Ms Skinnyfat

A Food & Travel Blog from Singapore

4D3N Cusco & Machu Picchu Peru Travel

By Monday, July 10, 2017 , ,

Cusco Peru is the center of the universe according to the Incans and it was without a doubt an unchanging component of our South America trip because of Machu Picchu! Check out our South America itinerary here). Well, Cusco is a lot more than just Machu Picchu and we found out through trips to the various museums and ancient sites. So here is what we did in Cusco in 4 days
To get to Cusco, you'll have to fly in from Lima. There are flights throughout the day and will only take you about 1.5h to get to the Inca capital. We took LATAM airlines for our flights in South America. 
You are likely to experience some mild symptoms of altitude sickness in Cusco, more so than at Machu Picchu which is at a lower elevation. Take it easy for the first day when you arrive. 
Have your meds ready, and drink lots of Coca tea to help relieve dizziness and headaches. The tea is available at your hotel (for sure), and all around town and the sights.
We stayed at Hotel Eco Inn Hotel Cusco. It's a 3 star hotel that is spacious and clean. It may be some distance from the main town area but it wasn't much of an issue since we were always picked up and dropped off from our tours.  We were surprised by the quality of the food when we had several quick meals at the hotel before and after our tours. The breakfast spread is also quite substantial and yes to guacamole and other Andean fare for breakfast!
We spent an afternoon in the city, visiting the Main Square, the Cusco Cathedral, and the Coricancha (Qorikancha) temple (the Christian monastery of Santo Domingo was built on top of it). We marvelled at the Inca architecture all around town and were enriched by our guide's commentary as we went around the cathedral. I'll definitely recommend going on a guided tour. 
Cusco itself was laid out to represent a jaguar and Coricancha was located at the tail. Coricancha contains the Temple of the Sun which the most sacred site in the Inca religion and it is also considered the very centre of the Inca world. Massive walls of the complex were built from large stone blocks finely cut and fitted together without mortar. 
In Inca symmetry, the second most important sacred site in the city - Sacsayhuaman - was located at the head of the jaguar. It's a short drive from the main town and we were wowed by the massive construction here.
We continued with our small-group tour to the Sacred Valley the following day. Star attractions are the markets and the cities of Pisac and Ollantaytambo. There are plenty of tour companies around the Plaza de Armas in Cusco offering these tours costing between US$15 to 25 for a big group of up to 30pax (meals/entrance fees not included). Tours operate on market days i.e. Tue, Thu, and Sun. I'd recommend you do this if you only have a day for this. Alternatively, hire a taxi and take a guide for US$150 onwards. If not, try navigating the local bus but be warned that it'd be very tiring.
Sacred Valley's climate and fertile soil is perfect for agriculture then and now. 
The colorful Pisac market where you can buy silver, alpaca fur, and traditional weaves among other knick knacks. I bought a Machu Picchu sun hat which proved to be the best buy for going about Cusco (careful of the burns)! The tour will bring you to a lunch stop in Urubamba.
Then it was off to Ollantaytambo. We wondered how these massive rocks were brought up the mountain to construct this site without the use of wheels back then. 
Our tour ended with a transfer to the Ollantaytambo train station for our train ride to Machu Picchu town (Aguas Calientes). 

The ride takes about 90 minutes. You could either take the Incarail or Perurail. Both offers different class of service. We went with Incarail's Expedition Train and they offer complimentary beverage and interesting Andean cookies. I was quite impressed with Peru coffee brew that was offered. 


We stayed at El Mapi by Inkaterra, which is a cheaper and more contemporary option from the luxurious Inkaterra. It reminded me a little of Point Yamu by COMO. Breakfast spread was more than sufficient though the dinner we had at the restaurant on-site was far from mind-blowing. Good news is that there are plenty to eat around town where the hotel is conveniently located. 
The plan was to wake early and catch the first bus (5.30-6am) from Aguas Calientes to Machu Picchu. We were supposed to climb Huayna Picchu which will give us a view of Machu Picchu (you need a ticket for this). However, by this leg of our trip, we were sick of having to wake so bloody early to catch our transfers and all so we decided that we could always go later.  
Be prepared for the bus queue wait!
Well guess what, we completely missed Huayna Picchu because 1. We "climbed" the wrong thing (ended up touring MP on our own) 2. We realized at the end of our little tour that Huayna Picchu entrance is only open at certain hours so if you miss the window, you can't enter even if you have a ticket. 
Well good news is that we thoroughly explored the citadel, once on our own, and a second time with our private guide. HUR HUR.
Give the walk at least 2 hours. It's a huge compound and there's plenty to see. It's good to go with a guide so that you'll learn more about the place.
Part of the Ican trek route
As you can obviously tell, we did not do the Incan trek (there's a 2d1n and a 4d3n option) as we took a while to plan our itinerary and by the time things were firmed, there were no more passes to do the trek. If you'd like to do that, make sure you book it in advance online. 

We had the most exciting train ride back from Aguas Calientes to Poroy (3h 45mins). Hello train fault! We thought it was a 'Train to Busan' moment when the lights went out and we were stuck on the tracks for a really long time. Thankfully our local escort was super on the ball and they appeared miraculously on the tracks and 'rescued' us and sent us back to our hotel. We didn't even have to call them. Book your land package with Peru Interact guys! FYI they settled all the logistics for us- accom, transfers, sightseeing for our South America trip, according to how we planned it. I'd say it's a semi-private and exclusive tour. Not sure what happened to the rest of the people on the train. Maybe they were eaten by zombies.
Now about food. There are plenty of options to eat in Cusco, but make sure you check out Chicha by Gaston Acurio (we dined at his Amazonian restaurant Amaz and it was AMAZing). There are also outlets in Lima and Arequipa if you missed this. Of course if you have the change in Lima, get a table at Peru's most celebrated Chef's flagship restaurant Astrid & Gaston. Traditional Andean cuisine is served here, think superfoods and flavorful meats. End your meal with a queso helado, a cheese ice cream flavored with cinnamon. And don't miss the pisco based cocktails.
Next, Pachapapa was also recommended by our Lima food guide and they serve traditional Peruvian dishes in a homey courtyard. They are best known for its cuy horniado con hucatay y aj√≠ panca (whole guinea pig roasted with Peruvian herbs and hot yellow peppers) and Pachamanca (assortment of tubers, corn and meats baked in a traditional ground-oven). located in the heart of Cusco’s San Blas neighborhood, directly in front of the San Blas Cathedral. 
Enjoy a variety of Peruvian dishes on a buffet spread at Tunupa. We were brought to this restaurant for lunch while on our tour to the Sacred Valley and Ollantaytambo. The buffet spread is very extensive and there were more than enough options to give us satisfied. Jr have seconds of the ceviche that is made on the spot, while i kept going back for the Aji de gallina, a classic Peruvian chicken dish cooked in a creamy amarillo peppers-ground walnut-cheese sauce. They also serve guinea pig in some form (carpaccio and terrine). They also have another outlet in Cusco city main square.

After our Machu Picchu trek x 2, we were starving by the time we got back to Aguas Calientes. A quick search online brought us to Indio Feliz, a charming restaurant that serves Franco-Peruvian food in ridonculous portions. We ordered a 3 course set meal and a quiche (because I wanted something small), and I swear it could feed a village.
The main dish of Mango and Chicken was made with half a chicken and came with a full plate of roasted vegetables, and another plate of chips. The French Onion Soup also came in a mini pot as opposed to a regular soup bowl.

This 4 day 3 night Cusco itinerary will work if you are fine with missing the Incan trek. There is still a fair amount of activity in this one if you're not all that couch potato as well!


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