Lessons for Days (7 Things We’ve Learned from 7 Days in Cusco)

Our first week in Cusco has been filled with more great experiences than we could have expected.  Between the kind people we’ve met, the incredible places we’ve seen and the delightful food we’ve eaten, things couldn’t have started better after our rough welcome to Peru.  To give you a better idea of what daily life is like in Cusco, we’ve created a list of the things you should know (in no particular order) before you plan to visit:

1. There are dogs.  EVERYWHERE.  It seems that everyone and their hermano (see how good my Spanish is?) has at least one dog in Cusco.  When we were on our honeymoon in Bora Bora circa 2011, I asked a local man what the population was on the island.  His response was “3,000 people…6,000 dogs!”  It’s apparent that this rule applies to Cusco as well.  If you’re in the downtown area of Cusco, the dogs won’t give you a second look.  In the outskirts and more rural areas, however, they aren’t so nice.

2.  BYOOT.  Bring your own oxygen tank!  The altitude is no joke here.  The base elevation in the main part of city is 11,000 feet.  And that’s within the city.  If you go on a hike up one of the many mountains in the area, you’re just tacking on extra feet.

3.  Toilet paper goes in the garbage.  It took a couple of memorable experiences clawing wet toilet paper out of the toilet to truly learn this lesson.  The pipes are skinny and the sanitation system in the city gets disrupted if you dispose of paper in the toilet.  They also shut off the water when that happens.

4.  Shop at the market.  It’s cheaper, fresher, and the experience is awesome.  If you love fresh fruits and vegetables, THIS is where you want to be!  The local markets have a plethora of stands filled with about everything you can imagine.  And the best part?  Everything is cheaper than in the supermarkets!

5.  Remember “Sin Agua.”  It will save your life (potentially).  The jugo (juice) stations at the market are not to miss.  Those same fresh fruits and juices are blended together in a harmonic symphony of scrumtrulescence (noun credit goes to Will Ferrell/James Lipton).  But remember: the water they use for juices can make foreigners sick.  Hence the words “sin agua (without water).”  Opt for orange juice (naranja) instead.

6.  Check the “English” prices.  Many places offer an English menu in addition to the local menu, especially in the touristy areas.  However, be sure to look closely.  Sometimes the English menu prices are higher than the Spanish prices!

7.  Don’t be afraid to visit Cusco during “rainy season.”  So far, this has consisted of seven days filled with 90% sun and 10% rain.  And as good fortune may have it, most of the rain has been in the middle of the night!  Maybe they just call it rainy season so they can have a few months without so many tourists 😉

For those of you who are more inclined to visuals, here is a video summarizing our first week of adventures.