As night falls, glittering lights of colonial buildings and churches illuminate Cuzco (also known as Cusco) in a golden shade. What used to be an important headquarter for the Spanish conquistadores during the colonization days, is now an enchanting city littered with cobblestoned paths, fountains and ancient churches. The heart of Cuzco lies in Plaza de Armas, where a multi-hued park is surrounded by the Grand Cathedral, the Palacio de Ayuntamiento and several touristic bars.
By day, the old city center is beaming with tourists and activities. Cuzco is flanked by gigantic mountains, so standing right in the middle of the city gives the feeling of being protected by the Gods of the mountain. Evidently the view of the mountains around you is one in a million.
Situated at 3,395 meters, Cuzco is definitely one of the highest cities in South America. Besides the thin air and ultra-sunny weather, you might not feel the effects of its high altitude. For those who would like to take preventive measures against altitude sickness, Coco tea is available at every other restaurant.
Bars and restaurants on the second floor of buildings overlooking Plaza de Armas, offer an unobstructed view of the square and white houses perched on the mountain slopes. Cafe Trotamundos is my personal favourite – check out their chocolate brownie!
San Blas – Bohemia District
Climb the steep cobblestoned pathways to the city’s rooftop where hippies, street performers and a bohemian atmosphere surround you. It’s a charming and quiet little district where travelers and Peruvians alike enjoy hanging around for a slow and tranquil breathe of fresh air. From the Plazoleta de San Blas, a view of the old city center and mountain range greets you warmly.
Along the narrow streets of San Blas, the white-washed walls and blue windows seemingly resemble architecture in the Mediterranean. That sunny and bohemian feel almost made me wonder if I was in Santorini, Greece.
The bohemian people of Cuzco love to sit out in the cafes, under the sun, sipping Pisco Sour especially on a Sunday afternoon. I particularly enjoyed watching people pass by, travelers’ look of amazement and hippies strutting their stuff on the streets
Take the historic route starting from the Cathedral towards the Museo Inka and upwards on to San Blas.
The People of Cusco
The native Quechuas of Peru adorn stunningly beautiful costumes, made of thick wool (for the extreme mountain weather) and intricate patterns. Worn for thousands of years since the Inca civilization, it still remains unchanged especially in the Andean mountain villages.
On the streets of Cusco, old ladies set up artesania stalls where handmade mats, belts and accessories are on sale. At Museo Inka, highly skilled natives demonstrate the traditional weaving process that has been used to produce mats since centuries ago.
Food in Cusco
Peruvian food is well-known for its sassy, fresh and varied taste. Cusco has such a huge range of local culinary delights on offer – from simple and economical street food to classy high-end restaurant.
Pinchos (meat skewers) are found along the alleyways of Cusco, especially along the southern end of Avenida del Sol. Thick and tender slices of meat along with a small potato are put on the grill, and then spiced up with savory brown sauce for a touch of perfection.
Ceviche (fish salad) plays an important role in the gastronomic world of South America, especially so in Peru since many claim it to be the best here. Raw fish fresh from the sea is mixed with onions, lettuce and most importantly lime juice to create an extraordinary concoction.
Llama or alpaca steak is sizzling and tender unlike the usual beef steak. El Emperador Restaurant overlooking Plaza de Armas has the best alpaca steak in town!
Pisco is a truly authentic Peruvian liquor, that’s original and alarmingly tasty. Tasting similar to a tequila, it can definitely kick some ass. The most popular concoction is the Pisco Sour, tasting a little like margarita but stronger and feistier. It’s a must-try in Peru!