Cusco has a similar feel to the mountain cities in Ecuador, which makes sense considering the high altitudes. I thought I’d just gotten used to fresh full ocean air in Lima, but that’s part of the trip when you are on your way to Machu Pichu. While preparing we read that hike through the Incan Trail would be a long day, so we got to Cusco a few days earlier to help with acclimating. While the city center is small, it is filled with amazing restaurants and sites to keep you busy.
One of our first stops was lunch. In the mountains, the cuisine varies compared to the coastal cities. I’m always looking to find the dishes one can not find elsewhere, and I found one with the Alpaca steaks. Similar to the llamas, Alpacas are all over the region. Horses did not arrive until the Spaniards invaded, and the people relied on the animal for all sorts of tasks. It was used for carrying goods and agriculture. The fur was used for clothing. The meat was used for eating. I’ll say the steak was great as well. The feel is like a beef steak, however just a tinge more tender.
Next stop was the city’s center, Plaza de Armas. Similar to other Plaza de Armas, this large square is surrounded by a beautiful cathedral along with great shops and smells from restaurants. During the Spanish conquistadores taking of the country, Cusco was a site for several of the key battles and moments throughout the sage. Many ancient rulers and commemorated there, also many people still can speak the Quechua language which has roots in the ancient dialects of the Incans.
We had time for one large trip in Cusco. We did plenty of exploring day trips and decided on a visit to the Rainbow Mountains. It is also known as La Montaña de Siete Colores or Vinicunca. The pictures were an easy sell for us, so we were booked for an early pick up and full day driving out there and back. First stop on the bus ride was to an Incan Bridge, an example of an attraction which would probably not be allowed in the US for safety reasons. Essentially it is a rope bridge built by the Incans that is still standing today. While I do not know if it’s true….it definitely felt like it when we crossed the shaky bridge. After the pit stop, we were on the way up Vinicunca.
Even if you don’t know of La Montaña de Siete Colores, you could have seen pictures of this landmark before. The selling point is in the name, as minerals in these high mountains have colored the mountains with varying shades. Once adjusted to the altitude and the cold (it started to snow while we were there), we were able to time some great pictures when the clouds passed through. It was a great warm up to Machu Picchu, which is coming up next week on Vida La Vic.