Yesterday I arrived in Cusco and immediately fell in love. Your plane descends between steep but breathtaking mountains into a small airport, and before you even reach the baggage claim you’re offered free cocoa leaves to help you acclimate to the altitude. The city, which was the capital of the Inca Empire, is over 11,000 feet above sea level and you definitely feel it when you walk off the plane. But everywhere you turn they offer you cocoa leaves, tea, and candies to help and except a little lethargy and shortness of breath, none of my friends suffered too much.
Our first night in town we ate at a restaurant called Cicciolina, which is notoriously one of the best. We tasted the local flavors like cuy (guinea pig) and alpaca. I can’t say I’ll be ordering them again, but I was excited for the experience to try something local and exotic. My pasta entree was delicious and after two glasses of wine (at altitude) I was ready to go straight to bed.
This morning we woke up and enjoyed breakfast in the courtyard of our spectacular hotel. You can expect to see another post on it because I am totally smitten, but first I want to share photos from our morning expedition to Saqsaywaman (yes, it’s said like “sexy woman”).
Saqsaywaman was first created around 1100 by the Killke culture. Later, in the 13th century, the Incas added to it. What’s most impressive is that it’s constructed without mortar. The boulders are carefully cut and pieced together so perfectly that they have withstood thousands of years (and countless earthquakes).
My favorite part was the slides that were created naturally in the smooth, arched stone. Sliding down them was incredibly fun!
There’s a big grassy area in between the fortress walls where we met some grazing alpaca.
The back side provides spectacular views of Cusco and the mountains in the background.
If you’re ever in Cusco, it’s well worth a trip. We took an Uber there, which cost a little under $5 USD. Considering that it’s perched high above the city (elevation over 12,000 ft), it was well worth the fare. Expect to pay 70 Soles (about $22 USD) for admission and spend about 2 hours exploring there. We chose to walk back to town afterwards, which was enjoyable because it was a direct and downhill path. It’s hands down my favorite thing we’ve done or seen so far in Peru.
Tomorrow I head to Machu Picchu!