City Guide: Cusco, Peru

Hotel Review: Quinta San Blas

+ Nice hotel

+ Includes breakfast and wifi

+ Felt more culturally appropriate than just staying at a modern Marriott hotel that is the same in every city

+ Hot coca tea available in the lobby all day

+ Free bottled water in rooms

– The walls are a bit thin here, while it wasn’t a problem temperature wise, we did hear some music coming from the neighbors all night 

A note on Cusco: Cusco sits at 11,000 feet elevation and is a typical stop for tourists to acclimate before hiking Machu Picchu. All the locals drink coca tea and chew coca gum or coca candy. It’s readily available everywhere. This works well to settle your stomach and is supposed to help you acclimate, however they say not to drink coca tea at night time as it will keep you up. I also took ibprofin and tums. While I did get a bit of altitude sickness, our tour guide helped me get some red and white capsules from the pharmacy called Sorojchi pills. They are supposed to help with altitude sickness and included sugar and some type of diarrhetic, which really helped my nausea. I took one every 8 hours, and after a night of chugging water, I woke up feeling fine and ready to go.

Do not bring coca leaves home with you as they are illegal in America.

Things to do in Cusco:

San Blas Square and Market – if you’re looking for a Peru souvenir this is a great place to start. More or less all the shops will carry the same things (blankets, scarves, paintings, backpacks, etc) but prices are highly negotiable so find one willing to wiggle.

Jack’s Cafe – absolutely eat here. Everything we tried here was tasty and the staff was friendly. I suggest the bruschetta, cheeseburger or banana pancakes. Also black coffee is great here.

Papachos – this place is super hip and has a awesome little rooftop to enjoy a drink at. I suggest getting the iced tea with coca. I believe they called it “The Magic Drink.” We even ordered an extra to go.

North Face store – there are 3 real north face stores in Cusco (per their website). The main one is in the Plaza de Armas across from the large Cathedral. Keep this is mind, the rest of the market stores selling North Face are all fake. You should be able to tell by the low quality zippers and cheap logo stitching.

Pisco Sour Tour with Urban Adventures – we found this tour online and met our wonderful guide in the Plaza de Armas, look for a red shirt when trying to meet up. She took us through the streets of the city and talked about the Inca and Spanish history and building styles. This too was well worth it as we’d never know the full history of this wonder city. Afterwards we ended at a bar where we were escorted upstairs to try making our own pisco sour. Recipe below:

  • 3/4 oz of sour mix / lemon juice / fruit flavor … I suggest trying the passion fruit flavor
  • 1/2 oz of simple syrup
  • 2 1/2 oz of pisco
  • 1 egg white
  • SHAKE SHAKE SHAKE so the egg whites get frothy. This is a lot harder then it looks.
  • Pour over ice, and top off with a few drops of bitters.

Try the chicha – this a fruity juice that all the locals drink. It was available at Machu Picchu, on the train and even sold by little kids on the streets. It tastes like grape koolaid.

Peru Bar – this bar will be opening on Valentine’s Day 2017. Our Urban Adventures tour guide is friends with the owner so we got a sneak peak while we were there. It is directly across from Jack’s Cafe on the second story. Definitely check it out, the owners are wonderful and their pisco flavors are to die for! Ask for Lia or David.

Portales II – great little restaurant in the plaza Regicijo. Pisco sours are strong and the pizza is good. If possible sit on the patio and enjoy the street performers playing traditional music, but beware you’ll be bothered by street vendors asking you to purchase items.

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