WINTER Survival Guide in Cusco, Peru:
Cusco - IS the culinary heaven and the legend for the views…
but like to be Russia in the WINTER- how to enjoy the mystical place and not to get frozen?
peruvian food in “Cusco style”
If you like eating out (GF, Lactose free):
Best Dishes & Places:
Causa (Potato Casserole+sauce+chicken+avocado)
Rocoto Relleno (Stuffed Spicy Peppers with beef)
Peruvian Corn: Big Yellow (it’s 10x of normal) and Purple
Quinoa Soup (Vegetables+tomatoes+quinoa+corn+zucchini)
PachaPapa - traditional Peruvian dishes, on higher price range
Mistura Plaza Grill- Tasty, posh restaurant on the main square with a free drink
Avocado, toast & more- healthy cafe with Avocado! Protein Salads, toasts and smoothies…. try banana+avocado smoothie… so good!
Starbucks on the main square has beautiful view and old design inside (used to be a house of baron)
Kumara - Healthy Vegan Cafe- fruit/vegetable/ protein bowls
If you like cooking yourself:
The best place to stock up on fresh groceries is farmers market San Pedro. Open from 9am-6pm and within 10min walk from main square.
Breakfast: Amaranth Banana Chia Coconut Porridge. Put 1 cup of Amaranth Grain in the boiling water. Boil for 5 min until the grain will absorb the water, then add more water and simmer for another 20-25 min. Add Coconut milk at the end. You can also add banana to the boiling water at the end so it will give a sweet and smooth texture to the porridge. Add Maca Powder instead of sweetener and top it with fresh banana and chia seeds! The superfood is ready! = energizing, nutritious and low carb!
Tip! You can buy 500gm of Maca Powder (superfoods) for under $1 - STOCK UP for your house. You can fly with it (tried it and was allowed to Canada).
Main ingredient- Amaranth Grains. It is also available in many grocery stores in North America.
Dinner: Amaranth Pancakes! Follow the steps in Breakfast recipe to boil Amaranth (I usually cook more than I need for one meal and put the rest in the fridge to use it for other recipes). Add 1-2 eggs (depending on the number of pancakes). You don’t have to add flour as Amaranth is quite thick, but you can add a bit of shredded coconut and splash of coconut milk to make it a bit softer. I also advise adding 1 banana to a mixture to make it sweeter! Fry each side until golden brown. Serve with coconut butter, sliced fresh banana and avocado (trust me on this!).
ACCOMMODATION on the hill AIRBNB
Our Airbnb was amazing! Located on the hill in the cultural village with a beautiful view. The taxi driver couldn’t drive after certain point due to narrowness of the road so we had fun walking up and down every night. Be mindful that you would have to walk to get this beautiful view to wake up to! Totally worth it and makes you fit ;)
In our AirBnb, there was a gas heater…and it is a rare occurrence to have any kind of heater. Nice shift from having ice on the windows and sleeping under 5 blankets to sleeping in Pjs and one blanket. However, the gas heater doesn’t last forever (the quantity is limited) so stock up on gas refills!
How to stay warm? & not to get sick from the altitude
Elevation: Cusco is elevated at 3300m, compare to Toronto at 70m, you will feel the difference of your physical endurance. Every step felt like 3 on the normal altitude, as your body lacks the oxygen so it can’t coop with the lots of physical work. You will feel shortness of breath, and sometimes a headache. It could be hard to sleep. Every person feels the altitude differently depending on your vestibular system and physical preparedness. I would always advise to take altitude pills, Soroche. Drink plenty of Coca tea and chew on the Coca cookies! Sugar+ Coca combination works as a magician.
If you will decide to climb the Rainbow Mountains, bring pain killers! I needed 1000mg of Ibuprofen to get rid of the headache, and a Soroche pill. Water! Coca cookies!
Tip: Put coca leafs in your water bottle= hydration + helper with altitudes changes. It will brew even in the cold water!
Weather in the winter (april-september), it is freezing at night (-4C). And Peruvian people do not usually hold any electric or water heating system. We have been lucky to have a gas heater, otherwise consider your house as the shelter from the winds only. I had to sleep in a hut and with a heating water pad!
Unique spots in Cusco
Solineras, Salt Mines / lakes. Below is the picture I have made at night! Magical and photogenic place! *reachable with a tour guide, otherwise it is hard to find.
2. Aguas Calientes Town (or “Machu Pichu“ town) is located at the foundation of Machu Pichu. The sight in itself! Hilly, the sun rays cutting though the hills! You will have to spend a night here to explore Machu Pichu in the morning as there are no night or early morning trains.
In Town: Tiny tucked tea-shop over the hot pools in the middle of jungle oasis. I recommended going there for a hot cup of Coco tea after the Hot pools as you might notice them being not so hot…
In Town: Cafe InkaTerra deserves a separate section due to its unique tasting menu and location. The cafe itself is located at the end of the busy street, across the bridge and railways which makes it a quiet romantic getaway. Also it is focused on serving traditional Peruvian tasting dishes (more unique to the region). The space has lots of natural light and beautiful views & sounds of the river and nature around it. The only thing is that it is pricey (around 25$ per meal).
3. Tourist Ticket for ANY & ALL historic attractions.
To most of the main Incan sites, you would have to buy 1, 2 or 10 days ticket. The days counted consequently, and cannot be distributed along the week. The 10-day ticket includes: Regional Historical Museum, PukaPukara, Contemporary Art Museum, Tambomachay, Folk Art Museum (with a national dance performance), Pisac, Koricancha Site Museum, Ollantaytambo, Inca Pachacutec Monument, Moray, Sacsayhuaman, Tipon, Q’enqo, Piquillacta.
For example, if you take SUV trek to Moray, you HAVE to buy one day ticket (you CANNOT buy the ticket just for one site). Furthermore, 1 and 2 days tickets are divided by the sites you can see, not all of the sites are included (like in 10-days ticket).
Prices for adults are:
1-2-Days = S/.70 (=$21)
10-Days = S/.100 (=$42)
The student price is reduced!
1-2-Days = S/.40 (=$12)
10-Days = S/.70 (=$21)
4. Sexy Woman- sacsayhuaman (UNESCO Heritage site)
Included in day ticket (see above). Instead of paying, you can still climb the hill and see each stone upclose without buying a ticket! It looks astonishing from the fields nearby!
It was the most beautiful climb I did in Cusco! So many guides and drives would try to prove opposite and will try to charge for such “experience” - DO NOT listen. Just keep walking!
First of all- it is a SHORT walk - 15min from the main square, and only half of the way is uphill. That’s when you will reach Sexy Woman site. and that’s how to do it fo free! Since the Inca Stone Structure is hard to be covered from everyone’s view, it is visible from anywhere on the hill, so you can save this entrance money to get some more fried corn with avocado ;
From there, you can continue walk to another Incan site “Q’enco". Its 20 min staright walk on the hill, so you see beautiful views along the view. Highly recommended, as besides the astonishing views, you will have a chance to exit the last site through traditional local village.
4. Wall cemetery
Cementerio General de Almudena - Yeah! It doesn't sound like a place you would usually visit on your vacation, however I found it fascinating in regards of cultural difference. Never had I seen before, the (adddd) in the wall. What's interesting is every grave has its own window and a shelf where you can situate different gifts - tidy and tasteful!
The cemetery is 10 min walk away from San Pedro market.
5. Market San Pedro
Everyone talks about this miracoulous Food Market San Pedro!
What does actually worth buying there?
Warm clothing - choice is wide and prices are 5x lower!!!!! I got bringht pink Peruvian sweater for 28 soles (less than $10), whereas I was asked 5x this price in Cusco souvenir shops. Also, socks: 11 soles for 3 units.
Superfoods and nuts by weight. Instead of getting 1kg of Maca, you can weight 200gm for cents! Nuts are 3x more expensive in the grocery store.
Berries - usually only available at the market
Fruits- more variety, sweeter and price negotitable
Other foods you can easilly buy at the grocery store; sometimes it could be more convinient as the market wraps up at 6pm and is usually very busy during the operating time (lots of people and unpleasent smell).
However, the market is still a reflection of the vibrant and friendly Peruvian culture with many foodie spots.
6. QUDRACYCLING TO INCA EMPIRE
WHAT AN ADVENTURE! We drove for two hours on quadracyes in the Incan valley! Not only the histotic points of interest was interesting ( Incan watch, pool, place of trade?) But along the way, you see the snowpeaks of the mountains!
And partially, the road itself is a serpentine!