Cusco was one of my favorite cities that I visited in Peru! I got a chance to do so many great things, one of them being climbing Rainbow Mountain. I wanted to share my journey and tips if you are planning a trip to Cusco.
Day 7 October 7
I took the Peru Rail back from Machu Picchu to Ollantaytambo. From Ollantaytambo, my friend and I shared a taxi to Cusco with a great French couple we met on the train. The cost was 20 Sols each (about $7). TIP: It is much easier to share a taxi and the cost is much lower. On our journey from Cusco to Ollantaytambo, we spent about $28 each. That's a difference of $21!!
After a 2.5 hour drive through the Sacred Valley, we arrived at our cute hotel in Cusco called Rumi Punku. It was located just 5 minute walk from the Plaza de Armas. This hotel was gorgeous!! It had an outer court area, a huge lobby, great wifi service, large rooms, clean bathrooms, and a buffet breakfast that was included with the stay. I definitely recommend staying at this hotel!
Later that day, went outside and walked around the city. We went to the Plaza de Armas and caught the gorgeous sunset! TIP: Don't miss the sunset and the view of the valleys from Plaza De Armas at night! We had dinner at Morena Peruvian Kitchen. OMG!! One of the most delicious meals I have ever had! I had Aurepuerto ( Peruvian influenced fried rice with chicken) and Ashley had wings with plantains. The sauce on the wings were to die for! Both dishes were filled with such amazing flavors!
Day 8 October 8
The next day, after an amazing night of sleep, we woke up feeling refreshed and were ready to discover the city. Our taxi driver, Fausto, from Ollantaytambo was so nice that we booked him the next day to take us to Pisac Market (a huge market in the Sacred Valley). The drive to Pisac from Cusco is about 1.5 hours.
I told Fausto that I really wanted to take a picture with alpacas at some point during my time in Peru and he made it happen! TIP: If you want to see or do something, ask the taxi drivers. They are so helpful and don't mind making stops. Total opposite of NYC taxi drivers. We stopped for the views, to see llamas, alpacas, vincuñas at a local farm, and textile making process. I fell in love with the alpacas and llamas in Peru! I wish I could've brought one home with me.
We went shopping in Pisac market and bargained our way till we dropped! I picked up a ton of cute souvenirs. They have everything from art, scarves, jewelry, pillow covers, statues, pens, and so much more! TIP: Bargain as much as you can and shop the next stall if a vendor doesn't work with you.
On the way back from the market to Cusco, we stopped at Cristo Blanco (Jesus statue). The view of Cusco from this point was amazing! I didn't realize how big the city actually was. This half day tour cost us about $25 each. Not bad for a personal tour. TIP: I recommend going around the Sacred Valley with a taxi driver so you can make as many stops as you would like and not be on a time schedule.
For a late lunch/ dinner, we at Papacho's right by the Plaza de Armas. They had a great selection of burgers! Portions were huge! Prices were mid range for Peru. Note that a bottle of water was 7 sols ($2.50)! Pretty steep for just water. TIP: Carry bottles of water with you because the restaurants in Cusco are on the pricier side. Or buy it from the side street where the waters only cost $1.
Day 9 October 9
Vinicunca mountain! Rainbow mountain! We booked this tour through Flash Packer Connect a month in advance. The bus picked us up right at our hotel at 2:15AM. We then drove another 3 hours to get to the starting point. They served us a cute little breakfast then started the trek. Our tour guide Miak was great! He was filled with energy and had a lot of knowledge about the people and the mountains. He was also very honest about the difficulties of the trek and prepared us in advanced.
Off we went! The start of the trek was a 45 degree climb (of course we start out tough right!?). All three of us were out of breathe 15 minutes in. It was only about 4 NYC blocks, but due to the elevation (14,266 feet), it is really hard to breathe. We all decided to get a horse to help us walk part of the journey ($40 round trip). This saved my life!!!! No way was I going to make the 6 hour trek without my main man of the day Roberto (the nice horse) and Jose the horse guide. SO thankful for them! We rode the horses and walked part of the way. The horses cannot climb the steep parts of the mountain so we had to climb those parts. A couple hours later we arrived at rainbow mountain. Wow, what a beautiful landscapes!!! We had to climb a pretty steep hill to get to the top, then another steep hill to get a better view of the mountain. Boy, was I out of breathe by that point! But I felt SO accomplished and the view was to die for!! I've never seen anything like that in my entire life! We were literally in the clouds 16,455 feet up in the mountains. That is the highest point I have ever been standing on my own two feet. It was such an incredible feeling! The high you feel when you're up there surrounded by the earths natural beauty is something I can't even explain in words. You have to experience it yourself!! This climb was much tougher than Machu Picchu. I highly recommend climbing rainbow mountain! It was one of my parts parts of my whole Peru trip.
TIP: It gets windy and pretty cold up at the top of Rainbow Mountain so make sure you have on layers. I recommend a warm coat/ fleece, gloves, hat, and scarf. I didn't have some of the items I listed but I wish I did at the top. Flash Packer sends a list of items they recommend bringing. Follow the list because they know what they are talking about.
TIP: Please note that there are no real toilets in the mountains. So be mentally prepared and bring tissue paper. It was so worth every hard moment!!!
TIP: I highly recommend doing this climb early in the morning (yes I mean get up at 2 AM). We were one of the only people in the mountains and were able to capture great pictures. As we were on our way back (around 10:30AM), there were a lot of people going up the mountain.
We ended the great hike with an amazing lunch provided my Flash Packer.
Photography by Ashley Gallerani