Cuzco = Machu Picchu. You won’t leave Cuzco without seeing the famous ruins. But this touristy town has more to offer besides Machu Picchu in the form of other—albeit lesser—ruins, nice restaurants, and a nightlife that gringos cling around for. While the girls are hurting compared to the ones in Lima, you will find them to be acceptable after several drinks.
Altitute here is 3,395 meters (11,138 feet).
Chance Of Hooking Up Rating: 5 out of 5 ?
To visit Machu Picchu, the famous “Lost City Of The Incans,” you can either take the Inca trail, which you need to book ahead months in advance, or do what I did and take the train to Aguas Caliente, the nearest town to Machu Picchu. From there it’s a 30-minute bus ride up the mountain. If you take the train I recommend you do it a day-trip because you will only need a few hours to experience the ruins. To get train tickets (round trip $75), go to the Huanchac Train Station on Pachautec and Av Tullumayo. During peak season you may have to wait a couple days until you get seats. Tickets to the ruins can be bought in Aguas Caliente (ask around for the ticket office). The cost for non-students is $40.
There are other ruins around Cuzco. For $23 I recommend you can buy a Boleto Turistico that gives you 10-day access to a handful of museums and Incan sights. Highlights include:
- Tambomachay – ceremonial bath that takes about 10 minutes to inspect (30 min bus ride away from the city center)
- Pukapukara – guard post with nice views (5 minute walk from Tambomachay)
- Q’enqo – interesting stone caves (10 minute bus ride towards city center from Pukapukara)
- Saqsaywaman – pronounced like “sexy woman,” it’s a large fort with gigantic stone structures and nice views of the city (25 minute uphill walk from city center, near Q’enqo)
- Pisac – block out several hours for the most worthwhile ruin of them all, with a challenging one hour climb to the top (75 minute bus ride from city center)
For food, put Jack’s Cafe on your list (near Plaza de Armas, Choquechaka 509). The food is incredible and will keep you coming back for more even though you can get similar portions for half the price elsewhere. Try the chicken sandwich with a smoothie. On the way over you will pass through some Incan stones (the famous 12-sided stone will be on your right) and a dozen or so women offering to give you a massage. I do not know if the massages come with a happy ending. If you pass Jack’s and go uphill, you will find yourself in the chill Plaza San Blas. Pop into Muse for a coca tea in a pleasant lounge seating.
Go to Cafe Trotamundos on Plaza de Armas (facing the cathedral) for the best brownie in South America. Try to get them microwaved for warm chocolately goodness.
Girls in Cuzco are known for very aggressively pursuing gringos. The popular nightlife choice is Mama Africas on the main Plaza, but many others exist nearby and promoters will pass out free drink cards as the sun goes down.
While in clubs, mediocre girls will approach you and want to make out after a little dancing. It’s very common for guys to stay in Cuzco longer than planned because of this, but if you want better quality then you will have to do some work. For a more sophisticated and less sloppy atmosphere, head to Fallen Angel at Plazoleta de las Nazarenas.
Loki Hostel (Santa Ana 601)
$6.50/night for dorm bed. Loads of Australian and English people, erratic free internet (including wireless), consistent hot water and complimentary tea and bread breakfast. This is not a bad place but because it was advertised as a “party hostel” it attracted significantly more guys than girls. Hey, it worked on me. Nightly dinners are convenient and tasty. Have fun climbing the steep hill to this hostel from the main square.
Cuzco On The Blog
I whined about the cost of Machu Picchu after my visit…
The views were beautiful and I’m glad I went, but the magic of Machu Picchu is less when you’ve already visited Pompeii in Italy. Continue Reading
On a bus ride from Pisac, I recounted a story about a native man falling asleep on my package.
Well, after about ten minutes, he fell asleep on my package. I could feel his head on my head. This being one of the top five highlights of my trip so far, I took a picture… Continue Reading
Other Cities In Peru
If you're only going to visit only Peru then I recommend you get this guide, which is far more detailed than the continental guide above, with options that cater to a range of budgets instead of only the shoestring backpacking crowd. Also it gives more respectable treatment to small cities and towns that the larger guide breezes over with a paragraph or two.
South America On A Shoestring Guidebook
This is the guidebook that I used in my six month trip in South America. The maps are excellent, the information is complete and thorough, and the reviews are accurate, which is why it's often called "the bible" by many travelers. The only problem is that everyone else has this book so if you are the type of person that wants to hit the isolated small towns you will be disappointed. My advice is to use this book for its maps and information on getting from city to city, but talk to the locals and other travelers for those isolated gems that Lonely Planet for some reason didn't find worthy to include.
Spanish For Beginners
My copy of this book is so beat up and weathered it's disintegrating before my eyes. I took it with me to South America because I loved how it was organized in a logical way that kept me motivated to keep studying. Lessons start short and easy and increase in complexity as you tackle frustrating readings that help take you to the next level. The only downside of this book is that it was originally published in 1957 so some of the vocabulary is very dated. Still, you'll be hard-pressed to find a modern equivalent of this book whose teachings approach the same quality. Last time I checked you can grab a used copy from Amazon for less than a dollar.
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