Our flight arrived in the afternoon at the Cusco Airport and we were welcomed with sunshine and relatively warm weather (~23 Celsius). What a pleasant difference to Lima 🙂
From our hostel located on one of the hills around the center of Cusco we enjoyed a first look over the city and had a great view of the Plaza de Armas which was within 5 minute walking distance of our hostel.
While unpacking our things we found the first evidence for the altitude change: Coming from Lima at sea-level we were now at an altitude of around 3’400 m. Not only was the food we had brought from Lima blast up, but also all tubes and closed cases. The funniest thing happened when Andy tried to put on some deodorant using one of those roll-ons. As he screwed off the lid the roll-on ball shot right out of the tube and almost hit Andy’s face while it continued to shoot through the bathroom. These things can be dangerous! 🙂
Of course we also noticed the altitude difference while walking some of the hills in the city…
To support our acclimatization we drank a lot of Coca-tea, which according to the locals should help:
And tried to eat easily digestible food. The starters of our first lunch in Cusco were a stuffed tomato:
and a corn soup:
As main dishes we had our first alpaca meat. It is very tender and tasty and in Peru even cheaper than beef! Andy had the tenderloin alpaca tips with bell pepper and onions:
And Tini went with the alpaca loin:
During our entire stay we walked around a lot in Cusco. Especially at the beginning we find this a good way to get a first impression of the place we are visiting. Here another look over the Plaza de Armas:
We were astonished how the bus managed to turn in this dead end. It took him several back and forths, but the driver seems to do this more often:
We saw a lot of stray dogs and these two seem to be big friends. Luckily the dogs we met weren’t aggressive or disturbing. The only unfamiliar thing was that we could hear a lot of distant barking at night…
We also started an Inca-diet in Cusco 🙂 The Inca-Kola sells as good as Coca Cola in Peru and tastes really funny, like a liquid form of German “Puffreis”.
To see the parts of the city we couldn’t easily reach by foot, we did a bus tour through Cusco that started at the main square:
One of the stops we made was at the Cristo Blanco from which we had a great look over the city:
Cusco was the capital of the Inca Empire (12th – 16th century). Many believe that the city was planned as a replication of the shape of a puma, a sacred animal. Francisco Pizarro officially arrived in Cusco in 1534, renaming it the “Very noble and great city of Cuzco”. Many Inca buildings, temples and palaces were destroyed by the Spanish.
The brightly striped banner was developed in the 1970s to represent the arco iris (rainbow) sacred to the Incas and is now the city’s flag.
For dinner we chose a cozy place downtown and first crunched our thirst:
Food wise we had some really good asian-style chicken:
And an alpaca hamburger with mango chutney:
One of our favorite activities: Strolling the narrow alleys and “window-shopping”:
Especially Tini really likes all the colorful crafts one can buy at nearly every corner. But as we don’t have much place left in our backpacks and don’t want to carry things for several months, we thought to just send a package to Germany.
Before starting to buy things we asked at a DHL-shop how much a package up to 7 kg to Germany would cost. As we heard the answer, we thought it has to be a mistake, but it wasn’t: a package from Peru to Germany costs unbelievable 440 US-Dollars (2 kg, 250 US-Dollars …)! So we decided to limit our shopping to only small things…
To avoid the hot sun we started early the next day to visit Saqsaywaman (pronounced almost like “sexy woman”), a former fortress of the Incas, which is located high above Cusco. The immense terrace-walls were built of large polished boulders which were carefully cut to fit together tightly without mortar. The size of the stones used and the precision with which they fit are really impressive!
It is said that the ninth Inca Pachacutec formed Cusco in the shape of a puma, with Saqsaywaman being the head of it. The three walls are supposed to represent the teeth of the puma…
Here some more pictures from the Saqsaywaman site:
Quite centrally located we kept passing by the famous Hatunrumiyoc. This is an excellently fitting 12-sided stone and was part of the palace of the sixth Inca, Roca:
Here some of our other food experiences in Cusco:
Warm garlic bread coming straight from the fireplace…
a tortilla with peppers, …
a delicious pizza just seconds before it disappeared in our stomachs 🙂
In a more fancy place we tried a sampler with kiwicha chicken fingers, alpaca brochettes, stuffed chili peppers and quinoa croquettes:
As a dessert we had a hot chocolate tarte. It was as good as it looks 🙂
And in the evening we went for some drinks…
The already enjoyed Cusquena beer…
and once again a pisco sour…
accompanied by a platter of different very tasty tapas:
Our breakfast in the hostel was quite basic but it was nice to start the day with fresh juices (papaya and pineapple/citrus), some Peruvian buns, tea and bananas:
We also tried some delicious Chinese food:
And as we didn’t only eat in Cusco :-), we also visited some of the churches and museums. For example the Museo Historico Regional, the Museo de Sito del Qoricancha and the Municipal de Arte Contemporaneo, with quite interesting paintings and a nice location:
The Inca site Qorikancha forms the base of the colonial church of Iglesia de Santo Domingo:
In Inca times Qorikancha was literally covered with gold. Today all that remains of the Inca empires richest temple is its masterful stonework. The Spanish took the rest…
From the outside one can see the colonial building, where monks are still living today.
Here some pictures from inside a Cusco supermarket, with different ways of presenting the food:
And many varieties of potatoes which Peru is famous for:
A Peruvian parade with all ages participating:
Here an overview of the different sound systems used. From the very basic cycling-model, …
to the nicely decorated, but still cycling-model, …
to the converted car:
Before visiting the Sacred Valley we had a great lunch at a nice restaurant at the Plaza San Blas, the heart of Cuscos artistic neighborhood.
We shared some rocotto relleno (stuffed roasted hot pepper), …
and chicharrones (pork cracklings with fried sweet potatoes):
While waiting for the next dish we enjoyed the play of a Peruvian harpist…
and got to know the friendly couple from the next table, Katy and Ryan from Los Angeles:
Finally we had a really tasty marinated alpaca brochette, corn tamales, stuffed pepper and different potatoes:
The following day we did a day trip to the Sacred Valley, with details in a separate post.
After that we did a 4 day trek around the Ausangate mountain, which you can also see in one of the next posts.
Back in Cusco from the Ausangate trekking, one of the first things was to get our shoes cleaned up again. That’s not very difficult, because there are shoe polishers everywhere offering their services.
As a reward after our Ausangate trek we decided to try one of the specialties of Cuscos cuisine, the guinea pig (“cuy”) 🙂 According to our guide, the Peruvians eat cuy to celebrate special occasions.
We started with different avocado salads (the avocados in Peru are way tastier than in Europe!):
And then we finally got our first guinea pig served, which was fried instead of roasted. The waiter said, that this is the only way he could serve it, because in the oven it would take three hours. The taste was quite special and there was not too much meat on that little thing…
So there was enough space for some dessert, coca-chocolate brownies with ice-cream:
After visiting Machu Picchu, which you can also see in one of the next posts, we again returned to Cusco. Although our first guinea pig experience wasn’t that great we decided to try it again as a “goodbye-dinner” to Cusco. This time however the roasted cuy version!
This one was really tasty and we also got the advice from our waiter to eat it with the hands 🙂 A good cuy tends to taste a little bit like game. Some people describe it similar to rabbit but our impression was it is a pretty unique taste.
As a dessert we shared a mouthwatering apple pancake with ice cream:
We really had a great time in and around Cusco. The weather was very nice most of the time and during the day temperatures were around 22 degrees with really strong sun. But the nights were always cold with only around 3 degrees Celsius. Unfortunately the buildings aren’t very well insulated, so especially after showering we where happy that we had a heater in our room 🙂
We left Cusco in the evening by taking an overnight bus to our next destination, Arequipa.