5. Cuzco

Accommodation: Hotel Arqueologo is situated in the San Cristobal neighbourhood in a terraced building, five minutes from Plaza de ArmasThe hotel has charming and comfortable rooms, some of which even span two floors, dividing the living space into sleeping and living areas. The hotel has a bar where cocktails can be enjoyed in the evening and has travel books on Cuzco which can be borrowed. Included in the price is a decent cooked breakfast and free transfer from the airport. The hotel also had no qualms with us storing our luggage at the hotel during our Inca Trail hike.

Hotel Arqueologo.

Food: the Andean diet is largely based on maize, potatoes, and indigenous animals such as alpaca and guinea pigs. You can try traditional dishes such as alpaca steak, roasted guinea pig, and giant maize, some of which can be bought on the road during the Sacred Valley tour. Travelling along the Sacred Valley, you will find houses which hang plastic bags outside, signifying that the house sells chicha, the local fermented corn beverage. Nonetheless, it may be best to wait until Cuzco to try chicha as it is prepared under less hygienic conditions and may make you very sick! Another beverage to try is Pisco Sour, a cocktail with Pisco as its base liquor and egg white, syrup, lime juice, and bitters.

Llamas graze among Incan ruins at Ollantaytambo.

With regard to restaurants in Cuzco, we visited Kion, a chifa-style Peruvian-Chinese restaurant which had a combination of authentic Cantonese-style dishes and Peruvian comfort food.

Steamed fish at Kion.

For Peruvian cuisine with a modern twist, we visited Marcelo Batata, a quite crowded restaurant. The service and food were otherwise great, with the waiter providing extra bread and tangy ají dips. The portions are fairly big, so it may be best to share main courses.

Finally, we can recommend Moreno Peruvian Kitchen for contemporary Peruvian cuisine. The restaurant offers many traditional Peruvian food items not limited to the Andean region. We can particularly recommend ceviche served with calamari and Andean corn; lomo saltado, stir-fried beef fillet; pancetta de cerdo, slow-cooked pork belly over braised pumpkin and corn; and their special cocktails. While slightly more expensive, the casual atmosphere and excellent food and service makes this restaurant a welcome luxury following the Inca Trail.

Food served at Moreno Peruvian Kitchen (from top left, clockwise): ceviche mixto, the Pisco Punch cocktail, and Sopa Criollo.

General Tips
For archaeology aficionados, I would recommend staying for an extra day (or more!) in Cuzco to fully explore the Incan ruins.Other destinations along the Sacred Valley include:

  • The remnants of Sacsayhuamán, which overlook Cuzco, were the site of the 1536 battle between the Spanish and the Incans.
  • The amphitheatre-shaped terraces of Moray, where the Incans developed and cultivated crop varieties, which were then spread throughout the Incan Empire.
  • The salt pans of Salineras. Salt had been harvested from the spring waters of Maras for millennia, a practice which continues today.

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