4 of our overland trip) when we’ll be donning our walking boots and setting off through the Lares Valley on a community based trek to Machu Picchu. The Lares Trek will be taking us off the beaten track with visits to authentic Andean communities whilst we will be surrounded by stunning mountains, lakes and valleys. The trek also offers us a real insight into the lives of the people of Cusco as it once was.
For now we have made it to Colombia! But we are looking forward to returning to Peru and hiking in the Lares Valley as Machu Picchu is one of our bucket list destinations…
More of that to come in a future post!