Arriving into Cusco at a bleary-eyed 05:30 ended up giving us the most favourable impression of the city. We headed straight for the Plaza de Armas in the hopes of wandering round and finding accommodation. The central square was a wonderful sight, bathed in the soft early light of day with a complementing lack of traffic – other tourists and constant hassle you get later in the day. Cusco is a beautiful town with narrow cobbled streets that verge on impassable by vehicles, hidden Incan walls and historic buildings. The Cathedral looks attractive from the outside but due to the prohibitively high cost of entry we didn’t go in, although we did get a few sneaky peeks at one of the alters and maybe it would have been worth the money.
Cusco is tourist central. They come in all shapes and sizes: from the classy tourist with plenty of money to spend on tours right down to the ‘plastic backpackers’ with their stripy trousers and slightly grubby appearance who try so hard to look different that they end up looking like each other.
It is also a good base for those interested in outdoor pursuits. We decided to partake in some white water rafting and it was a great choice. Despite the supposedly more beautiful Rio Apurímac being ‘un-raftable’ due to high water levels, the second choice of the Rio Urubamba was great for first timers on the water. We paid 110 Soles each. This included transport, all the safety gear, the rafting itself, the use of a welcome sauna after the rafting and lunch. All in all it was an exhilarating experience, not just due to the chilly water, and I would recommend it to anyone. Just shop around for the best price but don’t worry too much about the tour agencies, all the companies seem to sell for one main operator making life a little easier.
As tourist central there are plenty of restaurants around offering a good choice of cuisine. Certainly a welcome change from what is on offer from Bolivia. Just beware that the restaurants will have people hounding you but after a while you can ignore them and pay attention to the important information of looking at the menu.