Where to stay: Cusco
Milhouse Backpackers Cusco: I am not normally a fan of backpackers or hostels, but this one easily outdid my expectations. The four of us had a private room, with oversized, very comfortable bunks, large lockers, a lovely hot water showers, soap, towels, the whole nine yards. They also have a great luggage storage room for anyone off on a trek, and free coca tea to fight altitude sickness. I can’t comment on breakfast because we only stayed one night and were off to early to eat it, but overall I was pleasantly surprised.
Esplendor: an exceptionally lovely boutique hotel near the San Pedro central market. Large rooms, a lovely jacuzzi for relaxing, lovely teas, coffees food and a spectacular staff. Recommend
Where to Eat: Cusco
Peru is known for its amazing cuisine, and Cusco is right up there with amazing local, international and fusion flavors. What’s fantastic about Peruvian food as well, is that its all pretty healthy. Quinoa is a staple food, vegetarians are not looked down upon and for the meat eaters, the quality of meats is right up there. The only thing is that I simply can’t recommend the Guinea Pig.
Morena Peruvian Kitchen: Number two on TripAdvisor for a reason, this adorable, welcoming little restaurant has a variety of modernized traditional peruvian dishes for vegetarians and meat eaters alike. The sauces are lovely, the food is over the top delicious and the only thing that outdid everything was the incredible attentive and smiley service that we received.
Greens Organic: Although Greens Organic may sound like a vegetarian place, its actually and all around fantastic lunch spot with sweet, thick fruit smoothies, delicious dishes and microbrew beer. It’s a contemporary peruvian menu with healthy options for everyone.
Incanto: This Italian restaurant serves the dinner crowd, and is a fantastic place to head for a flavorful dinner and a lovely bottle of wine. Incanto is part of the same restaurant group as “Greens Organic,”and conveniently located right downstairs. You can expect the same high quality of ingredients, even better service and a much larger wine list.
Mama Africa: Yep, we did it. Its kitchy, corny and full of local guys looking for some cute gypsy girls, and we danced on the bar. I’m not the least bit ashamed. I would do it again and I would invite you guys along.
On the Trail
Salkanty Trekking: Our guides were amazing. They food was delicious (they do cater to vegetarians), our guide had ten years of experience and imparted on us his incredible knowledge of the region, the history and traditional medicinal plants. They even made me a birthday cake on the day before my birthday (on the trail, no less.) Even better, they’re not incredibly well publicized & 100% local (their main office workers don’t always speak English) so they’re less expensive than almost anyone else on the market.
Tips & Tricks
When to go: The best times of the year are November through February, which is South American summer. To give you som perspective on that: we went at the tail end of October, which is the end of spring in South America, and it snowed. If you were to go in the middle of winter (June or July). Unless that’s your thing, I’d stick to exploring the summer months in the mountains.
Who to go with: The trail in at of itself is a bonding experience, and I think it’s even more enriching when you have people to share it with. Let’s face it, Machu Picchu is a bucket list trip, so you want to be able to take those memories into the future with people you love.
Before and After: Don’t get anyone convince you otherwise – it’s not worth it to spend any amount of time in Aguas Calientes. They say you should fly into Peru a few days early to adjust to the altitude, so we spent a two nights in Cusco before the trek, and one night after before flying out. You could easily stay a week and enjoy the adorable city and its culturally rich surroundings without any issue.