Cusco was one of the highlights of my three months in Ecuador and Peru, but it took me a few days to ferret out the best things to see and do, as well as the best places to stay and eat, so I wanted to share what I discovered to help others who may be planning to travel to Cusco and visit the famed Machu Picchu Incan Ruins.
Where to stay
In order to provide a recommendation that would suit all budgets, I stayed at three different hotels/guest houses in Cusco:
Inkaterra La Casona Luxury Boutique Hotel:
Inkaterra La Casona is located in a colonial manor house that was one of the first Spanish constructions in the original Inca settlement and was at one time occupied by the conquistadors of Peru and their descendants. It is comprised of eleven suites surrounding a serene courtyard, just a short stroll from Plaza de Armas, Cusco’s present-day main square. From it’s luxuriously appointed common areas, which are furnished with overstuffed sofas and chairs, to its fabulous gourmet breakfast buffet, to its exquisitely appointed rooms, La Casona offers the top of the line in luxury. Each room is equipped with high-count cotton sheets, feathered duvet covers, extra pillows, safe, mini bar, wireless internet connection and cordless phones, plus flat screen TV linked to cable TV, DVD and CD or I-Pod. The fireplace in my room was most welcome, as the nights in Cusco get chilly due to the 10,000+ foot altitude and most hotels do not offer heating of any kind. Rates for 2012 at $380 per night for a Patio Suite, $490 per night for at Balcony Suite, and $590 per night for a Plaza Suite. Rates include breakfast but do not include a 10% service charge and a local 18% tax (VAT) applicable to Peruvians and foreign residents in Peru. To make reservations, visit the online reservations page or call 800-442 5042 in the U.S. or Canada.
Posada In The Andes mid-range accommodations:
Posada en Los Andes was my choice for a mid-range hotel. Well-located just two blocks from the Plaza de Armas, this hotel offers rooms with cable TV and wifi and private ensuite modern bathrooms with 24-hour hot water. The manager, Yudy Aguilar Colpaert, was most helpful in recommending activities and local sites, to the point of providing even his private cell phone number, however he does not speak much English. Balconies in the rooms look over the city and breakfast is included in the room price. There is not heat in the hotel. Rates are: $35 per night for a single room, $50 per night for a twin or double room, and $60 for a triple room. To make reservations, fill out the form on their reservations web page or contact them at email@example.com.
Hospedaje Turistico Recoleta budget accommodations:
Hospedaje Turistico Recoleta is a guest house in an historic building in a quiet area about a 10-minute walk from the Plaza de Armas, Cisco’s main square. They offer comfortable single, double, triple, and quadruple rooms with shared bath facilities, 24-hour hot water, and a large common room with ping pong table, TV, and a collection of videos. Breakfast is included in the room prices, which start at $10 per night. Although their website indicates they offer heating, I was not able to get a portable heater during my stay. For reservations call 84-231323 or 84-242954 (country code 51) or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Where to Eat
As a vegetarian, I had a bit of difficulty finding food in Cusco, until I’d spent some time there. Two of the best places, which serve both vegetarian and non-vegetarian selections, are listed below:
Don Mateo Picanteria:
Located across the street from Hospedaje Turistico Recoleta, Don Mateo Picanteria was an absolute find! Unlike most of the restaurants in Cusco, which are overpriced and cater to the tourist trade, this place serves mostly locals and thus is very affordable. The owner very kindly made me up samples of some of his best vegetarian plates to sample, including the incredible vegetable salad shown below. He also had the very best chicha morada, a drink made from purple corn that quickly became my favorite, in all of Peru. The modern interior design is warm and colorful and free wifi is available. The restaurant is located at Jr. Pumacahua 202-A in Urbanizacion Tahuantinsuyo, which is a 10-minute walk from Plaza de Armas. Telephone 84-232609 or email email@example.com.
Just around the corner from Plaza de Armas, on the street that runs between the Cathedral and the Compania Church, is Greens Restaurant. You’ll have to look carefully for the sign over a small door that leads to a hallway, where you climb to the second floor establishment. Upstairs you’ll find an open space with overhead beams, polished wooden floors, soothing music, and comfortable seating, either indoors or on the balcony, which overlooks part of the main square. Free wifi is a bonus. The menu offers an array of vegetarian entrees and salads, as well as many meat options. Most of the vegetables served by Greens come from their kitchen garden in the Sacred Valley or from small scale farmers who practice sustainable agriculture and raise pasture fed animals. The prices are higher that local restaurants, but not as high as most tourist places, and given the quality of the food here, the prices are quite reasonable. Open daily from noon to 9:30 p.m., located at Santa Catalina Angosta 135, second floor, phone 84-254753. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.