PERU – Cusco: The Hidden Gem of South America

Totally unexpectedly, Cusco has earned its place as our favourite destination in South America. So why is this small, underestimated location our favourite of them all? Where do I begin…
Cusco is an architect’s dream. Magnificent colonial style cathedrals and churches pierce the blue Peruvian sky. Little hand-carved stone steps, reminiscent of a Italian village town, create a labyrinth of cobbled alleyways around the city. On each corner there is a new charming cafe laden with vintage sofa beds and serving homemade cakes and freshly ground coffee. Each turn around Cusco’s streets unveils a new chic restaurant or beautiful building and pom-pom decorated alpacas parade around the plaza like prize ponies. And if that wasn’t enough reason to love Cusco, the friendliness and safety you’ll experience in this city is truly lovely.  

Another selling point of Cusco is that it acts as a gateway for so many spectacular Inca ruins and archeological sites. Our favourites include Moray – giant terraces in the earth which create impressive circular rings, Sacsayhuaman – an old fortress that sits high up overlooking panoramic views of Cusco and Ollantaytambo, which used to be the royal palace of the Emperor. However, Inca ruins are not the only sightseeing wonders Cusco has within its grasp. We visited rainbow mountain one day for the tough trek up to an altitude of 5,200 meters (17,060 ft) to see the different coloured minerals of the mountain create a surreal rainbow spectacle. You can also get the bus and train from Cusco up to Peru’s most famous attraction, Machu Picchu, and spend the day there – relishing in its impressive views and taking the famous photo of yourself with this world wonder. So, there really is never a dull moment in Cusco and we can guarantee that you’ll love it just as much as we did 🗿🇵🇪

Where we stayed: Intro Hostel (my rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️) and Milhouse Hostel (my rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️)

What to eat: Cusco is home to what is now my new favourite restaurant EVER: ‘Organika’. The food is inexpensive, beautifully presented, insanely tasty and all their produce is sourced from their farm in the sacred valley – does it get any better than that?

What to do: Aside from all the Inca ruins, city tours and rainbow mountain, I really recommend visiting the natural history museum located in Cusco’s historic centre. It’s only 3 Soles (less than a pound) and houses a vast and unusual collection of animals and plants that are native to Peru. 

Top tip: Even with the sun shining, Cusco is pretty damm cold due to its high altitude of 3,400. Bring plenty of layers or treat yourself to a hand-woven, super-soft alpaca jumper in one of Cusco’s artisan markets – we certainly didn’t regret that purchase! 👕❄️

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