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tommerrick Cusco - A travel report by Tom
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Cusco,  Peru - flag Peru -  Cusco
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tommerrick's travel reports

Cusco and city tour

  13 votes
Our honeymoon and first trip to South America from our home in South Dakota, US. Trip taken in February, 2007. A few days in Cusco, then two days in Machu Picchu, one day in the Sacred Valley, five days in Tambopota, then back to Cusco, and home.

The basics - we bought tickets from Minneapolis to Cusco, Peru, flying out February 6 and back on the 19th (purchased through Travelocity, less than $700 each on Continental). We had no other reservations, but it was the low and rainy season, so we weren't worried about finding things. The worst part of the trip there was being stuck in Lima from midnight until our flight the next morning for Cusco (sometimes spelled Cuzco, the cultural capital of South America and center of the Inca Empire). Even if they promise in Minneapolis that your bags are checked all the way through to Cusco, they are not. Everything gets dumped off in Lima, a fact we discovered about midway through our layover. We were able to check it back in with LAN (the Peruvian airline) right away, but that could have been a disaster. We got a cab at the Cusco airport after the one-hour flight (but I understand the bus is 10-12 hours because of the mountain passes) and had a list of places we wanted to check out for rooms. The first choice was closed (it was only 7:30 in the morning),and we ended up checking out rooms in about half a dozen hostels and hotels (there is almost no distinction between the two; I think a hotel has a bar and restaurant in it, but the rooms are otherwise exactly the same). Our place was just a block or so off the main Plaza de Armas, with a balcony overlooking the street. The room was huge compared to a lot of the other matrimonial (one large bed, as opposed to two small beds) rooms. It was called the Royal Inka II, and we enjoyed it. You might want to stay in a back room, not facing a main street.

Favourite spots:
We sipped our first couple glasses of Mate de Coca, a coca-leaf tea that was good for digestion and altitude sickness. Both of us had good and bad days adjusting –never full-on sick, but almost always with a touch of a headache or stomach or something. It's over 10,000 feet, and even climbing a few steps takes the wind right out of you. We signed on with the guy to do a city tour the next afternoon – giving us 24 hours to acclimate and sleep. We wandered a little. Cusco is about 350,000 people, and as a tourist destination, had a goodly number of street merchants (little carts selling smokes, water, soda, and candy, then a lot of shoe-shine kids, postcards for sale, kids selling mass-produced art as their own work, fake alpaca sweaters, and just straight-up beggars). You get used to it, and it isn't a big deal. You start to walk a little quicker, and they aren't very persistent. There are police all over main areas.

What's really great:
The largest ruin on the city tour is called Sacsayhuaman, city of stone where the Inca defended the city. We were continually impressed with the Inca history and culture. These fortresses or baths or ceremonial areas were constructed by shaping and combining rocks without mortar, and they've withstood hundreds of years and many earthquakes. All the Spanish churches that were built over the old Incan foundations have crumbled, yet the foundations remain. That being said, all the spectacular old churches that dominate the large and small towns are Catholic and Spanish – only built some centuries after the initial Spanish conquest in the 1500s. We very much enjoyed the city market as well (all local, very inexpensive, now placed in an old depot rather than spread out through the town).

There are great churches around the Plaza de Armas. Qorikoncho (I'm spelling that wrong) was a fascinating church/history lesson. The ruins around the city (as part of the city tour) are interesting, especially Sacsayuaman.

Shop around. Unless it is high season, there are plenty of places. The on the spot rate is way better than anything on the internet, or even the first rate you're quoted. I would also say that the travel agents who try to sell you packages also want to negotiate your room price (meaning, you are about to pay too much yourself - let me do it and keep the difference between what you'll pay me and what I can negotiate for you). We found the online descriptions to be accurate, though they over-emphasized the distance and danger of staying in some of the more far-flung areas of the city - cabs are always available. We very much enjoyed the Royal Inka II where we stayed - good breakfast, big room, fireplaces in the lobby. For most, staying at the rear of the hotel is better, as street noise is pretty overwhelming.

This universal rule is absolutely true in Cusco - stay away from the tourist restaurants around the Plaza de Armas, other than well-documented exceptions. See where the locals eat, and eat there - it is much less expensive, the food is better, and the atmosphere is terrific.

Other recommendations:
There is a city market area up the hill from the Plaza several blocks. It is set in an old depot building, and was very interesting (especially when you go with someone local). There are different aisles for coffee, chocolate, fish, fruit, vegetables, meat, candy, toys, all under this huge canopy, and very interesting.

Published on Tuesday April 24th, 2007

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Sun, May 06 2007 - 06:49 AM rating by marianne

Nice personal account. Would even be better if you added a few pictures

Wed, Apr 25 2007 - 09:04 PM rating by eirekay

Nice Report about one of my places! I know whaty you mean about all kids in the Plaza d'Armas selling postcards - they were even out at midnight! This is a terrific first report!

Wed, Apr 25 2007 - 01:01 PM rating by sajjanka

umm pics not added

Wed, Apr 25 2007 - 03:08 AM rating by akhila

Well written report, pictures would surely add colour to this.

Wed, Apr 25 2007 - 02:09 AM rating by downundergal

Nice chatty report style with some good tips - I would have loved some pictures to give an extra star rating.

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