Most tourists travel to Cuzco to acclimate before heading to Machu Picchu. Cuzco is at 11,200ft, Machu Picchu is at 8,000ft. For us, we’ve been above 9,000ft for the past 2 weeks in Bolivia so we used it as a time to explore the city. Cuzco is full of culture, history, and charm. We also haven’t been around many tourists in a very long time so that was a bit of an adjustment as well. Michael’s mom, Bonnie, met us in Cuzco to do the trek to Machu Picchu so it was fun to all explore Cuzco together.
There are great restaurants, museums, and day trips outside of Cuzco that are worthwhile. The Sun Temple, known in Quecha as Qurikancha, with it’s incredible stone walls still in perfect condition after 600 years is a sight to see.
The Sun Temple.
The Sacred Valley.
We took a day tour to The Sacred Valley with Alpaca Expeditions, the same tour company we used for the Machu Picchu trek. After taking in the views of the valley from El Mirador lookout, we stopped at an animal sanctuary where we saw llamas, alpacas, monkeys, and a giant condor with a wingspan of 16ft (and no, he’s not actually standing on my head 🙂 ).
From there, we visited three ruin sites and had a taste of what to expect at Machu Picchu. Crowds, crowds, and more crowds. However, the ruins, temples, and tombs were stunning. Such history!
Beautiful Sunday Markets.
The Town and Ruins of Chinchero.
Seeing the ruins and learning the history of the Incans surrounding Cuzco was a great way to get our feet wet for Machu Picchu. And after three days in Cuzco, we were off on our five day trek!
- Guinea pig is a delicatesy here – I used to have them as pets as a kid 🙁
- Landscape – Farm lands everywhere – Over 350 types of Potatoes, 55 varieties of corn, and 43 types of quinoa
- The Quechua people are extremely superstitious about everything – Read more about that here.
- Peru has 28 different climate types and 84 of the 104 ecological niches that have so far been identified, a fact that classifies Peru as the most ecologically diverse country in the world. Having more than 40,000 different plant species and being considered the world’s third richest country in terms of plant life, Peru has become a botanical garden of the modern world
- Too much soliciting
- Too much haggling. The worst we’ve seen yet. It’s terrible. I thought Michael was going to punch someone.
- Clean, nice, neat city.
- So much history!
- Adorable baby llamas everywhere, but don’t take a picture with them or of them; otherwise, you have to pay.
Lima was the first major city we’ve been to in quite some time and immediately felt very cosmopolitan as soon as we stepped out of the airport. Lima also has the most spoken English we’ve heard in a very long time.
With only a short amount of time in this city, we rented bikes and explored on our own. Lima is a very bike friendly city with giant bike lanes in the middle islands of the street. There are also great restaurants and delicious Pisco Sours everywhere.
The views of the Pacific Ocean are great, but in terms of beaches, there aren’t many. The neat thing about Mira Flores was the ocean swells.They could be seen from miles off the shore; this is due to the shallow waters off the coast. I’ve never seen anything like it before.
- Good food!
- Lots of English
- Traffic is horrendous – Leave extra time to get to the airport
- Stay in Mira Flores – Walking distance to great restaurants, mall, bike rentals, etc.
- Only use a real taxi – And get the price before they start driving.
- Lima is known as the “Tearless City” because it’s always cloudy, but hardly ever rains – True story
- Traditional food: Tiraditos, tastes like ceviche, but the fish is cut thinly like carpaccio
- Great restaurants: Cala, Popular, Malabar
Overall, Lima was just a big city with good food. Personally, I prefer Cuzco.