Friday, August 16, 2019

Peru Recap :: Day 1 :: Cusco

First post of our Peru recap! Wow, this trip exceeded our expectations. The planning did take awhile but the effort has paid off. I can honestly say this trip was the most memorable trip I have ever had in my life. I will share my experiences throughout the recap. 16 hours and 3 flights later, we landed in Cusco. Truthfully, Cusco isn't my favorite city. It's very crowded and has become very commercialized. However, it's important to spend a day in Cusco to get acclimated before continuing your journey to Machu Picchu.
What to do: After a long day of travel, we wanted to take it easy. There wasn't much on the agenda for Cusco. Tips: Be sure to take it very easy on your first day. You need time to acclimate. Even walking you may notice feeling out of breath. Drink plenty of bottled or properly boiled/treated water as it's easy to get dehydrated and that contributes to altitude sickness.
1. Plaza De Armas: The most popular spot in Cusco is the main square (Plaza De Armas). This is where everyone ends up in Cusco. It's a beautiful area where you can relax and people watch. Surrounded by plenty of restaurants, bars and shops. The cathedral is definitely worth a visit.
2. Cristo Blanco: Another spot that's worth visiting is Cristo Blanco (statue of Christ). You can see the statue from the main square. It's a 15-minute ride from the main square ($5 ~ 16 soles). Cristo Blanco offers incredible views over Cusco
3. San Pedro market: It's a really cool market! San Pedro market is huge and well sectioned. You can find anything and everything here from fresh fruits, raw meats, dried fruits, food and Peruvian textiles. This is a great place to buy souvenirs. Buy some snacks here to take with you to Machu Picchu. I highly recommend nuts and dried fruits. We had a chance to visit Pisac market on the last day and I prefer Pisac market over San Pedro market. I will talk more about Pisac market in a later post.

Where to eat: There is no shortage of restaurants around the Plaza De Armas. Some of our favorites are: Inka Grill (recommended by most people), Chicha por Gaston Acurio (food was excellent and the ambiance was nice), Inka Wasi (a must try). Important note: Do not drink tap water in Peru. It will make you sick. Only drink bottled or treated water. We packed 15 (1 liter) bottles of water and they lasted us the entire week. I used bottled water for brushing as well. While tempting, I wouldn't recommend drink the juices/smoothies from the market. It can sadly make you sick because the water/ice isn't usually treated.
Where to stay: We spent our first night and last night in Cusco at Torre Dorada hotel. The hotel only has 17 rooms and is extremely well kept. Everything is clean and well-maintained. Coincidentally, the owner was an exchange student in Ohio 50 years ago. The staff was so kind and friendly! They picked us up from the airport and did everything they can to make our stay comfortable and memorable. They even provided a cell phone to us so we could contact them to pick us up or help us with whatever we needed. I cannot say enough good things about this hotel and would highly recommend it to anyone.

Random notes: 
- If you're heading to Machu Picchu from the U.S, more than likely you're going to have a connection in Lima before landing in Cusco. After going through immigration, it's important to know that you would have to collect your luggage, then go through customs and re-check your luggage before heading to Cusco. Your luggage will NOT be checked all the way to Cusco
- Lima airport is huge. Shops and restaurants are opened around the clock. My favorite spot to eat is Tanta. We ate here twice and everything was excellent. There is also a Starbucks not too far from Tanta.
- There are several currency exchange booths at Lima airport but the rate is low. You really don't need cash until you're in Cusco. Once in the city, there are many currency exchange booths at the main square. They offer a much better exchange rate
- If you'd like to have some photos taken with the native women and their alpacas, make sure you tip them. They absolutely expect something from you (usually between 3-5 soles)
- The elevation of Cusco is 11152 ft above sea level so it's common for tourists to experience symptoms of altitude sickness while in Cusco. I took Acetazolamide twice a day and I was perfectly fine. I did get a bit of headaches on the first day but nothing too severe. I would highly recommend you get it from your doctor beforehand. If medication isn't your thing, drink coca tea (widely available) will help you cope with the change in altitude. I just didn't want to drink tea all day long =). I hope you find this post helpful. Next stop, the Scared Valley!SanPedroMarketCusco_SydneysFashionDiary

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