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

Planning your Incan Tour

  21 votes

Cusco travelogue picture
I've seen a lot of online tours for Peru, the Inca Trail and various ruins around Cusco go for thousands of dollars, NOT including airfare!! Here's the scoop. If you go on your own, it's not that difficult and you can save a LOT of money. Almost all tour agencies have someone that speaks English, and you can find tour agencies either at the bus station, or exit the bus station and take a taxi to the Plaza de Armas.

In Cusco a taxi anywhere is 2 Soles (3 if you don't speak spanish). From inside the station it's 3 soles (exit the security fence to save 1 sol). I've heard that in Lima it's generally more. DO only take taxis with a yellow sign on the window with their offical number. This is the government's attempt to organise the system and also lowers your chances of being robbed by the taxista. This is a country where you need to practice your street smarts. I highly recommend the Lonely Planet guide. It has all of the advice you need on how to be safe. Then enjoy!

Favourite spots:
Cusco travelogue picture
Facing the main church in the Plaza de Armas, on the left hand side, the streets Procudores and Plateros (at the top and bottom of the square) have excellent tour agencies including one that offers environmentally friendly tours (on Plateros). Fully portered and catered, the Inca trail should run between $200-$250. Everything including tents and sleeping bags are available, so just bring a light pack with a change of clothes, bug/sunscreen, etc.

Touring the other ruins can be arranged by agency or for the brave with Spanish, often you can find a taxi driver willing to take you to all of the ruins- some of which are about 2 hours away- for 90 soles (roughly $30 or so) plus the ticket to get into the ruins, available at the information office or any agency. At the ruin sites, you can walk around and meet guides in many languages. I had an excellent and very knowledgeable guide at sacsayhuaman which made for a very interesting walk through.

What's really great:
Cusco travelogue picture
I taught English for a month at El Centro De Idiomas, located on Mason de Estrella, about 2-3 blocks from the main square. It was a very rewarding experience. I'm a teacher by trade, but the conditions were very different. Overcrowded classrooms, students had to pay for the photocopies to take their tests...it was different but I loved it. I'd do it again.

For those gringos that want to hang around and enjoy the life, there are jobs to be found either teaching english or working in the clubs in and around the main plaza. Staying for a time gives you a different perspective than breezing in and out. I stayed 2 months, I met an American girl that loved it so much she came for 3 weeks and last I heard she'd been there 15 months. You can live for as little as $250 (hard) or like a king for $500+ There's internet every couple of blocks, so staying in touch with those you love is no problem. It's about $1/hr.

Sights:
Cusco travelogue picture
Coricancha was the Incan Sun Temple in Cusco.

Hatunrumiyoc Street which is named for the 12-angled stone that is clearly visible in the remaining walls of what was Inca Roca's palace.

Sacsayhuaman, a spectacular hilltop fortress and temple complex with commanding views of the Cusco valley, and Tambo Machay whose ceremonial baths' clear, cool springs continue to flow 500 years after they were built.

The ruins of Inca Yupanqui's palace.

The Sacred Valley of the Incas, and the ruins at Pisac, and trip to Ollantaytambo.

Of course, Machu Pichu and Aguas Calientes.

Accommodations:
Cusco travelogue picture
The best place I stayed was El Tuco Hospedaje, Av. Grau 835 www.chez.com/eltuco/ it was the best experience I had in Cusco. The owner lives on site and speaks English. (If you go, send him my best- his name is Coco to his friends)

For the Budget range, there are a variety of hospedajes on the lower left hand street (Plateros) off the Plaza de Armas. The Israeli or truly saavy can talk the price down to 10soles a bed but for everyone else the average is 15 soles a bed, backpacker style, common bath. I shared with an Israeli and paid 10.

Nightlife:
Mama (Afrika, America) seemed to be expanding rapidly. When I arrived, it was just a club, when I left there was a restaurant/ internet cafe, a club and a travel agency. Excess, and more..there are lots of people standing in the plaza offering free entrance and a free drink with entrance cards. Just go to the plaza de armas and you'll find your way.

Hangouts:
I liked the Blueberry, to the left of the main church in the Plaza, near Excess. There are also a couple of Irish pubs.

Restaurants:
Beware of Mexican food on the small street to the left of the main church. When I was diagnosed with Typhoid Fever, the Dr. knew exactly where I ate! If a place doesn't feel clean- DON'T eat there!

That said, there are lots of wonderful places off the Plaza. Mama Amerikas has a decent spread. Jack's near Plaza de San Blas got rave reviews from some friends.

My favorite place is the quiet getaway, Dos Equis 3. From the Plaza de Armas, walk up Mantez towards Mason de la Estrella, and it's on the left hand side less than a block from Mason. It's small, painted red inside with drawings of famous S. American writers on the wall. It has the best ice-cream sundaes around in addition to mate de coca, espresso, and enticing things to nibble on or to make a light lunch. The owner is a delightful old man who will be happy to chat.

There is also a wonderful restaurant with fresh trout from their own pond near the ruins of Sacsayhuaman. Excellent cooks.

Other recommendations:
I recommend the bookstores. Pick up a copy of
Lost City of the Incas, The Story of Machu Picchu and its Builders • Hiram Bingham, the discoverer of Machu Pichu.

It will make you a lot more appreciative of your trip to Machu Pichu. You can buy it before you go, or pick it up in English, Spanish, and sometimes German once you get there. It's a great read and will add more to your trip than you imagined.

Published on Thursday January 8th, 2004


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Mon, Oct 02 2006 - 06:28 PM rating by mrscanada

The fresh trout sounds yummy. Did you see the piled stones that are resting spots while you were here?

Wed, Apr 28 2004 - 12:03 PM rating by britman

Fabulous report I so enjoyed reading it - some great pictures.

Fri, Apr 23 2004 - 06:20 AM rating by travelalain

What a great report about Cusco, it brings back memories of a great time and yes Mama Africa. It's a town with some surpricing places.

Fri, Jan 09 2004 - 06:31 AM rating by marianne

Thank you for this sound advice. I wish all reports were like this one.

Thu, Jan 08 2004 - 04:31 PM rating by cycleboy

Congratulations and respect. One of the best reports ever written in this community!

Thu, Jan 08 2004 - 02:42 PM rating by daniserralta

Thanks. Great report with good info for potential Cusco visitors. I was there too and I'm agree with most of your advices.

Thu, Jan 08 2004 - 02:25 PM rating by whereisliz

I can't thank you enough for this great report! I will be printing it out and taking it with me when I go. I'm so glad you're part of this community!

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