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Cusco and Ollantaytambo- Pre-Trek Cities of Peru

Depending on how you choose to travel around Peru, you may find yourself at cities all over the country, ones you never expected to visit. You have Cusco and Lima, often staples of all Peru trips (although, Lima isn’t necessary in my opinion), but you also have Aguas Caliente, where many begin treks from, Arequipa, one of the most beautiful cities in the country, and Chivay, nestled away deep in the Andes.

And if you travel by bus, you’ll become accustom to places like this. More than once, I threw up from the windy twisty roads of the Andes in outhouses of places like this! Fun! I can still hear my Australian travel companion saying ‘Hey did someone empty their guts in there?!’. Yes. It was me. Every time.

Other than that, it’s a great place to stock up on Coca based snacks to alleviate travel and altitude sickness.

Cusco

I believed we’d arrived at the time of a Cusco Pride, however Cusco’s flag has an extra stripe on the rainbow, as you can see above! They’re all over the place, and really bring a pop of colour to the already lush city. Ps. Cusco, along with multiple other Peruvian cities, does hold an annual Pride event, however same sex marriage is not currently recognised in Peru, amongst other rights.

Most travellers to Peru end up in Cusco, being the closest major city to Machu Picchu. Many people kick off their treks from here, we started from Ollantaytambo and finished in Aguas Caliente for the Lares Trek. It’s also a great place to get acclimatised to the altitude, though ideally you’ll have worked your way up to Cusco, as it stands at an elevation of over 11,000 ft.

The Plaza De Armas is the most ‘touristy’ place in the city, but it also boasts a vibrant nightlife. Also, the hotels round here don’t adhere to the ‘no water after 9:30pm’ rule that a lot of the city does!

Above are a few views from a small village outside of Cusco, located deep in the mountains, but only a short drive from the city. The entire area is majorly lush.

Ollantaytambo

Another city from which many start their treks to Machu Picchu, Ollantaytambo!

The town is dominated by massive Incan runs, the above picture shows off the Face of Wiracocha (believed by the Incas to be the creator of all) and the Storehouses, a short trek you can complete if you feel like it. I chose not to, due to having to get up at 4am and trek for three days from the following morning, but now I kinda wish I’d made the effort. On the opposite side of the town, you’ll find Terraces of Pumatallis, more ancient Incan ruins to be explored! Again, it’s a bit of hard work on the legs, so plan around your trek appropriately!

The town is described as one of the best examples of Inca planning, with 13th century cobblestone streets still in existence and babbling streams through the city.

But this is a town that is now dominated by Machu Picchu tourists, so of course there’s an Irish bar too.

And in said Irish bar, as I refused to drink any alcohol at high altitude before a trek, I had my last pre-trek Inca Kola. The greatest drink on the land.

Next time, the Lares Trek begins!

Read more on Peru:

The World’s Deepest Canyon – Colca is a Must Visit

Why Arequipa is a Must Visit in Peru

Exploring Nazca Desert’s Ancient History

Nazca, Peru. You have to fly above the Nazca Lines.

Lima, Peru. What to do in 48 hours.

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