by Zane Lamprey
As the founder of Adv3nture, and host of my new show, Four Sheets (which you can watch now on DrinkTV) I have the privilege of traveling to some amazing places. My trip to Machu Picchu has been a bucket-list item from the first days I laid eyes on a photo of it in one of my father’s National Geographic magazines. Although it still impressed me when I saw it in person, the real surprise of the journey was the city of Cusco, Peru, which serves as a gateway to Machu Picchu.
Machu Picchu is probably the most famous remnant of Incan civilization. It was built in the mid-1400s as a citadel and served as a royal estate, but once completed it was only used for about 80 years before it was abandoned, likely due to Spanish conquest in other parts of the empire or possibly over-farming of the land. These days its ruins are a jaw-dropping site for visitors from around the world.
If you’re one of the more than one million visitors to Machu Picchu each year, you’ll likely spend time in the city of Cusco, about three hours by train (or three days by hike) from the ruins themselves. Cusco was the capital of the Inca Empire for about 300 years and, at one point, was the largest city in the Americas. Like Machu Picchu itself, Cusco is now a UNESCO World Heritage site.
There’s plenty to do and see in both places. If you’re headed that way, here are a few sites I suggest you don’t miss!
San Pedro Market
open 9a to 6p - Cascaparo, Cusco 08000, Peru
Here you’ll have the chance to check out the many many street vendors offering empanadas or buttifaras (ham sandwiches on french bread) if you’re hungry, or you can try some chicha if you're thirsty. The small amount of alcohol (about one to two percent) in the chicha should kill off any waterborne bacteria. I didn’t get sick, but drink it at your own risk. Also, in the market, there is no shortage of unique offerings, like exotic fruits and vegetables or (pause for dramatic effect) roasted guinea pigs (I had guinea pigs as a child… I passed). You can also find handmade sweaters, scarves, or dolls as souvenirs (and of course your typical mugs and magnets). My wife and I did all our holiday shopping here.
open 6a - 11:45p - Calle Inca Roca, Cusco 08000, Peru
Another great spot to shop for scarves and sweaters made with fleece from alpacas (all unharmed - we don’t use animal products in our Adv3nture products and always condone excellent treatment of all animals). Just a couple blocks from the Museo de Pisco (see next entry for more), this shop has great prices, and if you’re picking up several items in one purchase, and you’re so inclined, you can try your hand at haggling the total price down 10 or 20 percent.
Food & Drink
Museo de Pisco
open 11a to 1p - Santa Catalina Ancha 398, Cusco 08000, Peru
The Pisco Museum was one of my favorite stops in Cusco, which may have something to do with the fact that it’s more of a bar and less of a museum. It’s a great spot to try Peru’s national cocktail, the pisco sour, and a variety of other pisco cocktails. The bartenders are quite charismatic and they all love pisco, so you’ll likely learn something while you’re having a fun time!
open Mon-Sat 9a to 12a, Sundays 2p to 12a - Calle Pasñapakana 133, Cusco 08000, Peru
Limbus Restobar has one of the best views of the city of Cusco. That, and of course its excellent food and drink, makes it well worth a visit. The cuisine is Peruvian with global influences, and the cocktails are crafted with care and are simply amazing. While you’re there, try the "Cocaine!” (the restaurant’s signature cocktail).
open Thu-Sat 5p to 11p - Av. Collasuyo 3407, Cusco 08000, Peru
This is another of my favorite spots in Cusco (if you swing by, tell Zac that Zane says hello). The beer is great, and the story of the brewery, the first to open and stay open in Cusco - is fascinating. There are quite a few challenges facing anyone who wants to brew beer in Cusco, such as the altitude. Another is the water. In Cusco, the water is very high in certain minerals (like calcium) that make it necessary to use reverse osmosis to remove them - but then, since some beers require the presence of certain minerals, these then have to be added back in lesser amounts. Learn more at foursheets.com.
open daily 5p to 3a - Calle Tecsecocha 429, Cusco 08002, Peru
El Duende, named after an elf-like being from traditional Peruvian folklore, is a bar and restaurant located a few blocks from the Plaza de Armas (see the following entry for more). If you go, try the té macho (which literally translates into “manly tea”) - a blend of tea, fruit, spices, and pisco. Or, if you’re at home, here’s how to make your own.
Plaza de Armas
always open - Plaza Mayor, Centro de, Cusco 08000, Peru
The Plaza de Armas is the center of the city of Cusco. Take a walk on the stone pathways, enjoy the well-manicured gardens, and check out the Cusco Cathedral and the Iglesia De La Compañia De Jesús, both beside the plaza. I suggest visiting both during the day (for the architecture) and during the night (for the nightlife and buzz of activity).
Hiram Bingham train
There are two ways to get from Cusco to Machu Picchu: by foot (three days) or by train (three hours). Mel (my wife), the crew, and I had cases of heavy equipment, so a hike was out of the question-- although that would have been interesting. Instead we made the journey aboard the overly-posh Hiram Bingham train, named after an American explorer who was instrumental in bringing the knowledge of Machu Picchu’s existence to the world in 1911. If I were to do it again, I’d save the money and take the Inca Rail - the scenery along the way is the same, especially on the return trip, which is dark. And, they both have a bar car...
The Machu Picchu ruins themselves, along with their picturesque mountain settings, defy description. You’ll have to see it for yourself, so I’ll leave it at that. Get out there! Go!
Travel. Explore. Live!