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What to Do
What to Eat
Alpacas are very cute and very tasty animals. I've recommended this local specialty to so many people who plan to visit Peru, and no one ever takes me seriously. No, really, try the alpaca. It's like steak but more tender and rich. I know you can get it in Cusco and Aguas Calientas, which means you can probably get it anywhere in Peru.
After being in Peru for a good month my friend and I got sick of the 4 Sol Menus (although of course wonderful for a certain period of time). We found this beautiful Israeli restaurant close to Plaza de Armas on Calle Huaynapata and although also offering a Menu (this time for 8 or 10 soles) we were stunned. I can highly recommend the greek salad and the portions are filling and satisfying.
Last weekend me and my buddie were starving and almost zero money. We were walking in Cusco and found this place called "why not?" it offered us an amazing menu for only 4 soles. We had a huge wheat soup, some second dish with meat and rice, a nice flavored water and a slide of pancake.
The following is a new scam to me!! If you've read the Lonely Planet, then you know about the spitting, slashing and distraction techniques, but twice now we have been scammed by taxi drivers. We give them the address (iphone map) and then halfway there the cab driver asks again for the address, and we tell him. Then he makes a big fuss saying that it's not what he was told earlier and that we have to pay extra. Make sure you tell your cab driver exactly where you want to go and only give him the $$$ you first agree upon!!!
1 To 3 Days
If you are hoping to visit Machu Picchu in a day visit, I would highly recommend Pariwana Hostel in Cusco as a place to stay before and after your trip. Instead of trying to travel the morning of your visit it is a good idea to stay in Aguas Calientes the night before and set off about 5am by either bus or by foot up to Machu Picchu to make the most of your visit, and in the evening trains back to Ollayantambo and a bus after back to Cusco can be arranged in a package. We booked the 2 days 1 night package upon arrival in Peru at Pariwana Lima as we really enjoyed the hostel atmosphere and ethos! Safe travels :)
What to Avoid
These children dressed in beautiful indigenous clothing and carrying baby lambs are great photography subjects. But beware! They are quick to put the lamb in your arms as a ploy to get you to pay for a photo of you holding the lamb.
What you should know is that the lamb stinks and it might piss on you! You've been warned.
Support Local Communities
One of the highlights of Cusco for me was being driven out by volunteering group 'Om' to a remote village in the mountains. There we brought food and toys to some of the poorest children in the region, taught them about nutrition and hygeine and spent an afternoon playing with them. This was both fun and incredibly moving and I can't recommend a better way to witness the flipside of this touristy area. I just popped into their restaurant and signed up. There is a charge but this covers your travel, food and food and toys for the children. Visit the Om website for more details: omcusco.com