I had fond memories of Cuzco (Cusco in Spanish) as I had visited this beautiful UNESCO city back in 2008 and I was looking forward to seeing it again.
We arrived on an overnight bus from Arequipa and had pre-booked 2 nights at the Samay Wasi hostel, located at the top end of the San Blas area. The nice touch was that they picked us up at 5am from the bus station and gave us a free breakfast upon arrival. As our room wouldn’t be ready for a few hours they even let us freshen up in a dorm area.
The staff was really lovely and even had our backpacks waiting for us in the room once it was ready. However, once we checked in to our room the lovely surprises ended. It was freezing in the room and at night despite the heavy blankets we had to go to bed virtually clothed to try to stay warm. There were no heating facilities anywhere in the hostel, even the common areas, and after our pre-booked 2 days there we were happy to move.
We found Samanapata Backpackers located a few roads down, closer to the San Blas plaza. Not only was it cheaper and warmer but the location was much better. We had numerous restaurants on our doorstep, including several cheap vegetarian places. In fact it actually worked out cheaper to have the set menus than to cook!
In total we spend 8 days in Cuzco, 6 days to see to the city and the nearby Inca sites and a further 2 days when we returned from Machu Picchu.
Cuzco itself has not really changed much since my last visit. It is still as beautiful. The roads around the historic center are cobbled and lined with old Inca walls which now form the foundations of the new hotels, restaurants and numerous other buildings. There are pretty plazas dotted throughout the city and an array of places to eat to suit every palate.
As for the Plaza de Armas, it is still as breathtaking as ever. Surrounded by the impressive cathedral, churches and arcades it is a hotspot for tourists and locals alike to relax on the benches or have a drink at one of the beautifully carved wooden balconies overlooking the plaza.