Cusco: Peru’s Gateway to Adventure

Cusco is Peru’s gateway to adventure! In the city, cobble-stoned streets lined with Inca walls connect the most important sites such as the Central Market, the Cathedral and the Temple of the Sun (Koricancha) found inside the church of Santo Domingo. On the outskirts of town kayak on tranquil lakes lined by pre-Inca terraces and explore quaint villages in the Andean countryside rich with history and vibrant textiles. Continue on two wheels to explore the impressive Incan agricultural site of Moray. After a gourmet picnic lunch, fit for Incan royalty, end at the marvelous salt terraces in Maras!

  • Arriving in Cusco
  • Cusco city tour
  • Kayak and SUP at Lake Piuray
  • Chinchero
  • Moray
  • Maras

ARRIVING IN CUSCO

The hour-long flight to Cusco is breathtaking the entire way passing jagged, lush peaks, glaciers and remote alpine lakes. Upon descent into Cusco, the plane nosedives onto the single airstrip right in the middle of the ancient Incan capital. The city is always slightly larger than I expect with clusters of adobe and brick houses and apartments spilling out from the city center and inching their ways up the steep slopes of the surrounding verdant mountains. The clouds are hanging low as we land creating an enchanting feeling.

Cusco Peru

Cusco Plaza de Armas PC: Diego Arelano

Our guides enthusiastically greet us at the airport with a driver and van awaiting us. As we begin our way through the crowded labyrinth of streets that crisscross through Cusco, we are served hot Andean coca tea to help with the acclimatization process and given a detailed briefing of what we should be eating and drinking over the next few days to further help with this process.

Cusco Peru

Tambomachay (Water Temple) PC: Diego Arelano

CUSCO CITY TOUR

After a delicious lunch served above the famous Plaza de Armas in the heart of Cusco, we embark on an afternoon city tour through the main attractions of the city. Cobble-stoned streets lined with Inca walls connect the most important sites such as the Central Market, the Cathedral and the Temple of the Sun (Koricancha) found inside the church of Santo Domingo. We continue up, high above the city to visit four of the main additional Inca ruin sites that surround Cusco. In complete awe of the enormity of several of these sites, we continue back to the city below to find dinner in a cozy restaurant tucked away in the bohemian neighborhood of San Blas.

KAYAKING AND SUP AT LAKE PIURAY

Cusco Peru

Kayaking on Lake Piuray PC: Diego Arelano

The following morning, we are picked up early from our hotel and transported for approximately 40 minutes to the stunning shore of Lake Piuray (3696 m / 12130 ft). Here, we are greeted by our local hosts and their two sleepy dogs with juice and tea. Hammocks are strung up and a fire is already lit in a clay oven. We relax for a moment taking in the sweeping views of the surrounding pre-Incan terraces and the majestic snow-capped peak of Mt. Veronica. On the shore, we receive a quick safety briefing to familiarize ourselves with the kayaking equipment and push off!

Cusco Peru

Lake Piuray Andean Picnic

The lake is like glass as we take off towards a few of the near-by terraces to get a better look and learn more about the history of the area. A town across the lake is celebrating an unknown occasion and the drum beats are swiftly carried across the still water in our direction. With the drums to set our rhythm we return to our starting point where an extravagant Andean picnic lunch (all with local organic ingredients) awaits us. Needing to find strength to walk several paces over the hammocks, we summon the power and make it to our afternoon siesta spots. In the evening, we return to Cusco to explore more of the maze of alley ways, ancient ruins, rustic local bars and softly lit churches.

CHINCHERO

This morning we awoke early again to get ready to embark on a full day of mountain biking through the Sacred Valley. After breakfast, we began our adventure by meeting our guide and heading up to the high village of Chinchero.

Chinchero, a small Andean Indian village located on the windswept plains of Anta, overlooks the Sacred Valley, with the Cordillera Vilcabamba and the snow-capped peaks of Salkantay and Veronica (two Incan gods with a tragic love story) dominating the western horizon. Chinchero, famous for its vibrant Sunday market, is comprised of humble adobe houses, numerous weaving co-ops and home to several impressive Incan ruins and terraces. The village may have been an important town in Inca times and the most striking remnant of this period is the massive stone wall in the main plaza which has ten trapezoidal niches, which were thought to hold ceremonial mummies of past leaders. In the central plaza, an adobe colonial church, which dates back to the early seventeenth century, has been built upon the foundations of an Inca temple or palace. The ceiling and walls are covered in colorful religious designs that were done by artists of the Cusco painting school from Spanish Colonial times.

MORAY

Moray Peru

Mountain Biking to Moray PC: Diego Arelano

Arrival in Moray PC: Diego Arelano

From Chinchero, we pass the Huaypo lagoon and leave our van on two wheels! Peddling past traditionally dressed women, weaving, watching their herds and waving as we pass, we follow red dirt tracks towards the Archaeological Park of Moray. The deep circular terraces here, once an Incan agricultural experimentation center, catch us off guard in their enormity. As we finish circulating the park we find a tasty picnic waiting for us. Our expert chef surprises us with an over-the-top three course meal while we look out on the misty green peaks surrounding our luxurious meal.

Moray Peru

Picnic Lunch Near Moray

MARAS

After lunch, we continue riding down to the salt terraces below the quaint village of Maras.  The surreal white salt terraces hug the lush green mountain side and seem to continue on endlessly. Families for generations have collected salt here, a tradition that dates back to the Inca.

Maras Peru

Maras Salt Terraces

Finally, in the evening we call it a day and arrive at our hotel, Sonesta Posada Yucay on the valley floor. The hotel, previously a Spanish monastery, has vibrant, inviting gardens and cozy fire places to greet us.

As we fall asleep we smile thinking about the next adventures tomorrow will bring: traversing, scaling and flying off of cliffs on a via ferrata and zip line!

Want to experience some of these adventures in Peru yourself? Check out some of the following tours:

1-Day Cusco City Tour and Ruins (half day)
1-Day Cusco City Walking Tour (half day)
1-Day Maras and Moray Group Tour (Cusco)(Half Day)
1-Day Maras Salt Mines and Moray near Cusco (full day)
1-Day Mountain Biking: Chinchero to Maras near Cusco

Your friendly Peru specialist,

Gretchen

This entry was posted in Machu Picchu, Peru, South America, Trip Photos and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Cusco: Peru’s Gateway to Adventure

  1. Asha Makam says:

    Hi Gretchen,
    Looks like a fabulous time! So happy for you and so looking forward to visiting myself! Waiting your next post!
    Asha

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *