Cusco, the backpacking capital in the south east of Peru. This is where you fly in to or take the bus to get ready for visiting Machu Picchu, amazing hikes or historical ruins of the Incas. This post will written in chronicle order and how I experienced this town. Reviews of places I have been are rated and marked with google maps locations.
After a 6 hours flight from Bogota, I landed at the airport of Cusco. After immigration and customs (be aware of any plants, seeds, nuts you might have in your bag), I quickly got my backpack and went out of the airport. Since I booked a pickup via my hostel, I looked for my name on a sign and found my driver after walking through the herd of cab driver who ask me if I need a ride. It kinda reminded me of India, where every cab driver thinks you need a ride, but not as intense. The drive through the busy streets was as well a soft version of indian streets, some honking, dirty air, heavy traffic. I arrived at my hostel “Ecopackers” and payed the driver 25 soles. I payed 10 soles two weeks later as I left Cusco.
The people at the entrance were friendly and I my hiking buddy Matt was already waiting for me. We haven’t seen each other for 1.5 years, in New Zealand after hiking 8 days through mud and thick forrest. The friendly girl from the hostel showed me our room. We booked a 4 person room, but there 2 bunk beds and one queen sized bed. Also, there were only 2 lockers and after asking, they brought 2 more into the room. At least, the beds were comfortable. Another plus were the very clean bath rooms and the style of the hostel.
After getting sorted out, Matt showed me around the neighborhood. The old town and plaza is close, as well as many restaurants and bars. I needed something fresh and we went to Shaman Vegan Restaurant which had tasty Smoothies and huge salads. I got already pretty tired from the walking and with every step uphill due to the elevation. Cusco is at 3400m (11200ft) and you will definitely feel it if you come from lower altitude. Later the day, he also brought me up to a bar, with a view over the town. With free tour guides (you find them on at the plaza) you finish your tour here.
With a group of people we went to couple more restaurants, which I would like to recommend you:
El Encuentro: Vegetarian local restaurant with huge portion for a good price, try the spinach soup, quinoa soup or salted pancakes
Green Point: Go to place for fresh, vegan/vegetarian cuisine. A bit more price but big portions. Super nice staff and always full, so either reserve or take some time with you.
Creperia & Hostel La Boehm: A big selection of savory and sweet pancakes. Great coffee and the most friendliest staff member who hugs everyone and is always good for a talk. This person is sunshine in person
Getting ready for the first trip:
Two days after arriving, we planned to head out for our first trip, the Salkantay Trek and visiting Machu Picchu. We found a descent map in a small book store and some backpacking supply like fuel at a local outdoor store. At the Orion Supermarket you will find all food you will need for your trip. Another good option are the big local markets, which are every day and best to find via google (Search for “mercado”). I also read in a blog, that you should book your transport to Mollepatta a day in advanced. We walked to the street where all the shared busses are leaving and a men directly offered us to drive us there.
Returning and resupply for trip number two:
After our 5 days out of town, i wasn’t really stoked to get back into a busy town with heavy traffic. We stayed only for a night, since we arrived during the day, were able to resupply and figure out where our bus for our second trip, the Ausangate Circuit, leaves. Luckily, our room this time was really comfortable with two single beds and one bunk bed. Important as well, it was not directly infront of the bar like the room before. The hostel keeps playing the music until at least 11PM and really loud. Another thing I really disliked about the Ecopackers. Knowing that many people leave really early morning for their trips, it is not necessary to have every night the music with this volume on.
The last days:
We got back a day earlier, since my buddy started to feel the altitude during our hike. I wasn’t really happy about returning but also didn’t wanted to let him alone. We went back again to Ecopackers, since our rest of gear was in the lockers and got our old room back. Every night around 10PM, I went to the girls at the entrance and asked them to lower the volume, which they did.
With two full days left in Cusco, I went for a day trip to Pisac, since a lot of people I met during the trip recommended me to go there. The cab driver drove me to the street Puputi, where the shared vans leave to Pisac (4-5 soles per ride) and a hours later we arrived. Pisac is known for its huge marker through the streets of the town, the inca ruins and spiritual ceremonies. If you want to escape the busy and touristy Cusco, its a good place to go. I wanted to hike up to the ruins, but sadly didn’t had enough cash to pay the 70 soles entrance fee. As well, the only ATM at the Blue Lama wasn’t working. So I did what I love to do most, finding a nice coffee shop and read a book. I first went to El Encanto, which had a great rosmarin/honey tea and windows towards to the botanical garden. After some shopping I checked out the restaurant next to it, Spices Restaurant for my lunch, where you can actually sit outside on the balcony towards the garden.
In the afternoon I went back to where I got of the bus and jumped on the bus back to Cusco.
On my last day in Cusco, Matt and I went to another high rated restaurant Oraganika. Local and fresh products and the dishes were really tasty. It was a great choice for our last meal and I would highly recommend to check it out as well.
Last but not least, I had another last coffee at my favorite coffee shop, Cafe Dwasi. Could be a bit more chill, but the coffee is just amazing and they offer a huge variation of how to brew your coffee. If you are a coffee lover, a place to check out!
I hope I could give you a little picture of Cusco but everybody experience it of course differently. If you have any questions, feel free to ask in the comments and i try to get back to you ASAP 🙂