Day 1: Lomo Saltado and Baby Alpacas
Hooray! You made it to Cusco, Peru. Get ready to have the time of your life. You’ve just landed 11,152 ft. up so remember to take it easy today and stay hydrated. I remember walking upstairs to get to my Airbnb, and having to stop every 10 seconds to make sure I didn’t pass out. I recommend spending time looking for the perfect place to stay because our Airbnb made this trip amazing. We had an incredible view, a huge comfortable bed, and breakfast on the terrace every morning.
Now, you’re going to want to refuel after your long haul, so find an authentic Peruvian restaurant and try some Lomo Saltado- a traditional Peruvian dish! Stroll the cobblestone and narrow streets, and pop into stores where you can find Peruvian knick knacks, and great deals on clothing.
After you eat, head down to the Plaza de Armas, the beautiful city square with Spanish architecture from the 1600s. There will be a lot of Peruvians in traditional Incan wear selling photos of baby llamas. I went super touristy and snapped a photo – I would do anything to hold that baby llama! There will be tons of llamas and alpacas strolling the streets, yummy street food to try, and sights to see.
Stop by Paddy’s Irish Pub to grab a cold one at the highest 100% owned Irish bar in the world, or immerse yourself in the culture and try a pisco sour, a famous Peruvian lemony cocktail.
Try to get a good night’s rest to keep adjusting to the altitude, and remember buy bottled water. You do not want to drink the tap water here, it is not filtered. And learn from my mistakes, you do not want to be 11,000 ft. up at 3 a.m. with no drinkable water.
Day 2: Plaza de Armas and San Pedro Market
After you have some Peruvian coffee and breakfast, get ready to hit the streets again. Pass by the 12 angle stone, an artifact from Incan architecture. Passed the Plaza de Armas you will find the San Pedro market. In this market, you will find everything from alpaca fur woven items, delicious meals, and animal carcasses. It’s maybe not for the faint of heart, but my philosophy is that you should immerse yourself in the culture, step out of your comfort zone, and experience things you normally wouldn’t otherwise – who knows when you will be back in Cusco.
Choose your fruit for some delicious fresh squeezed juice. Take a seat, and enjoy the busy sights of the market. If you had one too many pisco sours or Irish beers last night, try the famous chicken soup. Legend says it has hangover-healing powers and helps you adjust to the altitude! Not to mention it is delicious! And there’s theater style seating while you enjoy your soup next to many other travelers and locals. We spoke to a Peruvian couple there who told us to be careful hiking Huayna Picchu because people have fallen off! We made it guys!
We also had some ceviche, but we experience by eating – so if you’re not ridiculously full and grossed out by all the raw meat around, try some!
Day 3: Saqsaywaman
Today’s plan requires getting into a taxi and taking a little drive. Don’t fret, the taxis in Cusco are ridiculously cheap and the drive wasn’t longer than 20 minutes for us. You’ll be climbing out of the valley, and higher up the mountain to Saqsaywaman. When we got to the top there was an amazing view overlooking the city. We ate in a little restaurant in someone’s home and got huge portions of steak, rice, and beans. It was some of the best food we tried in Cusco. When you are ready to go in, a single entry ticket for the ancient site is $15. Here you will see beautiful and mysterious Incan ruins and stones. It is believed that this stone wall was an ancient fortress for the Incans. It dates back to 900-1200 AD.
Once you’re back down from exploring the Incan ruins, it will be time for a nice meal, drink, and another great view. Going to Lingus Restobar was one of the highlights of our trips. They had amazing food and drinks, and a great happy hour. I loved sipping on mojitos and taking in the gorgeous sunset over the mountains. This restaurant is located outside of a hostel, so we met many travelers here who we ended up becoming friends with!
Day 4: Action Valley or Spa Day
I am going to give you two options for day four:
The first option is for the adventure seekers. The adrenaline junkies. The daredevils. The I’m in Cusco, Peru, and hell if I’m not going to do something, crazy people. Go to Action Valley. We took a taxi and it took about 20 minutes to get out of the city. Action Valley is a bungee jumping attraction. You can either bungee jump or reverse bungee jump, which is getting flung high into the air at crazy speeds. I chose the reverse bungee jumping and it was definitely one of the biggest adrenaline rushes I’ve ever had. Being at the very top and just floating while looking down at how small the ground was below me was an unbelievable experience. It was really scary though, and cost around $150 no refund, so it is not for the faint of heart! I was able to capture an amazing video on my GoPro, which also came in handy for the rest of the trip and all of my other adventures!
Option two is for my luxury travelers. My “winers and diners” and lover of the finer things in life. Have a Peruvian spa day. At this point in the trip, you are probably ready for some relaxation. You can get a massage for very cheap here, starting at $10 for an hour! You can also get a manicure, pedicure, and your hair styled or very cheap! Start the day on the Plaza de Armas and sip on a Pisco Sour to get you in the relaxation mood and then head to the spa for some much needed R&R.
After both these options, wander around the neighborhood of San Blas. There are narrow cobblestone streets, fun stores, and markets, and you can find a nice rooftop restaurant to have dinner at. Or, do what we did and simply return to Lingus Restobar every night (it really is that good, and oh man that view).
Day 5: Day trip to Machu Picchu
You are not going to Cusco without going to Machu Picchu. If you are, I urge you to strongly reconsider. Machu Picchu was one of the most life-changing, beautiful, challenging, moving, experiences of my life “But that is another story, and shall be told another time” – Michael Ende