Monday, 19 November 2012

Cusco

We were warned that Cusco can be a hit or miss with some travellers as it is known to be extremely touristy... for us it was a big hit but only because we fell in love with the San Blas area! Sab Blas was in the north of the city; the small bohemian-style side of Cusco full of narrow cobbled streets, cafes and plenty of cheap veggie restaurants that made even me spoilt for choice. We planned on spending a week in Cusco but extended it to two as we just found it too hard to leave.

The view of the cathedral coming down from San Blas

I wont lie, the historical centre of Cusco was over-the-top touristy which did make site-seeing and wandering very difficult as we were constantly hounded by restaurant owners, tour operators and even people just trying to sell us mass production ("handmade") bags, blankets and clothes.

The extent of tourism was actually quite hilarious as we often saw women and children, dressed in indigenous clothing, walking the streets with a pet llama or alpaca asking if we wanted (to pay for) a photo! We lasted an hour of wandering before we couldn't take it any more, then retreated back to our safe haven of San Blas.

Despite all that, the city of Cusco was beautiful. It is located in a valley surrounded by rolling mountains which provided us with some fantastic views. The churches and cathedrals are very pretty and the San Pedro market is definitely worth a visit for cheap food!





The main square in San Blas 
However, if you are willing to walk up the hill everyday, the San Blas area has much to offer. The accommodation was way cheaper and much less touristy with a more tranquil vibe. We stayed in a hostel called Inti Quilla (Atoqsaykuchi, No. 281) which was basic but nice. A double room for S/45 (the same price for a 12 person dorm in the centre!). The hot water was very temperamental though.


There were plenty of places to eat in Cusco, especially San Blas market (look for Patty, my fruit salad lady!), we have chosen our favourite places and summarised them in our restaurant review ofCusco. You MUST try Pantastico bakery which had the BEST chocolate and banana cake ever!! I miss it already!

Cusco held a great location to visit Machu Picchu and with the hundreds of tourist offices selling tours, they won't let you forget it! Despite this main attraction, the city itself makes a great place to see the once capital of the Inca empire. There are many ruins to explore around Cusco itself without having to go far.


The Saqsaywaman (pronounced "sexy woman") archaeological site gives you a glimps into the Inca empire. We were told it was S/70 for a day pass to all ruins (or S/130 for the boleto de touristico) but we were able to see the Temple of the Moon which had a free entrance (if you ask the locals where to go).

Temple of the Moon
Amazing views from the White Christ Statue

We took day trips to Pisac on both Sundays to see the big market (and buy lots of stuff!). Like other markets it was, of course, touristy but great for Peruvian themed crafts and clothes . Pisac is located in the Sacred Valley which is stunning and offers brilliant views from the Inca ruins located there (we didn´t go). To get to Pisac we took the local bus (S/2.50pp, 1h) from outside a small market on a main road called Argentina. The public bus was half price of the Collectivos but we were not guaranteed a seat.

Pisac's Sunday market
The Sacred Valley
Cusco was our last stop in Peru before Bolivia. I must say, it has been my favourite country so far . Bolivia has some major competition.

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