Getting High in Peru
Cusco is one of my favorite cities in South America, but it comes with a downfall. Due to its elevation, altitude sickness is a real threat. Standing tall at over 11,000 feet high, many tourists find themselves the victims of massive headaches and stomach issues. My advice: quit the alcohol, drink lots of water, and chew tons of coca tea (found on every street corner in Cusco).
Where to Stay – JW Marriott Cusco
We have seriously lucked out with hotels during our last South American adventure. They somehow kept getting better and better. The JW Marriott Cusco is an incredibly special place with an authentic charm in the heart of Cusco.
Situated on the 3rd floor, our room was cozy with a plush king bed, big bright bathroom and a terrace overlooking the arched courtyard. The best part? We could request that oxygen be pumped inside our room if we were feeling under the weather due to the altitude. Swooooooon. Each and every night, turn-down service would leave a surprise for us once we returned from exploring. Wine, cheese, chocolates, tea, the list of goodies goes on. This place is move-in ready and I’m willing to commit!
Situated a block from Plaza de Armas, the JW is in a coveted location. The arched golden lobby sets the tone for a luxurious stay as guests are greeted with warm smiles and offers of coca tea from the bar.
My my MY. Where to begin? I know, I’ll start with the Peruvian ceviche. Why does food taste better when it’s inside a kitchen? I had the opportunity to go behind closed doors where the chefs work their magic. Executive Sous Chef Rely taught me how to make the best ceviche EVER. I didn’t know ceviche could be that good. I saw a lot of secrets go down in that kitchen (i.e. always mix the ingredients with ice to keep everything cool during the process. I don’t even know if that’s a secret, but it was news to me!), and I’m forever grateful. One day I’m going to recreate the dish…when I actually have a home with a kitchen and real people things. Living out of a suitcase gets you far in miles, not far in being a good cook.
On another evening, Wade and I made our way to the bar for drinks where Daniel so graciously fed us every kind of empanada under the sun. Consider dinner plans out the window when all-you-can-eat empanadas come on the table. Alongside those incredibly tasty empanadas were hand-crafted concoctions to be placed on the new JW drink menu – and we were the guinea pigs (Peru pun intended).
1) Nigroni Beetroot, Campari // Potion 4 – for antioxidants
2) Smoked Cinnamon, Pisco, Apple Sour // Potion 10 – cancer prevention
3) Camomile Old Fashion, Bourbon // Potion 11 – for relaxation
Turns out, Jdub makes their own sodas, too, of which I downed in mere seconds. I blame the savory empanadas for this beautiful mess going on in my stomach. Obviously I went to bed fat and happy that night.
I’ve just raved about the location, grounds and food, but JW Marriott’s staff really made the experience stand out. Special thanks to Daniel, Thais, Victoria and Chef Rely for the food & beverage hospitality, and to Freddy the bartender for teaching me how to make the world’s best pisco sour.
What to Do
- Spend time adjusting to the altitude
- Cristo Blanco – a large statue of Jesus Christ that can be seen across the city. Great sunset view.
- ChocoMuseo – Does it get better than a chocolate museum? Location in the heart of Cusco’s city center, I don’t know why you wouldn’t stop in here for some treats!
- San Pedro Market – Biggest market in the city with stalls and stalls of clothing, handicrafts, accessories, foods, drinks…the list goes on. You are free to haggle here.
- Feria Artesanal “San Francisco” – Before you hit San Pedro when walking up from Plaza de Armas, you’ll pass a much smaller market located off the bustling street. LOVE.
- Go on a short tour through the JW Marriott ruins.
- Say hi to the locals and their pet llamas and goats. They are all over the city center. Don’t be surprised when they expect some coins in exchange for a fun moment.
- Iglesia Santo Domingo – Church on a mountain near Plaza de Armas. It’s a hike, but nothing crazy. Beautiful view with few people around.
- Brunch at Cicciolina
- Lunch or dinner at PER.UK for good veggie empanadas, veggie ceviche and beet salad if you’re in the mood for some greens.
- Dinner at Fallen Angel for tasty Alpaca and chocolate martinis.
- Pisco sours and views at Limbus Restobar in San Blas. Something of a trek but well worth it for the pano view of Cusco.
- Day trips – Machu Picchu, Sacred Valley, Pisac, the Andean countryside.. don’t forget that there’s so much more to Peru than the tourist attractions you see time and time again (a foreshadowing for what’s to come on The Road Les Traveled…)
- Machu Picchu Information
The Alejandro Velasco Astete International Airport airport is small in size but big in crowds. This is one of the most visited areas on the continent of South America, so people – tourists, taxi drivers, hoteliers – are everywhere. If you get quoted anything above 20 Peruvian Soles to go from the airport to your hotel in the city center, you’re paying too much.
If you’re a nervous flyer, try to occupy your time by doing something other than looking out the window during the final approach. The pilot is made to make an insane hairpin turn between mountains and land at one of the world’s highest commercial airports, over 11,000 feet up in the Peruvian Andes!