As I mentioned before, arriving in Cusco, 11,000+ feet above sea level, literally took my breath away on the first day. Luckily the altitude headache didn't last long. I was able to explore many corners of this incredibly beautiful and well-preserved city of 500,000 people. Spanish churches and squares are built right on top of centuries-old Inca ruins and almost all of the historical city buildings sport pink terracotta roofs.
First, I drooled over my room at Palacio Nazarenas (full post to come) and got my lists out and camera ready.
You have to start a visit to Cusco in the main square, Plaza de Armas. From there, I wandered to the massive central market to look at fruit, vegetables and little oddities to giggle at that are perfectly normal to the locals (example: an avocado that was the size of an adult foot). I discovered a tiny store that specialized in natural healing and picked up coca candy to help with altitude sickness, with the help of a woman that was uncommonly beautiful and smile-y. I would have taken anything she tried to sell me.
Lunch was at Incanto just off the main square, with a menu that would fit right in in NYC or L.A, while adding local specialties like smoked alpaca bruschetta and a stewed and breaded guinea pig. I loved the wood-burning oven and tiles on the wall with Peruvian images.
I did a private tour at the fascinating Coricancha temple, a hugely important worship site for the Inca empire.