We spent 9 days in Cusco, Peru, with kids, in April 2017. On this post, I’m going to tell you all about it. It’s a breathtaking city, we fell in love with it even before landing. The views from the airplane are stunning! Worth staying awake!
High altitude alert!
Cusco is 11,152’ or 3,399 m above sea level!
Due to the altitude, Cusco is better enjoyed once you’re acclimatized. Since you’re probably going to Machu Picchu, I’d suggest you go see Machu Picchu first – it’s a lot lower than Cusco.
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We actually flew from La Paz (Bolivia) to Lima (Peru). We just decided to fly to Cusco before staying in Lima, since we were already acclimatized (La Paz is higher) to avoid more horrifying deadly sick days. Although we did have a few hours in the airport in Lima, it wasn’t enough to de-acclimatize (is that even a word?) us, luckily. We flew from Lima to Cusco with LC Peru.
We spent our days in this apartment in Cusco. It was clean, big, fairly equipped. The owner was very helpful and she had a nice informative list with taxi numbers, closest places to shop, everything. Very few hosts provide a nice list and they are SO useful, I believe they all should!
There was a gas heater in the apartment, which we turned on late afternoons but turned off before going to bed.
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Cusco is very chilly, and in the evenings, it gets even colder. We actually went out to the supermarket to get some warm pants to sleep in, as jeans aren’t comfortable and leggings aren’t warm enough – and that’s what we had. It was cheap, so we didn’t feel bad donating them after 2 weeks of use.
We didn’t really feel the altitude much in Cusco, so we got to enjoy it quite a bit.
I’m going to tell you all you can’t miss while there.
Family friendly things to do in Cusco
It smells so good, and it’s so full of deliciousness that I can’t even take it off of my head. We visited it once just to see what it was, once to eat (in Ollantaytambo) and once to do the delicious workshop ‘Beans to Bar’. We learned the process that transforms the cacao beans into delicious chocolate, actually made some, and learned new ways to make cacao flavored drinks. Yum! The kids, even Coral (who was turning 5) enjoyed it a lot!
Museo de la Coca
It’s free, but they operate on tips. We spent around half an hour there, and it was informative. It’s simple and small, though.
Visit the Historical Center
It’s SO beautiful! It’s not too small, so you can wander around for a few days. There are many museums, squares, restaurants, little markets, shops, and a lot else to see and do there. We just loved walking through those beautiful streets, choosing a random restaurant to eat in, soaking in the midday sun, sitting and people watching. It was just delicious!
There are many people there that offer some guided tours. Some of them will tell you about the 12 angle stone, or the animals in the walls for a tip. It’s pretty fun and you don’t have to commit to listening to a person for long – difficult with small children.
Take photos with llamas
There are many women in traditional cholita clothing and llamas (some are actually baby llamas) for the tourists to take photos with. While I’m NOT into this kind of animal thing because they’re not treated properly most of the time, I did take a photo with a baby llama. The lady was impressive, she spoke to me in English, then in Japanese, and in Spanish.
Just choose the older llamas, not the baby ones. I don’t even think the one I held was in very good health. It made me feel really bad for a long time, and I still do every time I remember it. The ladies tell you that you can donate whatever you think is reasonable, but they do hiss if you try to give them too little. We gave 5 soles and she was fine with it.
See the ruins
We didn’t, but you can. We enjoyed the city so much we really didn’t want to stop it to see the ruins, plus it was super expensive to pay for the entries. We just gave it up.
It’s the mall in Cusco. We usually went there for the supermarket and for the restaurant. Chili’s was a nice surprise – delicious food, though non-traditional, and good service. The kids got balloons every time we went there, and Coral loved it. It’s amazing the time a kid can be entertained by a single balloon. The mall also offers some activities through the month – we didn’t really take part in any.
Food is usually super good in Cusco, I’d say you can eat anywhere.
Chili’s, again, but it’s fun and worth it. It’s in Real Plaza Mall and offers nice international food.
Inkazuela was one of my favorite restaurants in Peru. Actually, it was the best. It serves mostly traditional soup in bowls – they’re delicious! It was so delicious I’m salivating just by remembering it. It’s just by Plazoleta Nazarenas, on the second floor of a building, with very nice views.
Pisco Carajo! was one of the simplest restaurants we went to. We decided to go because the lady calling for customers at the square was super nice and friendly, and not pushy and disrespectful as some can be. The food was nice, but nothing exceptional.
Los Portales is a restaurant at the square just by Chocomuseo. We went there after our workshop, while we waited for our chocolates to set. I love eating outdoors, watching the square, and the food was amazing, the portions were huge, and the service was excellent. Buskers, though, are common, and they did interrupt our meal quite a few times. I didn’t find a website, but if you’re ever by the plaza in front of the Chocomuseo, you’ll see it.
Don Pollero is a chicken specialist very close to the apartment we were in. We bought our food to take away one night. It was super cheap, it tasted good, and came in huge portions.
We used Plazavea because it had everything, it was cheap, and it was conveniently located inside the mall. Plazavea is everywhere in Peru.
Our Peruvian tattoo was done at Willka Tattoo. It was fast, the artists were nice and welcoming, and it was clean. We loved our tattoos.
Mobile data plan
We used Claro because they have a shop in Real Plaza and we were there on our first day. It worked fine, not super fast, but steady. And it wasn’t expensive either.
Tips and curiosities
– Buskers are everywhere. They start dancing and singing, and they do ask for money. Have some coins ready or avoid eating on the tables by the squares altogether.
– Llamas do spit if they feel threatened. We didn’t get any, but we did see a kid crying because the llama had spat all over his shirt. Take a spare set of clothing for a sensitive kid in case you’re thinking about taking a llama photo.
– Food is pretty good in Cusco, one of the best we’ve had so far, but the people trying to get you into their restaurants can be annoying sometimes. Set your boundaries, be clear, and shop around.
– It’s high in altitude, and therefore, it’s chilly. Take some warm clothing items, as most accommodation offer no heating.
– Taxis are SUPER cheap there, and they don’t like giving change. Have change on you, and set a price before you enter their car. By the way, every other car is a taxi. They honk their horns at you, look at you, and you know they’re cabs. They don’t have the taxi signs, the distinguished color or pattern, nothing. They just are. If you want their service, just look at them and wave or do a ‘yes’ sign with your head. They’ll get it.
– Water in Peru isn’t safe for drinking. We used it to brush our teeth, though. We were fine, but if you’re afraid, just use bottled water, as boiling isn’t sufficient – due to the altitude, water boils at lower temperatures.
– Be aware of your surroundings, but no need to overdo it. We felt so safe there that we walked at night – though not too late.
– Take toilet paper. Not all toilets offer toilet paper. Bring your own. Seriously. And hand sanitizer.
We all loved Cusco and its sunny days, but the cold and chilly nights weren’t so nice. It is still very worth a visit!
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