We arrived in Cusco around 2pm. I try to schedule flights to arrive at my destination in the early afternoon because it gives you time to get to your hotel, relax and get settled, go out for dinner and do a night activity. This also helps with jet lag, which we didn't have in Peru, but is good to think about when travelling in general. Here we are in the Plaza de Armas, the town square, in Cusco. There are tourist info offices (Fav: iperu) and a million travel agencies in this square.
The coca tea really helps with the altitude. It may be a placebo, but for me it helped, so whatever works! You can find it everywhere and it is cheap or free.
We stayed at Yanantin Hotel. Our room is nice enough, but it wasn't fantastic and it was a good 10 min walk out of town. I would find somewhere closer and just as nice for a cheaper price if I were going again.
Going in May was such a great idea. Blue skies and gorgeous weather our entire trip, without hoards of tourists! But don't let the sun deceive you, it is high altitude and even during the day there is a chill in the air. We brought a light jacket (North Face) and a wind/rain shell and were really happy with those 2 things. And like I said before, always wearing closed toe/foot shoes!
One of the big deals in the travel books is to get "jugos" -- fruit drinks. We were eager to try and ended up at this shop, which turned out to be the high-priced, fancier drinks. We found the true jugo stands at San Pedro market later. These juices were still good, but not amazing.
One thing I found on a random blog before going was a referral to Spa Hampi Maki for massages. We scheduled 2 hot stone massages once we got there for 1 hour later. We paid $8 each for 60 minutes of wonderful. It's not the classiest place around, but we felt safe and had a great experience. (Most massages in the area are $15-$20.) This shop is at 250 Marquez Street, on the second floor of the Artesnias El Solar Dorado building.
Another thing we did in Cusco was private Salsa lessons! It was fun and we learned a lot! This Rico Ritmo class was in the same building as the massages.
We went to dinner that night at Seledonias, just a Trip Advisor restaurant I found beforehand. It lived up to its reviews: GREAT food at a reasonable price. We fell in love with the vibe of the restaurant alpaca saltado (Our fav dish!) and the chef, Seledonia.
In fact, we loved it so much that we asked Seledonia for a cooking lesson the next morning! She was happy to do it, and took us shopping at the market at 6am too! This sign for San Pedro market is the "tourist market." The real, local market is just past this one, with local vendors out on the street.
Here is the alpaca stand for our fav dish!
Tons of fresh veggies and good looking foods!
Guinea pig is such a delicacy there. They cost about $7-9 each to buy raw, so at Seledonia's you have to order it a day ahead so she doesn't overbuy this expensive item. We should have gotten cuy from her- by the time we tried it in Puno we had it prepared fried, which wasn't good at all. Seledonia bakes hers and it looked a lot better.
All the women are so traditional. I imagined just the colorful clothing and dramatic hats, but this outfit was just as, if not more common.
There are food stalls in San Pedro market where we got cheap and delicious hot chocolate to eat with our pan dulce (sweet bread). This was a highlight for me! We felt like we were off the beaten path and loved our time here. The yogurt was also unique and delicious! Thanks to Bri (an American girl volunteering at Seledonia's restaurant) for the tip!
Bri and her boyfriend Jacob, from Boulder, CO have been on around-the-world trip this past year. They try to do long-term volunteer projects in each of their stops and have had a wonderful year! Cusco is their last stop, and they spent it volunteering at Seledonia's restaurant. They joined us for the cooking lesson, it was fun to do it with new friends!
Boiling the blue corn for our best drink, chicha morada!
Seledonia is really a great chef and has a lot of skills. Most chefs just cook their few items to make money, but Seledonia went to culinary school and really knows what's up!
Her restaurant is so small, she cooks every meal to order and does it all in about a 5ft x 5ft space.
I told her I would update her trip advisor pictures!
And the next day was our best: Paragliding. The sacred valley is so beautiful and there is no way I would rather see it than flying through the air. It was absolutely magical and thrilling and breathtaking (literally- high altitude!)
The taxi driver picked us up at our hotel and drove us to Chinchero where we met the guide. There is only one guide/company who does this, but prices range from $80- $160-- so shop around! Once you arrive at the top of the hill, the guide sets up the paraglide with his assistant, the taxi driver. We had a mix up with drivers, and ended up with 3 different drives (all brothers?) who didn't know what they were doing. The guide got frustrated with them, and it was a bit confusing for us, but it all worked out. We felt really safe with our guide who took every precaution and waited an hour for the wind to be just perfect. He has been flying for 25 years and was really good.
Here I am with my "chair" on. Once strapped in, you "run" (impossible to run, but take long, fast steps) toward the edge of the mountain. I didn't actually have to run off the mountain because the wind picked me up before I reached that point. We started at this space, but after 3 failed attempts to run off, we moved up to the top of the mountain for better wind.
Up here is where the wind was even better!
Look at that! Absolutely perfect.
Then the taxi driver took Scott down the mountain and grabbed the toilet paper from the dashboard. Scott's like, "They are close to landing, this isn't the time to go to the bathroom!" Little did he know, they use the TP to test the wind, then walkie-talkie the results to the guide. My ride was about 30 min (it felt longer!) with corkscrew turns and lots of adventure!
Then, back to the top of the mountain for Scott's turn. I would have preferred to go second, but the guide insisted I was first...
Scott's landing in this field was a bit tougher than mine. You come down pretty fast and hold your feet up to land, sliding on your bum. He hit kind of hard, giving him a back adjustment! The land is nothing to worry about, but just kind of sudden!
We loved paragliding and it is our #1 recommendation to any friends going to Cusco!
Then, we made special arrangements for our taxi to return us to Ollantaytambo instead of back to Cusco. Here, we went to the ruins and explored the town.
We really enjoyed Hearts Cafe in the center of town, and booked our bike ride for the next day.
Ollantaytambo ruins are the site where the Peruvians took refuge from the Spaniards. It worked in the beginning, but eventually the Spanish conquered them.
Beautiful views. We love to travel. How could you not love this!?!
Next day: Biking the Abra Malaga. There are several bike tours in the area, but this is the only all-downhill ride. We just really don't enjoy biking uphill, so this was perfect for us! They drive you about 1.5 hours to the top of the mountain and then you bike down in about 3 hours. I was glad I wore pants because of the wind.
These are alpacas we saw along the way- they are smaller and leaner than llamas!
This trail was also perfect for us because they had a really hard, rocky downhill trail that was fun for Scott, and I took the road. It was nice that the paths crossed so we could meet up and ride sections together, then apart. Scott only had 1 crash with minor bruising.
Scott got a flat tire, which our guide had changed in well under 2 minutes. Impressive! We did the ride with KB tours and had a great experience with them!