Lukla is to Everest base camp is what Cusco is to Machu Picchu. Cusco was once the heart of the Inca empire and today is the gateway to Machu Picchu. It is the closest airport to Machu Picchu and most people fly into Cusco while very few actually take a bus from Lima/ Arequipa/ Puno.
Cusco most certainly lives off of tourists. In my book, it is very close to Prague that way. Hordes of tourists can be found in every corner of the city, yet, it doesn’t strike typically touristy. The city has a character that I can’t express in words. Aguas Calientes, on the other hand, is a world class shit hole. Ok, calling it shit hole is a little too much, but the city has nothing to do other than a dirty hot spring. Anyway back to Cusco.
Getting to Cusco
Flying into Cusco is perhaps the easiest and convenient way. LATAM (LAN earlier), a One world partner pretty much rules this airport. They have almost hourly departures from Lima and that is really helpful whenever there is weather related IRROPS. Cusco airport (CUZ) being at almost 12000ft is very ,much prone to weather related cancellations.
I redeemed my Delta miles and flew LAX-MEX-LIM in business and bought a cheap ticket to CUZ on LATAM/AA.
Where to Stay
Cusco caters to every type of traveler. You could stay in global chain hotels (heads up, they are away from old town – Plaza De Armas), local boutique hotels, or if you are cheap (read budget traveler) stay in hostels. I stayed in Mama Simona hostel. It is just a few blocks from Plaza San Francisco and is not a party hostel. I wasn’t gonna party too hard this trip anyway. Well, at least that’s what I thought. 3 Pisco sours night before the hike is cool, no?
Where and What to eat?
I couldn’t go the extent call Cusco a foodie heaven like Singapore for example. Heck , I ain’t even a foodie myself. But Cusco had a good food and drink scene going on. One thing that is a must in Cusco or Peru in general in Pisco sour. And Ceviche. It is Peru’s national dish after all.
Some of the bars and restaurants I have tried and suggest are: Chicha, Fallen Angel steak house, Barro ceviche, Juanito’s, San Pedro market breakfast or any local restaurant that has the board “Pollo”.
Some of the dishes that are not to be missed are Ceviche, Lomo Saltado, Aji De Gallina, Cuy, Rocoto Relleno, Anticuchos De Corazon, Arroz Con Pato.
What to do in Cusco
Cusco is a fairly decent sized city. Fortunately, everything that you’d wanna see or visit or walkable from Plaza de Armas. I did not take a taxi for any of the sight seeing. Here is a simple photo log of things I did and places I visited while in Cusco.
I wish I had time to spend a couple of more days in Cusco. It’s a nice, quaint city with a lot of interesting yet inexpensive things to do.
Up next, Inca trail.