First Time in Cusco



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Think Cusco and think ancient city steeped in mythology. Think Machu Picchu, Inca ruins and winding cobbled streets. Think breathtaking panoramic vistas and stunning architecture, bloody history and mysterious artifacts. Cusco is all this and more, the top Peru vacation destination lying in the middle of the most important historical site in all of Latin America. At over 3,300m, Cusco is literally a cloud city and those arriving by plane will notice the altitude difference immediately. You'll need a day or two to acclimatize to the elevation, especially if you're planning on exerting yourself along the fabled Inca Trail to Machu Picchu . The city is jam packed with historical sites, ruins museums, churches and notable architecture and for this reason, most of the popular sites are covered by the 'boleto turistico' (tourist ticket). You'll need to invest in a ticket if you wish to see any of the major attractions, but your ticket should be valid for ten days and so can be used when you return to Cusco from the Inca Trail and Machu Picchu. The Inca Trail itself is just one of many routes that lead to Machu Pichhu and alternative treks are often just as challenging and interesting while being half as congested with other trekkers. Choose your operator wisely and shop around - it's advisable to look into this up to two months before your arrival to Cusco as places on the 'standard' Inca Trail fill up long in advance.

Author: Matthew Barker


Day 1 - Cusco, Cuzco


Spend your first day exploring the city's historical center by foot. Remember to take it easy, the altitude gives many new arrivals a hard time and you may feel the effects of altitude sickness. Begin your tour at the Plaza de Armas which was once the center of the original Inca capital. Take in the colonial facades that surround the plaza and drop in to the church of LaCompania de Jesus with its impressive historical artwork, while keeping your eyes open for tell tale signs of original Inca masonry (large blocks of precisely carved stone). Next pay a visit to La Catedral , 450 years old and built by the Spanish with stone plundered from original Inca buildings as they attempted to convert the AndeanIndians to Catholicism. Continue your walk through Cusco's winding streets to the Church and Monastery of Santa Catalina which houses a fine collection of art from the 'Cusco School,' a merging of native and Spanish styles which occurred after the arrival of the Conquistadors. Next, take a walk uphill from the Plaza to the enchanting neighborhood of San Blas (take a cab if the thin mountain air is making you breathless). Stop for lunch at Moni , a delicious vegetarian restaurant which give Peruvian cuisine a new twist, before exploring this bohemian barrio and its winding cobbled streets which are packed with artisan shops and local crafts and art. SanBlas church is one of many hidden highlights, with an impressive altar and some intriguing history. After your first day in the city, relax in the excellent Mezon de Los Portales restaurant which offers typical regional dishes including the famous cuy (guinea pig - go on, be adventurous!) If you're not thoroughly exhausted, Cusco offers an enormous range of nightlife options including the well-known Cross Keys British-style pub and El Muki, a cozy and atmospheric late night bar and club.


1

Plaza de Armas

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Location:

Plaza de Armas
Cusco, Peru

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2

Compañía de Jesús

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Location:

Plaza de Armas
Cusco, Peru

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3

Catedral (La)

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Location:

Triunfo
Plaza de Armas (north side)
Cusco, Peru

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tel: 51 84222781
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4

Santa Catalina

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Location:

Santa Catalina Angosta 190
Cusco, Peru

Contact:

tel: 51 8422 6032
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5

Palacio del Arzobispado

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Location:

Hatun Rumiyoq s/n
Cusco, Peru

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tel: 51 84225211
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6

Moni Cafe Restaurant

Location:

San Agustin 311
Cusco, Peru

Contact:

tel: 51 84 23 1029


7

San Blas Church

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Location:

Plazoleta San Blas
Cusco, Peru

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8

Mezon de Los Portales

Location:

Portal de Panes 163
Cusco, Peru

Contact:

tel: 51 84 23 5604


9

The Cross Keys

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Location:

Portal Confiturías 233, 2do. piso
(Plaza de Armas)
Cusco, Peru

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tel: 51 84 233865
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10

El Muki

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Location:

Santa Catalina Angosta 114
Cusco, Peru

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tel: 51 84 253498
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11

Hostal "Pensión Alemana"

Location:

Calle Tandapata 260
San Blas
Cuzco, Peru

Contact:

tel: 51 84 226861
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Day 2 - Urubamba, Cusco


Having seen the best of urban Cusco, spend your second day exploring the dramatic, green countryside that surrounds it which is home to an uncountable number of Inca ruins and archaeological sites. The Sacred Valley itself is a corridor of twisting and meandering landscapes dissected by the Urubamba river just 15km from Cusco. Here you can find the ancient settlement of Pisac along with a scattering of Andean villages, market towns and ruins, most of which can be explored on an organised tour from Cusco. Alternatively, walk from Cusco to the enormous site of Saqsaywaman, one of the most important ruins in the immediate Cusco area. Try to get here early to avoid the crowds, although don't go alone as the occasional robbery has been reported. Enjoy a meal at the fine Killa Wasi and have a drink in Ukuku's, but don't stay out late - you'll have an early start tomorrow!


1

Sacred Valley of the Incas (The)

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Location:

Sacred Valley of the Incas
Urubamba, Peru

Contact:

tel: 51 8426 3176 (Tourist Information)
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2

Sacsayhuaman

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Location:

2 kms North of Cusco
Cusco, Peru


3

Killa Wasi (House of the Moon)

Location:

Sacred Valley of the Incas
Sol & Luna Lodge
Urubamba, Peru

Contact:

tel: 51 84 20 1620 (Sol & Luna Lodge)
fax: 51 84 20 1184 (Sol & Luna Lodge)
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4

Ukuku's Bar

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Location:

Calle Plateros 316, 2nd floor
Cusco, Peru

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tel: 84 254 911; 984 759 686
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Day 3 - Cusco


Most treks begin with a bus journey from Cusco to the start of the trail after which you will begin climbing on a trail that runs parallel to the Urubamba river. Passing the archaeological site of Llactapata you will continue to the small village of Wayllabamba where some treks stop for the night.


1

Inca Trail to Machu Picchu

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Cusco, Peru

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Day 7 - Machu Picchu


On the final day of the trek you will rise early and make the final two hour descent to the Sun Gate, the last stop on the Inca Trail. You will leave your backpacks at the guard house and enter the lost city itself, with several hours to spare before hundreds of day-trippers arrive by the train load. You will catch the sunrise over the cloud-topped city and have a chance to replicate all those famous postcard scenes from a spot overlooking the entire site. You will spend a full day exploring the ruins which will captivate you for hours. There is an expensive snack bar at the entrance to the ruins and if you bring your own lunch you will have to leave this with your backpack at the guard house. Organized treks will have a return journey to Cusco pre-arranged, alternatively you can catch a bus to the nearby Aguas Calientes and a train to Cusco.


1

Macchu Picchu

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Location:

Machu Picchu, Peru

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