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Cusco Travel Guide - Travel S Helper

Cusco

travel guide

Cusco, sometimes written Cuzco, is a city in southeastern Peru, in the Andes mountain range’s Urubamba Valley. It serves as the capital of both the Cusco Region and the Cusco Province. The city has a population of 435,114 people in 2013. It is located on the eastern extremity of the Cuzco Knot at a height of around 3,400 meters (11,200 ft).

From the 13th until the 16th centuries, the site served as the Inca Empire’s ancient capital. Cusco was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1983. It has developed into a significant tourist attraction, with approximately 2 million tourists every year. The Peruvian Constitution identifies it as the country’s Historical Capital.

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Cusco | Introduction

Cusco – Info Card

POPULATION : • Total 435,114
• Estimate (2015) 427,218
FOUNDED :    1100
TIME ZONE : • Time zone PET (UTC-5)
• Summer (DST) PET (UTC-5)
LANGUAGE :   Spanish
RELIGION :
AREA :   385.1 km2 (148.7 sq mi)
ELEVATION :   3,399 m (11,152 ft)
COORDINATES :  13°31′30″S 71°58′20″W
SEX RATIO :
ETHNIC :
AREA CODE :  84
POSTAL CODE :
DIALING CODE :  +51 84
WEBSITE :  www.municusco.gob.pe

Tourism in Cusco

Cuzco or Cusco (Qosqo in Quechua, Cuzco in Spanish) is a remarkable city situated in the Southern Sierras. It was the capital of the Inca Empire. Cuzco is a Unesco World Heritage Site and one of the most visited towns in Peru, since it is the biggest and most pleasant city from where travelers may begin their journeys to Machu Picchu, the Sacred Valley of the Incas, and other Inca monuments in the vicinity.

Cuzco is a lovely city with well-preserved colonial architecture that bears witness to a long and complicated past. The city itself is the heart of indigenous Quechua culture in the Andes, and just strolling through its streets reveals layers of history. The area is lined with Spanish colonial structures built immediately on top of Inca walls, while a contemporary tourist nightlife thrives in their midst.

The city is surrounded by ruins, the most remarkable of which is Sacsayhuaman, the site of a 1536 fight in which scores of Pizarro’s soldiers stormed uphill against the Inca army.

Nowadays, Cuzco is noted for its indigenous population—often visible in traditional attire on the streets—and for its thriving tourist-driven nightlife.

Altitude sickness (soroche) may be an issue above 3,400 meters above sea level.

Altitude sickness is a sneaky disease that, although its symptoms may not be immediately noticeable, has the potential to evolve into something exceedingly serious.

Machu Picchu is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Latin America, and as a result, prices continue to rise year after year.

TOURIST OFFICE

More information on Cuzco is available from the official Tourist Office:

  • Directur, Portal Blankets 117 (near the Plaza de Armas),  +51 84 223701.

Climate of Cusco

Cusco’s climate is classified as subtropical highland (Köppen Cwb). It is mainly temperate and dry, with two distinct seasons. May through August is the dry season, with plenty of sunlight and occasional evening freezes; July is the coldest month, with an average temperature of 9.7 °C (49.5 °F). The rainy season lasts from December to March, with less frequent night frost; the average temperature in November is 13.3 °C (55.9 °F).

While frost and hail are prevalent, the sole documented snowfall occurred in June 1911. Temperatures typically fluctuate between 0.2 degrees Celsius (32.4 degrees Fahrenheit) and 20.9 degrees Celsius (69.6 degrees Fahrenheit), although the all-time temperature range is between 8.9 degrees Celsius (16.0 degrees Fahrenheit) and 30 degrees Celsius (86.0 degrees Fahrenheit). July has the highest number of sunshine hours, which is similar to January in the northern hemisphere. In comparison, February, the northern hemisphere’s counterpart of August, has the least quantity of sunlight.

Geography of Cusco

Cusco encompasses the whole Watanay river valley. It is located on the eastern extremity of the Cuzco Knot at a height of around 3,400 meters (11,200 ft). To the north lies the Willkapampa mountain range, which has 4,000–6,000 m-tall peaks. Sallqantay (6,271 m) is the tallest mountain, located around 60 kilometers (37.28 miles) northwest of Cusco.

How To Travel To Cusco

Get In - By plane

At the fringe of the city sits the airport. Daily domestic flights operate to and from Arequipa, Lima, and remote jungle airstrips in the Amazon basin. Between Cuzco and Lima, Lan Peru operates the most flights, followed by LC Peru and Avianca. Booking the earliest flights is recommended to prevent weather delays and overbooking.

Lima is the closest international airport. One-way tickets to Lima start at about $70 USD. LC Per often offers the most affordable airfares. Flights can frequently be canceled due to inclement weather, sometimes for up to two days. Be on the lookout for the first few days of altitude sickness if you are flying directly into Cuzco.

This airport is rather tiny, with only 5 gates and a few outside the main terminal, but it offers a lot of amenities because it receives thousands of visitors each day. Before and after security, there are a few eateries and businesses. Additionally, communication services and massage facilities are offered. A few ATMs are located at the check-in area. If you still have time, scout out the last-minute shops across the parking lot.

There is an airport tax that needs to be paid while exiting the airport in Cuzco. The domestic airport tax was less than $5 as of April 2010. Dollars or soles may be used to pay for this. This was included in the cost of select tickets as of June 2011.

In contrast to what the “official” airport taxis may try to charge you, the market cost for a cab from the airport to the Plaza de Armas is around 15 soles. The unlicensed taxis outside are the greatest option for tourists, and you can easily expect to spend between 10 and 15 soles. Exit the airport through the main gate, then proceed to the street in front of the airport to locate these cabs. For about 50 meters until you reach the taxi stand, turn right and stay on the right side of the street.

If you need to depart early in the morning, do not arrive at the airport before 3am; otherwise, you will have to wait outside the airport (and it is pretty dark).

Get In - By bus

It takes roughly 20 minutes to walk from the Av. Sol to the Terminal Terrestre. A cab will cost you a few soles. On the first level of the terminal, the restroom costs S/.1, whereas on the second level, it’s free.

Buses to and from other cities in Peru and Bolivia, including Lima (about 22 hours), Puno (6-8 hours), Arequipa (10 hours), Nasca (14-16 hours), Copacabana (9-12 hours, 60 soles), and La Paz (12-15 hours, 90 soles), are widely available, though they are generally slow and lengthy. However, the scenery can make up for this. The majority of the major thoroughfares are fairly decent, however some can be problematic, making travel times longer than anticipated.

It should be known that buses in Peru, especially the less expensive ones, are not operated to first-world standards. Long hours and inadequate maintenance are typical among the drivers. Accidents happen often and can result in fatalities. If you tend to become anxious, stick with the more upscale firms.

Prior to purchasing tickets, confirm if the bus will stop for restroom breaks every two hours or that there will be a bathroom on board. There are buses between Puno and Cuzco that have/do neither, and this may make the trip take a LONG 6–8 hours.

  • Expreso Los Chankas, Pje Cáceres 150. One of the only companies to offer direct service from Ayacucho to Cuzco. 55 soles for a 22 hr ride on a semi-cama bus. Buses at 6:30AM and 7PM.

Get In - By rail

Rail links Puno and Machu Picchu to Cuzco. Arequipa no longer has a rail connection. PeruRail is the service provider.

How To Get Around In Cusco

Although you will probably need to take a bus or cab to go to the bus station, Sacsayhuamán, or airport, Cuzco’s downtown is small enough that you can stroll around it. Steer clear of strolling about alone or intoxicated at night; robberies have been known to occur.

In Cuzco, taxis are fairly prevalent. According to the distance, they cost between two and four soles. Telephone Alo Cusco Taxis Many drivers don’t live in the area. Be cautious while utilizing taxis at night because there have been reports of thefts involving taxi drivers. In some cases, radio taxis could be the safest choice. If you don’t bargain ahead of time—which is probable if you’re just arriving at night at the bus station and want to escape the swarms of touts—the driver can also try to extract a substantial quantity of money (15 soles) for a brief journey. Simply pay 5 soles and go on. Do not get in any cabs which already has a passenger. Avoid using a street cab at night; instead, call for one.

If you are staying in Cuzco for a long period, the Combis are an inexpensive and dependable means of transportation. These are the mini buses and Volkswagen vans with names like Zorro, Imperial, and Batman. It costs roughly 60 centimos to ride them. Ask if a certain combi will take you where you want to go if you aren’t sure. If you want to get off, just scream “Baja!” as in “I want to get off!” as they call out the stops as they pass. They continue till 10 PM. They tend to be rather full, so if you value having a lot of personal space, this might not be the ideal choice for you. Carry your backpack forward.

A tourist bus can make it simple for large parties to get to locations like Pisac and Ollantaytambo. Consult one of the several nearby travel firms.

Prices in Cusco

MARKET / SUPERMARKET

Milk 1 liter $1.15
Tomatoes 1 kg $1.00
Cheese 0.5 kg $4.00
Apples 1 kg $2.30
Oranges 1 kg $1.10
Beer (domestic) 0.5 l $
Bottle of Wine 1 bottle $7.60
Coca-Cola 2 liters $1.82
Bread 1 piece $0.70
Water 1.5 l $0.75

RESTAURANTS

Dinner (Low-range) for 2 $20.00
Dinner (Mid-range) for 2 $40.00
Dinner (High-range) for 2 $
Mac Meal or similar 1 meal $4.50
Water 0.33 l $0.45
Cappuccino 1 cup $2.30
Beer (Imported) 0.33 l $2.70
Beer (domestic) 0.5 l $
Coca-Cola 0.33 l $0.70
Coctail drink 1 drink $

ENTERTAINMENT

Cinema 2 tickets $
Gym 1 month $
Men’s Haircut 1 haircut $
Theatar 2 tickets $
Mobile (prepaid) 1 min. $0.13
Pack of Marlboro 1 pack $2.60

PERSONAL CARE

Antibiotics 1 pack $
Tampons 32 pieces $6.00
Deodorant 50 ml. $4.20
Shampoo 400 ml. $5.70
Toilet paper 4 rolls $1.70
Toothpaste 1 tube $1.60

CLOTHES / SHOES

Jeans (Levis 501 or similar) 1 $47.00
Dress summer (Zara, H&M.) 1 $42.00
Sport shoes (Nike, Adidas) 1 $85.00
Leather shoes 1 $75.00

Sights & Landmarks in Cusco

  • Particularly close to the Plaza de Armas, the city’s fortifications were built by the Incas.
  • The Pachacuteq Monument. A statue of the Inca warrior King Pachacuteq may be found on Av. Sol. The statue is supported by a cylinder-shaped base, and the entire structure is almost 22 meters tall. Although it is possible to climb the cylinder base, the monument is situated in a less desirable area of town, thus views are unimpressive. admission with the tourist boleto.
  • Peru’s Cathedral (Cathedral Basilica of the Assumption of the Virgin). is located in front of Plaza de Armas and is Cuzco’s largest cathedral. The admission fee for tourists is S/.25. It is free to attend a “misa” (mass) between 6:30 and 9:00 am. $25.

Museums & Galleries in Cusco

  • Museo Municipal de Arte Contemporáneo. Located at Plaza Regocijo in the Municipal Palace. has modern art displays. admission with the tourist boleto.
  • Museo Historico Regional. Located at the Garcilaso de la Vega residence, a historian of the Incas. Several works of art from the 17th and 18th centuries.
  • Museo del Centro de Textiles Tradicionales de CuscoAv Sol. No. 603. Inside the textile shop in El Centro is a lovely (and free) museum with a gallery of traditional Quechuan and Andean textiles. The museum emphasizes the significance of textiles historically as well as the methods used to create them. A must-see, and guests may purchase the local textiles as they enter. The textiles are of a far higher quality than the synthetic and machine-woven textiles prevalent around the city, and the majority of the money goes to the women who make them.
  • Museo del Sitio del QoricanchaAv Sol. Contains details on the various pre-Columbian cultures as well as pieces of Inca textiles and pottery. Three mummies and skulls with holes or sloping foreheads are displayed in the showcase area of this little museum. Give yourself an hour to an hour and a half. There are English explanations but not enough.
  • Museo de Arte Popular (in the basement of the OFEC office). Displays a collection of popular art.
  • Galleries; the stunning scenery of the Cuzco area are often very well depicted by local artists. It is possible to find cheap prints that are of surprisingly good quality if you’re prepared to shop around.
  • Santa Catalina Convent. An assortment of religious artwork as well. Admission with the tourist boleto.
  • Qoricancha (The Sun Temple). The Incas’ main place of devotion. It was badly damaged by the conquistadores, the Spanish conquerors, who erected their Christian church, Santo Domingo, on top of the ruins, just like so many other examples of amazing Inca construction. However, the majority of the temple’s base is still very intact, making it worthwhile to spend several hours visiting the site. The location, known as Qosqo in Quechua, is one of the greatest in Cuzco and features both Inca and Catholic traditions as well as breathtaking views of the surroundings. The church is well visible from Avenida del Sol, and you can clearly distinguish the distinctions between the Inca and Spanish architectural styles. The annual processions of Inti Raymi, the Sun Festival, which honor the Inca custom of honoring the winter solstice, also begin at Qoricancha. After then, the procession ascends to Saxayhuamán. A guided trip is recommended to fully comprehend the area, notably the amazing Inca ruins. Av. El Sol is 4 blocks from Plaza de Armas. Tickets cost ten soles.
  • ChocoMuseoCalle Garcilaso 210,  +51 84 24 47 6511AM-7PM. A store (“museum”) that explains the history of cacao (for free) and offers chocolate classes (not for free), as well as cacao farm excursions (not free). There are several recipes from throughout the world available, all prepared using chocolate from the cacao and chocolate museum’s workshop. Excellent artisanal and organic hot chocolate. There is no admission fee.

Things to do in Cusco

In Cuzco City

Walk around the Plaza de Armas; the area is surrounded by churches, stores, restaurants, and bars and is a terrific spot to spend an afternoon. Cuzco’s historical core is lovely, but you’ll have to contend with all the street sellers and hawkers of cheap paintings and other items. They may be seen all across the Plaza de Armas. They detract from the whole experience.

Get yourself a massage. Young females passing out leaflets promoting massages will usually approach you. These are legal and only cost 15-20 soles for an hour or so, but they are not performed by experienced masseuses. Still, given the price, it’s unbeatable.

  • Plaza de San Francisco. Which is a few streets southwest of the center and is an excellent location for visiting one of Cuzco’s numerous excellent coffee cafes. The main market, located next to the Plaza, is pretty traditional and well worth a visit. The market offers a variety of vendors providing food, household products, apparel, and souvenirs.
  • Sapo is a classic bar game played in chicharias across Peru. Throwing little coins, known as fichas, at a table with a bronze sapo (toad) affixed is the game. You gain points for getting into the holes on the table and a lot of points for getting inside the sapo’s mouth. Best played in a local dive while drinking chicha (corn beer). Ask an old man to demonstrate the proper throwing form, as it is tough to perfect.
  • Speak with business owners, curators, servers, and bartenders in your area. If your Spanish isn’t very strong, they usually speak a little English and are delighted to give intriguing facts about the city that you won’t find in guidebooks. This is also an excellent method to locate the finest spots to experience cuy, alpaca, and chicha.
  • Go for a jog once you’ve gotten used to the altitude! Even those in excellent physical condition will find the hills and thin air challenging. It’s also a fun method to discover new things. For the safer areas, head east or south of the plaza. If you’re a woman out exercising, you could hear some cat cries, which is prevalent throughout parts of Latin America.
  • Take one or three Salsa classes. Salseros Cusco is a fantastic tiny salsa school with two central locations that offers private and group sessions at low prices. With passionate trainers and a variety of genres taught, now is the time to master your techniques and shine on the dance floor. If you prefer private lessons, ask for Franshesco Efernetti.
  • Plan trekking or other adventures in the surrounding region. Cuzco’s abundance of agencies and tour firms makes it an ideal location for gathering information and comparing pricing.
  • Ladies dressed in traditional attire with baby alpacas will approach you and ask if you want a photo. You will be charged S/5 for this. If you take a photo with more than one lady, they may charge you twice as much.

Day Trips from Cuzco

Most day tours from Cuzco follow the same format: you are picked up from your hotel or meet your group at a public plaza in Plaza de Armas, or at the front door of the agency with which you booked the tour, which is also likely to be near Plaza de Armas. Then you drive for around 1-2 hours to your final destination (s). The day concludes around 3-4PM, where it began. In practice, this implies that you can only take one day excursion every day, and it will most likely take place in the morning. The day trip of Cuzco, which begins at 1PM, is an exception. For any of these trips, ask your hotel to contact travel companies on your behalf.

Archaeological Ruins Trips

  • Day Trip City Tour or The Four Archaeological Ruins Tour bus around S/.25 (Sacsayhuamán, Qenko, Pukapukara and Tambomachay) from 1pm to 7pm.

Sacsayhuamán, The most accessible and biggest of these remains is the spectacular Inca Sacsayhuamán (also known as Saqsaywaman and pronounced “Sock-say-wah-mun”) ruins towering above Cuzco. The ascent from the Plaza de Armas to Plateros street, which becomes Saphi, is steep. Follow the paved winding road up to the next cobblestone pedestrian path and follow this ascent through the first closed control point to the second control. There’s no need to take a cab if you can walk. However, be cautious because robberies have been recorded in the mornings and evenings. At the second checkpoint, there is a fee to tour the ruins, or you may produce your boleto turistico. Those on a tight budget can get a feel for the remains by going up the hill and up to the entrance. Then you may stroll to the nearby hill with the large Jesus and look down on the city. However, the sheer quantity of the stones transported and the significance of the combat there make the admittance charge worthwhile. Read up on the battle beforehand because the guidelines do not cover it. Also, due to the protective ropes, a view of the circular base of the previous tower, as depicted in many of the images, is not feasible. Early morning visits are recommended because later visits are disturbed by whistles from guards instructing unobservant tourists to leave the remains. Go even earlier (before 7 a.m.) and you’ll get in for free.

The second site along the road from Sacsayhuamán is Qenko (or Q’enqo). To access the location, take the cumbi shared bus up the hill for 1 sole or walk roughly 0.5-1 km up a gentle slope. Its name translates to “Zig-Zag” in Quecha and most likely alludes to the Zig-Zag channels etched into the rock. Explore the cave route and see the altar where llamas were sacrificed. The enormous tall stone depicted on the tourist ticket is a solar calendar. A two-stone-high square wall surrounds the stone on each side. Each stone represents a number of days, with the total representing the number of days in the year. The iconic windows where mummies and human remains were unearthed are located opposite the stone. The tourist ticket allows access.

Pukapukara,(red fort). Named from the crimson colour of the adjacent slopes. Despite the paved and well-traveled road, even the most intrepid walkers will find the third location along the route to be a bit long and steep. However, the vistas throughout the trek are spectacular, and there are modest mud brick bars interspersed amongst the monuments. To save time and energy, take a cab or a cumbi shared bus up from Qenko for one single. This is a larger site than Q’enqo, and the guides have more to say about it. It was most likely a checkpoint or military checkpoint. Coca leaf offerings, among other things, were accepted here. The tourist ticket allows access.

Tambomachay is the furthest ruin on the road from Cuzco. It is a modest site with an elegant fountain whose source is unclear since archaeologists purportedly lack the equipment needed to pinpoint the source without causing damage to the site. It’s most likely an underground spring. Water sources were buried or underground at various Incan sites, including Ollantaytambo, to safeguard the water supply from contamination. The tourist ticket allows access. The Boleto includes free use of the bathrooms. Take a cumbi all the way back to Cuzco’s Plaza de las Armas for 1 sole.

Guides and tours to all four sites in one day, if interested, pay/negotiate for a guide to take you through all four sites at the second control at Sacsayhuamán. Inquire with the guard at the ticket counter about which guides have received government training. Expect 60-80 soles depending on the season, or roughly 15-20 soles per site. When riding the Cumbis shared buses, allow 4-5 hours for the journey. Pack a snack, as water will be provided along the route. Only at the final location Tambomachay are bathrooms (clean and well-maintained) available. A tourist card is suggested since control stations are present at three of the four locations and are closely monitored.

If you don’t want to hire a guide, you may take a cab or a combi to Tambomachay/Pukapukara and then walk down the hill to the remaining sites. This is a lot easier on the legs! If you visit the first two sites in the morning, there is a backpacker’s café about 250 meters down the road on the right that serves great and affordable sandwiches as well as really nice fruit juice. The trek down to Q’enqo and Sacsayhuamán offers beautiful vistas.

  • Day Trip Sacred Valley (Pisaq, Ollantaytambo, chinchero) Tour Bus around S/.35 from 8am to 7pm.
Ollantaytambo is the most impressive ruins (after Machu Picchu, of course), it’s a must see. There is lots of touristy stuff to buy, you can barter, but the prices won´t go down much.
  • Day Trip Chinchero, Moray and the Salineras de Maras Tour Bus around S/.35 (plus S/.10 the entrace of salinas) from 8am to 3pm.
Moray (Peru) was the agricultural laboratory of the Incas. Several concentric circles up to 150 m deep caused temperature changes of between 2-4°C. Seeds were developed here and spread throughout the empire. 67.5 km (42 mi) from Cuzco. Accessible with the boleto turistico. On the same trip you should visit the Salineras de Maras, terraced salt ponds and also Chinchero. The Chinchero market is on Sundays and finishes early in the afternoon. Take the Cuzco-Chinchero-Urubamba bus from Av. Grau 525. Get off at Chinchero first to catch the market then head on to Moray and the Salineras afterwards.
  • Day Trip Valle Sur (Tipon and Pikillacta) Tour Bus around S/.35 (plus S/.10 the entrace of salinas) from 8am to 3pm.
It makes sense to see Pikillacta and Tipon on the same day as they’re on the same bus route. Pikillacta is a little further from Cuzco than Tipon. Tipon has nice terraces, water channels and long staircases its believed to be a part of the Incan royal estate. Here sits the largest irrigation system built by the incas (much of it still functioning) as well as an Incan cemetery. 22.5 km (14 mi) from Cuzco. Both sites accessible with the boleto turistico. Bus Av. De La Cultura 1320, Cuzco to Urcos (Tipon-Pikillacta-Andahuaylilas).

Day Trips non Archaeological

  • Cochahuasi Animal Sanctuary. A must-see, one-of-a-kind rehabilitation center founded by a family of scientists to care for animals wounded or victimized by poaching. It’s a peaceful place where animals heal and those who can are re-released. There were three condors, llamas, alpacas, vicunas, macaws, pumas, a rare furless Peruvian dog, and indigenous deer in 2012. This is the ideal area to get a close look at pumas, condors, and vicunas. This is on the route between Cuzco and Pisaq. You may ride your motorbike there, or there is typically someone working for this refugee at the intersection of Plaza de Armas and Calle del Medio who can coordinate transportation for you in the refugee’s van for 20 soles per person. Donations aid in the restoration process. This place is ahead of its time, friendly, and amazing.
  • Whitewater rafting, is popular, although not in the Sacred Valley of the Incas, where the river is very polluted and the rapids are comparatively gentle. Instead, proceed upstream to the Rio Urubamba/Chuqicahuana Vilcanota’s or Cusipata sections, where the water is considerably cleaner and the rapids are terrific fun up to class 5 depending on the time of year.
  • Inflatable canoeing. On the Rio Urubamba’s Pii Pampa stretch, you may paddle your own canoe through enjoyable but not furious class 1 and 2 rapids.
  • Rio Apurimac-rafting, If you have more time, consider rafting the Rio Apurimac for three or four days – the genuine source of the Amazon and one of the top 10 rafting rivers in the world. Class 3 – 5 terrain in a 3,000 m deep canyon. Go with the specialists since accidents have occurred, and in Peru, you get what you pay for, so cutting money may drastically impair the quality and safety of your vacation.
  • Rent a motorcycle. There are numerous motorbike rental shops on Calle Plateros, just north of Plaza de Armas. You don’t even need a motorbike license, just a regular driver’s license from your native country. Prices are usually around $40 per day, which includes two helmets, gloves, and a jacket. Sacred Valley Moto Tours, located at Calle Plateros #399 (corner of Siete Cuartones), provides fresh and well-maintained bikes. Where should I go? A circle of the Sacred Valley, including the Pisac market, lunch in Urubamba, and other Incan sites, can easily be completed in one afternoon. The trip from Cuzco to Pisaq is a beautiful series of switchbacks, and it’s a terrific opportunity to view the four Inca ruins above Cuzco, the aminal sanctuary, and Pisaq all on your own time. Alternatively, drive south to some of the less-visited but as beautiful little villages and Inca ruins.
  • Downhill Mountain Bike Tours are provided over the Chincheros plains, past Inca ruins and down through the beautiful Maras Salineras, or the 75 km downhill from Abra Malaga to Santa Maria and onto the utterly fantastic Santa Teresa hot springs (and easy and cheap access to Machu Picchu from here too). Again, consult with the specialists because there are a lot of inexpensive motorcycles out there that are completely unsuitable for the job.
  • Go paragliding over the Sacred Valley. The scenery is gorgeous.

Food & Restaurants in Cusco

Cuzco offers some excellent foreign cuisine with nice selections for all budgets. The best pizza I’ve ever had was at the end of Av. La Cultura. Try an alpaca steak (remember, llamas/alpacas are generally preserved and utilized for their wool, so only elderly animals will be murdered).

The soups are delicious. Sopa de zapallo, or pumpkin soup, is a good option.

Lomo saltado (beef tips stir-fried with tomatoes, onions, and spices over a bed of French fries and rice), aji de gallina (chicken in a very good yellow pepper sauce with olives and hard-boiled eggs), or papa rellena (chicken in a very good yellow pepper sauce with olives and hard-boiled eggs) are all traditional Peruvian dishes (stuffed potato with beef, olives, hard-boiled egg, vegetables, and spices)

When departing Cuzco, there is a restaurant called Boing Appetit (in front of the airport, only if you want to eat breakfast or a sandwich before taking the plane to Lima) that has free internet access.

  • Cuy, (guinea pig), The absolute traditional holiday food of the region. You can buy a whole cooked cuy in many of the restaurants around Plaza de Armas. In 2012 cuy cost 60S at all these places. There are also dedicated ‘cuyerias’ that serve much cheaper cuy.
  • Alpaca, Grilled, tastes like a more tender steak. You must try it. You can get alpaca pizza as well.
  • Cooked potatoes, Cooked and served hot in the cold season.
  • Chifa. This is the Peruvian version of Chinese food. The neighborhood of Wanchaqhas many Chifa restaurants.
  • Inca Kola, a bubble gum/tutti-frutti-flavored urine-yellow soda. This drink outsells Coca-Cola in Peru, which is why it was bought out by Coca-Cola in 1999). Also, chicha morada is a Peruvian specialty. It’s a spiced non-alcoholic drink made out of purple corn.

Restaurants in Cusco

  • Pura PapaProcuradores 341, 2nd floor (30 meters from Plaza de Armas), +51 84 24410410AM-10PMpotato restaurant serving international potato dishes reinvented with native peruvian potatoes and original drinks like (sweet) potato cocktails and smoothies. You can design your own meal in 3 steps: mark 1 of 7 bases (rösti, french fries, twice baked potato, tortilla, bombas, gnocchi, stoemp), mark 1 of 12 meat/veggie options (alpaca, poutine, vol-au-vent, etc.) and mark 2 of 14 sauces(sriracha, indian curry, criolla, guacamole, etc.). There is a potato museum and they do fun workshops as well.
  • El Encuentro, very reasonably priced restaurant with huge portions. The 5 soles dinner is very popular and includes soup, main course & mate. Free salads with lunch. They also do soy meat very well. There are two of these restaurants but the one in Calle Leon near Plaza de Armas is at least 1 sol cheaper for exactly the same menu.
  • El BalconSoup, main course, and desert (no drink) for 10 soles, about US$3.70. If you’re looking for good quality food for not a lot of money, this is the place to go.
  • Inka Grill (On the Plaza de Armas). Well-known and frequented by tourists but not a trap. Excellent food. Good place to try Cuy (guinea pig); some people have reported mud butt after eating it, it is tastily done and served without the head so eating doesn’t remind you of your pet hamster. Try the appetizer tiradito de trucha. Alpaca also on the menu.
  • Ajjla WasiSta Catalina Angosta (just off the Plaza de Armas). Traditional 3 course meals with a glass of chicha for only 7 soles and a comfortable upstairs setting. It is frequented by a mix of locals and tourists.
  • El Emperador, They have 2 restaurants within the city, both are very reasonably priced. They have a 13-page menu with all sorts of foods from around the world. Try the pisco sour tall.
  • Yaku Mama (at the end of the ‘Gringo Alley’). Try a big fresh juice with one of their large and keenly priced breakfasts.
  • Yaku Mama Grill (Plaza de Armas). The sister restaurant of Yaku Mama. Cheerful English-speaking waitress named Yolanda, but is a bit short on the alpacas. Good meals.
  • Jack’s CafeChoquechaca 188 (on the corner and near the South American Explorers clubhouse), +51 84 254606This is a great place to get a big breakfast complete with eggs, bacon, avocado, toast and fantastic thick shakes. Very popular with tourists. Try the homemade lemonades.
  • Right outside of Jack’s is an empanada stand which has great rocoto salsa, a spicy salsa that goes well on the cheese or meat-stuffed pastries.
  • Paddy’s Irish Pub124 Calle Triunfo (on the eastern corner of Plaza de Armas). The night-brother of Jack’s Cafe. Not exactly traditional Peruvian fare, but an excellent atmosphere among fellow travelers in a cozy upstairs pub setting. Purportedly the highest ‘Irish-owned’ pub in the world at 3,400 m, it offers a good selection of pub food (think cottage pie, casseroles, mash and gravy), local and international drinks (even had cider and Guinness), and a useful “No Gracias” T-shirt for sale.
  • Mama AfricaOn 3 levels. Snacks, a cafe on the rooftop, restaurant with a good cheap menu, 2 discos, the latest movies on DVD. Some of the decorations and paintings are by the owner/artist.
  • Cross Keys PubLooking onto the central square is a pub serving European food to tourists. Skip the fish and chips.
  • KukulyHuaynapata 318A cozy place with friendly prices also attracting locals, run by a Swiss guy. Daily menu for 6 soles.
  • Los Angeles (close to Ukuku’s and near the Plaza de ArmasIf). For late night food after clubbing, a very good fast food-type restaurant.
  • 2 NationsHuaynapata (not too far and not too close to the Plaza de Armas). New restaurant opened up by an Australian named Matt. Extensive, multi-ethnic menu, good service and personable owner.
  • Meli Melo’s (near LimacpampaIf). If you are not brave enough to try the empanadas on the street then order an empanada or a Bolivian saltena here.
  • Victor VictoriaCalle Tsesequocha (just off Calle Tigre). Friendly service. Great salad bar buffet included in all main dishes. Gorgeous garlic trout with rice or potatoes for 10 soles (including the salad bar buffet and lovely fresh bread) but only for lunch. Great value breakfasts. Regular glasses of freshly squeezed juice for 6 soles. Also they have a proper espresso machine for good coffee in the morning.
  • Govindas (near Plaza de Armas). Vegetarian restaurant. Not great. You pay 6 soles for a lousy glass of orange juice mixed with water. Food is just ok, pretty overpriced.
  • Moni Cafe RestaurantSan Agustin 311Vegetarian take on Peruvian food. Since 2001, great stuff.
  • Cicciolinia’sCalle Triunfo 393 (at the end of the alley by the 12-sided stone). Very tasty place to go for breakfast. There is an amazing bakers downstairs.
  • El Mercado (in front of the train station). A roofed market where they sell delicious local bread, herbs, juices, souvenirs, DVDs and other items. If you want something truly more local, very cheap, and are willing to take risks of not the best methods of cleaning dishes, then head over here. At the end of the market are the food stands, where they serve local food. For 2 soles you can get soup, an entree, and juice. All the locals know where the train station and El Mercado is. This is where many local workers go for their meals, not exactly a tourist place, but they are friendly towards tourists.
  • El FogonPlateros 365 (Just off of Plaza de Armas, top floor),  +51 84 233596Nothing fancy but great cheap food: for 10 soles (about US$3.50) get a meal deal that includes a plate from the salad bar, a selection of soup, a selection of main dish, a dessert and a beverage. Or splurge with their more expensive menu offer for 20 Soles. Very tasty Peruvian food. Friendly staff.
  • Bagdad Cafe (left of the cathedral). This small restaurant seems to produce everything themselves. Local food is extremely good, in the evening small performance groups enter the restaurant and give excellent performances. The prices are mid-range, but it is sure worth it. The daily menu lunch special is more like a snack.
  • Chifa StatusAv. La Cultura (close to El Mega supermarket). Good quality Chifa. Dishes for 2-3 soles.
  • Puerto Atico (Perú Street between Mateo Pumacahua and La Infancia). The “pueto atico” ceviche that is Pejerey with Pulpo, and the Jalea de Mariscos are the must try.
  • MaikhaniAv Del Sol (second floor in little mall before you get to Plaza de Armas). Great Indian food served as an all you can eat buffet for only 15 soles. You get mineral water, salad, chutneys and fruit included but it is extra for chapatis, beers or similar. 15 sol.
  • EncantasqaChoquechaca 131A nice place to have a break with coffee and a snack. Especially the chocolate cupcakes are delicious and make up for half a lunch. They also have fresh cakes, quiches and juices.
  • PrasadaQanchipata 269 (sit-down restaurant; lunch & dinner) & Choquechaca 152 (alley-way; lunch) (about half a block from Jack’s Cafe, a bit hard to find in a small alley walkway, and is only marked by a small blackboard outside listing the daily specials). Cute local vegetarian friendly spot. The food is delicious. For 5 soles you can get plates like “falafel tacos” and “mexican veggi burger”. Also, they have lassies (a Hindi yogurt drink), and tasty desserts for a few soles. At the sit-down restaurant they do a daily menu (drink, soup and plate) for 8 soles (USD $3.50). Can’t be beat!US$3.50.
  • Mercado MunicipalFresh juices direct from the market. Fresh and great place to contact with local people. 2sol+.
  • El CholandesChoquechaca 188bDutch owned and run bar and restaurant, with typical Dutch food such as ‘patatje oorlog’ and ‘bitterballen’ (both for 8 soles each, May 2012) and also other choices incl local specialties.
  • Restaurant InkazuelaPlazoleta Nazarenas N 167 (8 meters from Hotel Monasterio (2nd floor)),  +51 84 234924, e-mail: This place specializes in stews. Food is delicious and friendly waitresses will take good care of you. Well chosen music and a fireplace create a romantic atmosphere. Appetizers around 15 soles, mains around 28 soles.
  • Tunupa233 Portal Confituría,  +51-84-25-2936They offer some of the best guinea pig or alpaca dishes from the local Novo Andino cuisine as well as other local specialities. lunch entrées, $9–$17.

Shopping in Cusco

  • San Pedro Market. Though it is becoming more tourist-oriented, it still has a lot of authentic local flavor, which is a good difference from Plaza de Armas. This is the place to go if you want a full-fledged market with a separate isle for entrails. San Pedro Market, which is colorful, energetic, and busy, is not to be missed.
    • Casa Ecologica393 Triunfo,  +51-84-25-5646Good for fair-trade textiles.
    • T’Ankar Gallery121 Calle Palacio,  +51-84-22-8936Good for well-made but pricey indigenous weavings and pottery.
  • Morning markets in Juliaca and Puno, If you want cheap touristic items, head to one of Juliaca’s two Saturday and Sunday morning markets, which are around 5 hours away by bus or Puno (about 6 hr away by bus). They are around one-third the price of Cuzco.
  • Artisan Market (intersection of Avenida del Sol and Tullumayo). If you don’t want to travel far but yet want to see the sights, head to the huge red structure by the fountain. Try the major market at Plaza San Francisco as well.
  • Pisac, a town outside Cuzco, has a very big market. By bus, it takes around 30 minutes from Cuzco. The bus stop is located on Tullumayo Street, just a few streets from Limacpampas. The ticket is quite inexpensive, and you may visit the Incan ruins in Pisac.
  • Sacred Valley, (Valle Sagrado). Chinchero, Ollantaytambo, and Pisac are all part of the Sacred Valley (Valle Sagrado). There is a lot of touristic goods to buy, and you can bargain, but the prices won’t go much lower.
  • Centro Comercial El Molino, Urbanizacion Ttio. Another market requires a cab, which costs 2 soles to go to. This market sells pirated items such as DVDs and CDs. A excellent quality copy DVD costs three soles.

El Centro Bartolome de Las Casas’ indigenous women operate a store where they sell handmade handicrafts and weavings. You may often observe them work, even if they don’t understand Spanish and rarely speak English. It’s a few streets away from the plaza on Avenida Tullumayu.

The further you move away from the main plaza, the cheaper everything becomes. In the San-Pedro market, bread costs 0.10 soles and a glass of combo juice costs 1.50 soles, with 2-4 refills included. However, don’t venture too far away from the main plaza at night; it might be hazardous.

Alpaca sweaters are no longer as popular as they once were. The only nice ones are in high-end stores. The greatest places to buy cheap sweaters are in Arequipa and Cusco, but if you know where to look, you may also get them in Lima at select markets. Make sure you bring enough room in your bag for your trip to Cusco.

Prices in Aguas Calientes and Machu Picchu might be twice those in Cuzco.

Supermarkets in Cusco

There are several supermarkets close to el centro:

  • Gato’s MarketPlaza de Armas (across from Norton Rat’s Pub in Portal Belén 115). Small and a bit pricey.
  • Mega, has several locations: the most central is on Matara, just north of Ayacucho. A larger one is at Plaza Tupac Amaru, on Matará 271 at Av Garcilaso. They have a home-furnishings store next door as well.
  • MaxiAve Grau (just west of Matara). 

For larger supermarkets, take a combi or taxi a couple of kilometres south on Av. La Cultura.

  • D’Dinos MarketAv La Cultura 2003Open 24 hr, takes credit cards, offers delivery.
  • La CanastaAv La Cultura 2000-blockWell-stocked.
  • Mega (a few blocks further past La Canasta, on the same side of Av. La Cultura). This is the largest supermarket in Cuzco.
  • Mercado San Pedro (1 block west of Plaza San Francisco. It’s on the block bounded between Calle Hospital & Calle Nueva and Tupac Amaru and Cascaparo just east of the train station for Machu Picchu). The largest market close to the center. If you are looking for fresh fruits and vegetables go to one of the open air markets such as this one. You can find all manner of fruits, vegetables, cheeses, chocolates, honey, meats, clothing, gifts, fresh fruit juices, and even tailors to repair your clothes while you wait.

Nightlife in Cusco

Cuzco has several clubs and pubs, and there are usually people passing out leaflets throughout the Plaza de Armas. Free refreshments are generally included. The clubs are virtually always packed, even during the week, and most are open until 3 a.m. at the earliest and 5 p.m. at the latest. The popular areas vary every night; ask around and you’ll soon locate the hordes of tourists.

  • Mama AfricaLots of people, good music, good atmosphere and free salsa lessons. Salsa starts at about 9PM and goes until about 11PM. If you really want to learn some moves, dance with Carlos, Miguel, or Checo, who work there. It also plays host to the legendary ‘crew’ lively lot of Lima ladies whose exploits with gringo males have reached mythical levels. Located on the corner of Plaza de Armas.
  • El Muki. Located across the street from Mama America. A place with more locals than the Plaza de Armas. It has a unique cave-like interior and is one of the city’s oldest discos.
  • CaosLa Avenida de la Cultura (next to the post office). If you want to get away from the tourist crowd for a while and dance the night away with the locals, head to this very nice large club with a great mix of music and exotic drinks.
  • MythologyDisco that offers salsa. If you want to learn Rueda Cubana, this is the place to go. Classes usually start around 9PM and private lessons can be arranged with Cesar, the dance instructor. Mythology also offers a unique decor of gods and goddesses and has the cleanest restrooms of all of the nightclubs, by far.
  • Garabato’sIf you want to dance meringue and salsa all night, head here. Features a live salsa and meringue band most nights. This is where the salsa crowd goes after 10-11PM when the other clubs stop playing salsa.
  • Ukuku’sPlateros 316Live music with local and traveling artists playing a variety of different music styles including salsa, meringue, criolla, and Afro-Peruvian. There are great decorative masks in the walls and a huge wooden woman statue with butterfly wings.
  • Blue MoonTullumayo StFor drinks before you go out dancing. It’s a small bar with a local crowd and local prices.
  • Los PerrosTecsecocha 436, San BlasChill restaurant/lounge. Ethnic food and comfortable couches.
  • Blue MartiniIf you want to hear a great percussion group. There is also a hookah lounge close by.
  • The Tea RoomAvenida Santa Teresa 364, 2Nd floor. New to Cuzco is another chill place chock full of wall, furniture, and sculpture art, not to mention creative cocktails and funky chilled out music. Bring a group to chill and converse and enjoy their creative tea mixes and pastries. Free wifi. 12PM-12AM.
  • Norton RatsSort of a biker bar on the southeast side of the Plaza de Armas. They have pool and darts and a pretty cool atmosphere.
  • Paddy Flaherty’sTriunfo 124 (next to the cathedral). Irish themed ‘Pub’, serves a very good burger. The bathroom is questionable.
  • Rosie O’Grady’sSanta Catalina Ancha 360 (a block from the Plaza de Armas). Irish themed ‘Pub’. You can watch football (soccer) or baseball on the big screen, and the staff is very friendly.
  • The MuseTriunfo 338, 2nd FloorLive performances, juggling, food.
  • AngelitosSan BlasA good place for live music with a mix of locals and gringos. Wednesdays and Saturdays are reggae nights.
  • Le Nomade2nd floor, cnr of Choquechaca and Cuesta San Blas 207. Bar/lounge with live music every night. Reggae, Latin, cubano, afro-Jazz, blues, bossa, funk, soul, rock and española. No cover. Friendly staff.
  • The Lost City Bar (turn left out of gringo alley, basement bar on the left before Calle Tigre). nightsSmall basement bar one block from the plaza de Armas. Very friendly place to watch American football or basketball and chat to the regulars and owners. Great pizzas and paninis, cheap happy hour cocktails and beers. A real bar for locals, expats and Cusqueños.

Stay Safe & Healthy In Hong Kong

Stay safe

In Peru, drug law enforcement is harsh, resulting in years in prison and no enjoyment. Consider how many “long-term visitors” are a part of the scene. It is already a crime to “consider possibly accepting” a purchase offer.

Although Cuzco is generally safe, muggings and minor thefts sometimes occur, as they do in every urban region. You should be OK if you use common sense. Don’t leave the Plaza de Armas alone late at night. Do not flaunt your wealth. Be aware of what is going on around you. Cuzco, Peru’s most popular tourist destination, is a haven for robbers and con artists. Pickpocketing (particularly by youngsters) is a big issue. New schemes are always being devised. Be alert, for example, if you are approached on the street by somebody trying to sell you something and try to strike up a long discussion with you. It’s likely that they’re diverting you while someone else steals your wallet.

It is not advisable to wander outside of the main well-lit districts at night. These actions are concentrated at marketplaces, bus stations, and other congested areas. Often, targets are distracted by something weird going on (for example, a brawl or quarrel) while another person does the heist. Take only well-marked taxis, and if you’re taking a cab alone at night, write down the number and contact a friend (or pretend to call a friend if you don’t have a phone) to let the driver know you’re coming home in taxi #… Also, avoid standing out as a dumb tourist by wearing costly, flamboyant, or exposing apparel in a particularly conservative section of Peru (the locals do not wear shorts and tank-tops around).

Keep an eye out for stray dogs who roam the streets at night, foraging through rubbish. Peruvians adore dogs, and the animals are usually amiable. You shouldn’t be worried if you utilize common sense and show confidence. If you feel threatened, let the dogs see you pick up a rock from the ground, or though there are no rocks, pretend as if you did. The dogs appear to understand what this implies and will gradually back off.

Cuzco’s streets are teeming with beggars, the most of them are youngsters. They will tell you that the money is for education. Giving to beggars is a moral choice that anybody may make. A firm ‘no’ will sufficient if you don’t want them following you around.

Stay healthy

Cuzco, at 11,150 feet, is the highest point on most visitors’ trips (or any journey for that matter), and altitude sickness is a major issue – you may get breathless after even moderate activity (other symptoms include headache and nausea). Arrive a day early to adapt if you’ve had difficulties at high altitudes in the past. Remember to take it easy on the first day and avoid the pubs on the first night. Most hotels provide coca tea (coca leaves are the traditional local treatment for altitude sickness), and goods produced from coca, like as coca candy, are easy to obtain in Cuzco, although their effectiveness is questionable.

If you anticipate to be drug tested when you return home, avoid all coca products, drink plenty of water, and consider Diamox Sequels in the United States or Glaucozol in Peru (drug: Acetazolamide) (available at a drugstore) to aid with the transition period. Acetazolamide works as a diuretic (so, you will be peeing every 2 hours, quite annoying). Another (perhaps the best) alternative is the well-known Sorojchi Pills (drugs: Acetylsalicylic Acid, Salofeno and Cafeine).

To minimize stomach trouble, experts advise drinking only bottled water and avoiding raw vegetables and fruits that haven’t been peeled, even at hotels.

  • Clinica San Josè, Av. Los Incas 1408-B,  +51 84 253295. Should you get sick this is an excellent private clinic, also advised by locals, providing general and specialist assistance with all the modern medical diagnostic apparels. Usually they provide a private room with two beds, one for the patient and one for an accompanying person but be sure to carry a travel insurance with you otherwise be prepared to pay a lot of money. They’ll get in contact with your insurance company to arrange things in order to have the latter paying directly the clinic on your exit. Personnel speaking English is generally available and they are prepared to assist foreigners.
  • Hampi Land A clinic located on Choquechaka street just a few blocks away from the Plaza de Armas, and about one block away from “Jack’s Restaurant”.
  • Hotel Doctor Internacional is a service that will dispatch a doctor to your hotel room usually within 10 to 15 minutes. For a very reasonable price the doctor will come equipped with medications and provide the traveler with the proper insurance forms for reimbursement. They are available 24 hours, 7 days a week at  +51 17 085586 or by cell phone +51 9953-74658, US tollfree 1-800-869-4713. English and German spoken.

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