Just about as quickly as our trip to Peru approached, it just as quickly passed by. Before we knew it, we were in the last city of our adventure — Cusco. Cusco, the highest altitude yet, sits at a remarkable 11,152 feet high, nestled up into the mountainside and filled with rich history dating back to 13th century. It was the capital of the Inca Empire, until its fall in the 1700’s and is now considered a World Heritage Site by UNESCO.
Jody and I were eager to explore this city, despite only staying for two nights. However, our time was even more limited since we didn’t arrive to Cusco until 8pm from Machu Picchu and barely had enough energy to make it to dinner. We decided to wander our street in search of dinner. We opted to eat at this cute little Italian restaurant (we needed a break from the fried food!) and split a pizza. Even though I loved all of the Peruvian dishes I tried, Italian will always be my number one. Soon after we ate, we headed back to our hotel where we collapsed from exhaustion in anticipation of our last full day ahead.
The following morning, our tour guide met us once again in the lobby of our hotel. Our tour was another culinary-inspired tour. Since it was early, it was still cold out so we bundled up as we headed to the marketplace. There, we roamed through the aisles between the booths filled with produce, meat, cheese, and all of the food stands you could imagine! In retrospect, I wished I hadn’t eaten breakfast at the hotel so I would have been able to try some of the unique drinks and snacks that many of the locals were purchasing. I imagined how fun it would be to go shop at the market for fresh produce and bread every week!
After we wandered through the marketplace, we walked back towards our hotel and spent some time in the Plaza de Armas, a busy and lively area which is the main square in Cusco, as well as the colonial center of the city. This area also belonged to the Incans prior to the Spanish arrival in Peru. There is a statue of an Incan emperor in the middle of the square, and the beautiful balconies and colonial architecture can be seen surrounding the walkways. While Cusco is a large city, the buildings in this square are what most think of when they think of Cusco. It is such a gorgeous place to sit and marvel at the architecture. Jody and I made a mental note to come back here during our free time that afternoon and really soak it in.
Soon thereafter, we headed to what was described as one of the best restaurants in Cusco for our cooking class. Much to our surprise, we walked into the restaurant that we had just eaten dinner at the night before! Proud of our good taste, we headed confidently into our cooking lesson with one of the chefs at Incanto. We were greeted with Pisco Sours as we learned how to make Causa and Rainbow Trout Ceviche. Our teacher worked opposite of us, showing us how to prepare these two traditional dishes, step by step, as we mimicked his instructions at our table. It was fun to have Jody’s help in preparing these foods as we don’t often cook together. At the end of the lesson, we were able to taste our dishes in comparison to his. I was thrilled that the only difference I could taste was the amount of lime in the ceviche, which can be adjusted to taste anyway!
After our cooking lesson, we had some time to kill before our scheduled lunch at Incanto, so our tour guide offered to take us to the Inca Museum in Cusco. He told us that he used to work there, which was awesome to have someone guide us through the museum and explain some of the artifacts to us. I was fascinated by the technology that the Incans created and utilized while Jody liked learning about all of the different rulers of the empire. One of the exhibits even had Incan mummies, which we could see through the protected glass. I still can’t decide if I disliked that or the catacombs in Lima more!
Following our lunch at incredibly filling lunch at Incanto, we were ready to spend the rest of the afternoon exploring the city. After walking to the Chocolate Museum where we learned about the process of making chocolate in South America and where Jody did a little sampling, we walked back through Plaza de Armas. It was noticeably hotter than it was that morning, so we decided to swing through our hotel to change before heading towards the neighborhood of San Blas.
This area is one of Cusco’s most picturesque areas with its narrow steep streets and walls lined with Incan stone. Especially since we had just hiked Machu Picchu the morning before, making it up the street was quite the challenge. However, even with our numerous breaks to catch our breath and give our burning legs a break, the climb was definitely worth it.
We found so many cute artisan shops, as well as many bars and cafes. Since we were still full from our lunch, we decided to rest in the square for a bit, before wandering through the local shops. We ended up finding a few souvenirs, which made the hike worth it!
After Jody’s epic llama selfie at Machu Picchu, I was admittedly disappointed that we hadn’t seen any more llamas since. Jody had told me about how many he saw when he visited Peru during high school, which of course only made me want to see the llamas more. Of course, Peru’s tourism industry had grown so much since he last visited, which explains why we really only saw llamas at Machu Picchu. Nonetheless, while we were taking one last walk through the market, I was giddy when I caught a glimpse of a fuzzy, small white animal. We offered some sols to the girl dressed in traditional clothing, which is expected if you ask for a photo, and got my picture with a baby llama. Except it turns out it was a baby goat, but I mean, those are just small details. 🙂
For our last tour in Peru, we met our guide as the sunset to see Cusco by night. We had to change again, due to the drop in temperatures, which we learned happens a lot in the higher altitudes. The air warms of quickly during the day, but at night, it was still considered to be winter, once the sun disappears, to the temperatures dropped into the high 30’s.
Our first stop was at Temple of the Sun of the Incas and the Convent of Santo Domingo. Formerly, this site was the most important temple to the Incan people but when the Spanish came, they destroyed most of the temple to build the Convent of Santo Domingo church. We were able to go inside the church, which was impressive in itself, but what was really cool was being able to see the two different cultures combined in one structure. Although you can’t see most of the Incan Temple, you can see the precise stonework in the base of the walls.
Our second stop was at Cristo Blanco, which is similar to the Christ the Redeemer statue in Rio but much smaller. At night, the statue shines bright overlooking the city. We didn’t stay long because we were so cold, but we loved the panoramic view of Cusco. Seeing the city’s lights extend deep into the hills was so beautiful.
Our third stop was another point where we overlook the city, more specifically Plaza de Armas. The square was still bustling with locals and tourists alike, even despite the temperature. Nearby, we saw more original Incan stonework, which was built as a wall surrounding the city, prior to the empire’s fall.
Our final stop was at Republica del Pisco, a local bar where we were able to have a lesson on how to make Pisco Sours. Unlike the introductory lesson in Lima where we learned how they were made, this time we actually we able to pour and shake our drinks ourselves. The bar manager explained the different types of Pisco that could be used, how each restaurant or bar usually has their own take on the drink, and of course, walked us through the process of making our own. Since we are experts now, here is the recipe:
- 3 ounces Pisco
- 1 ounce Lime Juice
- 1 ounce Egg White
- 1 ounce Simple Syrup
- 2-3 shakes Bitters
Mix the Pisco, Lime Juice, Egg White and Simple Syrup in a cocktail shaker. Add ice to fill and shake. Strain into old-fashion glass. Sprinkle bitter on top of foams. Enjoy immediately! 🙂
After our lesson, the manager invited us to stay, so we ordered another round and moved to a table. We had incredible service, and the wait staff went out of their way to make us feel welcomed. We decided to order alpaca sliders as a late night snack before heading back to our hotel to pack. We thoroughly enjoyed our time at Republica del Pisco and agreed that this restaurant was the perfect place to wrap up our trip.
Early the following morning, we zipped up our bags, stuffed our carry-ons and caught our transfer to the airport. We had a long 30 hours of travel ahead of us — a two-hour flight back to Lima, a seven-hour layover in Lima, a six-hour flight from Lima to Miami, another three-hour layover, and then a final two-hour flight from Miami home.
We had decided earlier in the trip that when we landed in Lima, we were going to store our luggage at the airport so we could go back into the city on last time. We decided to go back to Miraflores, where we’d be able to grab lunch and shop for souvenirs at the markets one last time. It was about an hour ride from the airport to Miraflores, so we were both starving by the time we reached the district. We quickly picked a place to eat, but after all of the delicious places we had eaten at in the last week, we were disappointed by our meals at this restaurant. Lucky for us, we were able to grab some picarones as one last taste of Peru before heading back to the airport.
Exhausted, but our hearts bursting with love for this beautiful country, we were on our way home from 10 days of one of the greatest adventures of our lives. We met family, tried new foods, and saw the most breathtaking sights. Unlike other trips, we anxiously planned when we can return with our future family in tow, Lord-willing. Jody and I had dreamed of this trip since we met and it exceeded all of our expectations. Now, until we return, we will dream of our next adventure in the beautiful country of Peru.
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