Cameron and I set out in hopes of ticking Machu Picchu off the bucket list. What we discovered during our 10 days in this beautiful Andean nation was delightful and unexpected…
We flew straight into Cusco, Peru from an island off the coast of Belize, knowing this was a recipe for altitude-related disaster. Landing in Cusco is a wild ride down through 14,000 foot peaks to the beautiful city perched high in the Andes at 11,200 feet. About half the people who visit Cusco experience altitude sickness, and sadly Cam and I both succumbed. I will say that memories of us both hooked up to an oxygen tank were quite unexpected! After 3 days, we were thankfully good as new and ready to take on the town.
We booked ourselves into the Costa del Sol Ramada in the historical section of Cusco. Ask for a room on the 4th floor with a view over the city, to be romanced by the most magical view.
Cusco just blew me away with it’s beauty. From the moment of arrival we were greeted by ladies in traditional Peruvian dress wandering down the sidewalk with an alpaca in tow. I loved wandering the beautiful laneways, each with something different to offer. Taking a walk up the hill to the Christo Blanco is definitely recommended, but don’t stop there.
Keep exploring the countryside beyond to make the acquaintance of local alpaca and llama farmers who are happy to have a chat in basic Spanish (or sign language!) and let you give their animals a loving pat. You can also visit the Saqsaywaman ruins up there, which feature incredible Inca walls that defy logic.
Cameron and my most memorable moments in Cusco undoubtably involved the food. One of the more unexpected parts of visiting Peru was just how incredible the Peruvians are at cooking, not only their own traditional cuisines but fusion cuisines that are both inventive and impeccably presented. I would recommend Morena just off the central square. Amazing for both lunch and dinner, definitely give the chicken and chorizo sandwich a try. Also, on the list of favourites would have to be Papacho’s on the Plaza de Armas, which delivers some of the most delicious burgers I have had anywhere in the world.
For a great cup of coffee look no further than the Museo del Cafe which serves up barista-made coffees that are creamy and delicious. Their food is also well worth a try. I went for the cheese board and a cheeky glass of vino tinto!
No trip to Peru of complete obviously without an excursion to Machu Picchu. Visiting this wonder of the world requires a train from Poroy to Aguas Caliente and then a bus up to the site. There are three different kinds of trains you can choose for the 3.5 hour ride to Aguas Caliente, the town at the base of Machu Picchu, and we opted for the mid-level train called Vistadome.
The service was very nice with snacks and drinks served in both directions, and on the way back they even had a live dance performance and a fashion show, both which were very entertaining.
I recommend staying overnight in Aguas Caliente to really make the most of your time in Machu Picchu, especially if you want to catch the sunrise. We stayed at the Hatun Inti Boutique Hotel and it was just divine.
The room had a bird’s eye view of the beautiful river, and the spa tub was a massive delight after a cold, rainy day around town. Early the next morning we boarded the bus to Machu Picchu to ascend the mountain; the view just kept getting better and better as the bus snaked it’s way towards the heavens.
Once at the top we could hardly wait to lay our eyes on the iconic site. It’s usually cloudy in the morning, but as the sun rose the clouds parted and the reveal was nothing short of magical. I have to say the Machu Picchu exceeded my expectations.
There is something about the scale and mystery surrounding the site and the fact that it really is perched on the top of a mountain that is so spectacular when you are there taking it all in. I spent the rest of the day wondering around the site, stopping to chase the llamas around that graze in the area. Finally it’s time to go, and I’m so blown away with the otherworldly essence of this wonder of the world.
Peru is definitely a must-see in South America for everyone. Cusco and the surrounds have so much to offer, and everywhere you look there is so much beauty to behold. Cameron and I will return next year, as there are so many more restaurants to try and so much more to do in this incredible country.