After many years, I had the opportunity to come back to Cusco and visit Machu Picchu for New Year’s Day 2015.
Before going to Cusco, located at an altitude of 3400m, I decided to take “sorochi” pills, ideal for altitude sickness which is popularly known as “soroche” in Peru. I was going for 4 days only, hence I wouldn’t have had enough time to acclimate to the altitude. Growing up in Lima, I have usually suffered from altitude sickness when traveling to the highlands in Peru that can reach over 5000m. After many years I had the opportunity to come back to Cusco and visit Machu Picchu for New Year’s Day 2015.
Upon landing and exiting Cusco Airport, you can feel the fresh and cold air typical of the mountains. Cusco city is the first stop for all travelers going to Machu Picchu. Cusco is a charming city with a Inca and colonial fusion unfolded in its architecture, people and culture. From Inca temples to Spanish churches built on top of Inca’s ruins, the city and surroundings has a lot to offer. Indeed, the city is part of UNESCO World Heritage list.
We were received by a local taxi driver who took us to my friends’ bed & breakfast “Wara Wara”, a cosy accommodation at the top of Cusco mountain with breathtaking views to the city. We were welcomed with a coca tea which is a popular tea in the highlands and it helps for acclimation. After keeping up with our friends who we met in Buenos Aires about 5 years ago while studying at uni there (reunions in random cities are always my favourite part of trips), we went for a walk around the main square in Cusco.The New Year’s vibes were everywhere, with people selling yellow clothes and underwear for a happy new year, and fireworks of course. In the afternoon, we found a walking tour with a friendly tour guide and finished it up with a Pisco Sour, the Peruvian National drink, made by our guide.
The very next morning, on the 31st I did a solo trip to Machu Picchu because my sister had already been there a couple of times. Before going to Machu Picchu I booked my train tickets via Peru Rail and most importantly I bought the entrance to Machu Picchu via the “Ministerio de Cultura” site since New Year’s is peak season. However, as a tourist it is better to get a travel package with a travel agency to avoid any inconvenience. I took the Vistadome train with panoramic windows on the roof. The journey of about 3 hours takes you to incredible and picturesque landscapes from mountains to valleys to the jungle along the Urubamba river. The train provides a great service and breakfast on board.
Upon getting to Aguas Calientes station, a really narrow station in the middle of the town, I hopped on the bus which took me up to the entrance of Machu Picchu at the very top of the mountain. Aside from the sporadic rain, I could enjoy most of the day in the Sanctuary, walking along the magnificent Inca ruins and petting llamas. Unfortunately, I couldn’t climb Huayna Picchu, the mountain opposite to Machu Picchu, since there were no more tickets available. Note: Huayna Picchu has a limited number of visits per day. Next time I’ll certainly do it.
On my way back I celebrated the New Year’s eve at the main square with a big fireworks display. The tradition is to run around the main square after midnight with thousands of people among locals and tourists who are drinking and enjoying the evening with friends. Just be careful with your pockets and purses when you join to a big crowd!
The third day in Cusco we went to the markets to have some local food and buy souvenirs. I can remember we had a delicious hot drink made of corn and the typical mountain’s fresh cheese. I also got a warm alpaca sweater. After getting soaking wet due to the rain, we ended up at the Chocolate museum. For chocolate lovers this place is a must to visit! Have a hot chocolate with some more chocolate to keep you warm from Cusco’s cold weather. At night the city is bustling and there are different entertainment options and excellent restaurants with local and international cuisine. If you eat meat, don’t forget to try Guinea Pig or Llama meat at reputable restaurants to avoid stomachaches. For people who like dancing and clubbing, Cusco will offer great international music and atmosphere.
Even though I only visited Cusco for a few days, I had an incredible time and I could appreciate once more the cultural diversity and millenary traditions my country has to offer. I will definitely come back!
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If you enjoyed this article, check out my day trip adventure in Sydney, Australia. Having a car hire in tow, it made it easier for me to get around the area. I was not only able to fix my paperworks, but also get to visit Google headquarters and other cool local attractions in just one day!