Surrounded on all sides by mountains and green jungle, this city at an altitude of 3,399m not only leaves you breathless (due to the altitude), but creates a sense of creativity and again, intrigue. Cusco is one of the most visited cities in South America .
- The best way to explore Cusco is by foot, you can walk everywhere and so long as you take it slowly up all the stairs, you can get some amazing views. It doesn’t feel like a city, lacking any high rise buildings, no sky scrapers, and the assembly of red tiled roofs create an earthy feeling. Spotted with cathedrals and churches, and high hills on every side, you feel nestled away in the Andes, safe and secure.
Plaza de Armas is a good place to start, and spiralling outwards there are abundances of back streets, tour operators and little market places. If you’re lucky enough on a Sunday around lunch time you may find a guinea pig market where you can try guinea pig for s/10 or less!
The larger market place is best for buying fresh produce and fruit to eat cheaply, and the bread is super delicious. There are aisles of juice ladies and the juices are simply delicious – my favourite combination is mango, maracuya and fresa (mango, passion fruit and strawberry). The ladies are also great to practice your Spanish on as you sit and enjoy the juice and soak in the atmosphere of the market place.
Take your time to adjust to the altitude when you first arrive – I think I did things too quickly and managed to feel pretty rotten for a good few days. Diamox is good if you’re willing to take it for the altitude (expect to pee a lot and have numb hands and a numb face).
Unlike Trujillo, there are tourists at every turn and a selfie sick is never far away in Cusco, but despite the swarms of alpaca jumper wearing travellers, and tourist stalls, there is a charm to the back streets of Cusco. A quirky feeling with every crooked and jumbled up street.
Cusco is a good base for organising your trip to Machu Picchu, rainbow mountain, the sacred valley and other treks you may want to do around the area.
Another thing to consider about Cusco is the weather. Visiting in January it is edging On the rainy season – expect rain every day, expect to be cold, expect the sun to be strong.
The sacred valley is beautiful, but also covered in other tourists and your groups and it can be easy to feel like you’re being herded around even without a tour guide.
The Inkas were very creative and clever people, and everything they created leaves you with a sense of wonder and amazement! Their worship for the sun and the earth is present in everything they built, and their amazing engineering on the side of the steep hills shows how tough they were as a society. Here are some pictures of the areas I visited: