Cusco, Lima, and Aguas Calientes

I recently spent 10 days in Peru with two very old and dear friends, one I’ve known for practically my entire life (since the age of 5), and another friend from elementary school who I had not seen for 15 years!

Since we took  a pretty long trip I’m splitting this travel post in 2 parts:

  1. Our time spent at Cusco and Lima
  2. Our 5 day backpacking trek – Salkantay Trek

Cusco

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Since Cusco is 11,152 feet (3,399 meters) above sea level we decided to make this our first stop in Peru. Originally we were going to spent time in Lima first but we then decided it would be better for us to switch it up. By spending time in Cusco first it would allow our body to get adjusted to the altitude before our trek.

Day 1: Explore the city

Once we arrived at Cusco it was already past 6:30. We got to our hostel, dropped off our bags, grabbed some dinner, and explored the Plaza de Armas.

Plaza de Armas

This plaza is the heart of the city of Cusco. I mean this quite literally! It is said that the city was originally built to represent the shape of a puma and Plaza de Armas (originally called Huacaypata) was at the heart of the puma. The puma is one of three sacred animals of the Inca’s and represents courage.

I originally wanted to visit Rainbow Mountain, but decided against it due to the high elevation (after all we were trying to acclimatize in Cusco) and the length of the hike (we were also trying to save our legs for the trek). I’m so thankful we made this decision. However, if you have the time I would recommend you go. We met many fellow hostel members who went and loved it! Along with Rainbow Mountain they saw the Red Valley which they said was also an incredible experience.

Acclimatization Tips

Be sure to drink coca tea at your hostel/ hotel at breakfast or before bed! Most offer this for free in the lobby area.

Day 2: Sacred Valley

We started our day with an early pickup (6:45am) and had the taxi drop us off at Tambomach’ay which cost us 30 soles. This is the farthest ruin, about 5 miles from Plaza de Armes in Cusco, mostly uphill.

At Tambomach’ay we bought a partial boleto touristico card which got us in to all four ruins: Sacsayhuaman, Q’enqo, Tambomach’ay and Pukapukara, and is valid for 1 day.

From Tambomach’ay we walked down the main road about 300 meters give or take and we arrived at Pukapukara.

After Pukapukara, we walked on down the hill to Q’enqo. It was a nice gradual walk down hill , it’s a somewhat long one, 3 miles, but If you aren’t feeling up to walking, you can always opt to take the Señor Del Huerta Collectivo down to Q’enqo. We opted to walk as it was a very nice warm day.

Q’enqo is one of the largest wak’as (holy place) around the region of Cusco. Its name means ‘labyrinth’ in Quechua, although it is unknown what Q’enqo’s original name was. Archeologists believe this was a site where death rituals took place.

After Q’enqo you will go back out to the main road and continue on down back toward Cusco for about 1 mile. Your next stop will be quite obvious to spot, Sacsayhuaman! It’s the largest of the four.

Tips for the Tambomachay to Cusco walk

  • Bring water, layers, and sun screen.
  • Bring a snack/lunch but don’t worry if you forget, there’s a couple places to grab a bite to eat on the way down.

 

Day 3: Wander Cusco and Final Prep for the Salkantay Trail

Our last day in Cusco we spent the morning prepping for our trek. We went to some of the local supermarkets and bought food and snacks and stopped at a camping store to buy  some gas.

We also spent the afternoon at museums. We spent a few hours at the Museo Inka (10 soles) and at Choco Museo (free). Another stop we made was going to the San Pedro Market. If you want to buy any souvenirs or a nice alpaca sweatshirt  I’d highly recommend buying them at the San Pedro market or at the market in Aguas Calientes next to the train station. The prices in Lima are more expensive than in Cusco or Aguas Calientes and the quality of the material is not as good.

Hostel: Dragonfly

Aguas Calientes

We spent only a few hours here but I do wish we could have spent more time exploring this little town. They have huge big market and great food. However, this city is very touristy, I’d say even more than Cusco, because everyone stops here before making they’re way up to Machupicchu.

Hostel: Ecopackers

Lima 

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Unfortunately we had to change our plans when we got to Lima. We were hoping to go paragliding but the weather was not cooperating. We had rain in the morning and clouds all day. I’m actually surprised it didn’t rain more than it did.

Instead we explored Miraflores district.

Day 1: Explore the district.

After arriving in Miraflores we checked into our hostel and were immediately surprised by what we saw. A Pan American Games were in Lima and they had an event going on right in front of our hostel, the speed walking events were happening!

We watched the event for a few minutes and then decided to grab some lunch and walk through Kennedy park.

Kennedy park is a popular hangout for both budget backpackers and well-heeled tourists. There are many street vendors, painters, you’ll see lots of cats, and there’s an amphitheater where young artists, dancers and bands perform their arts.

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Before dinner we walked along the coast to the Barranco district and visited the Puente de los Suspiros. There was a arts festival going on in the districts so we stooped along the different booths to see all the Peruvian artwork.

Day 2: Pan American Games 2019

We finally got a few more hours of sleep on this day. Woke up later than usual, had breakfast, and we bought tickets to watch field hockey at the Pan American Games. It took about an hour to get to the stadium, grabbed lunch, and then watched two games; Peru vs. Argentina and Mexico vs. Chile.

IMG_1120.jpgAfter dinner we took an Uber to the Park to watch the Magic Water Circuit show but I was disappointed when we arrived. The Parque de la Reserva had been closed for the day because it was undergoing some maintenance work. *Tip: Most parks in Lima are closed on Mondays for maintenance…we learned this the hard way.

Hostel Pariwana