Peru Family Vacation: Cusco

This post is part of our Two Weeks in Peru with a Toddler series. The Introduction, route map, and itinerary can be found here

 

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Next on our itinerary was Cusco, capitol of the mighty Incan Empire. It’s also mighty high, coming in at over 11,000 feet above sea level.

Days 1-2: Arequipa

Days 3-4: Colca Canyon 

Days 5-6: Lake Titicaca and the Floating Islands of Uros

Day 7: Wake up bright and early and hop on the Andean Explorer for a luxurious train trip to Cusco.

Day 8: Cusco. Depending on your child’s ability to withstand the typical city tourist fare, there are a few interesting places to visit in the town, starting with the impressive colonial cathedral in the main square, followed by a tour of Korikancha (The Temple of the Sun). We most enjoyed our tour of Sacsayhuaman, the Incan ruins located just outside the city. There is plenty of room for the kids to run and they’ll have fun comparing themselves to the massive stones that form the ancient city.

Day 9: Cusco. We spent our evenings in the main square, soaking up the routines of the city. Our son was mobbed (in a good way) by Peruvian school girls and it was quite common for shy girls to hesitantly ask if they could take a picture holding our little boy. After some initial hesitation, we relented and Ben spent hours playing with the locals. He is in hundreds of photos with Peruvians. 

We tromped all over the city, exploring the twisty streets, and wandering through the markets. You’ll find mostly locals in the food markets but the heavily touristy ‘knick-knack’ market was also a fine place to purchase some Peruvian goods. We have a particularly nice stone jaguar that we hauled home and now adorns our front porch.

We felt completely safe in Cusco, although it should be noted that we were only out during daylight hours and stuck to the ancient/toursity part of town. The outlaying areas might be a bit rough after dark.

Once again, we found our Deuter Child Carrier to be invaluable for the toddler set. Traffic in the city is busy and there are a lot of people in the streets and sidewalks. Having Ben up and out of harm’s way was fantastic. It also attracted a lot of attention as it’s fairly unusual for men to carry children in Peru. So many people wanted to purchase it on the spot!

 

Resources


Activities
Colonial cathedral-
en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cusco_Cathedral. Free. A grand centrally located church. Braver children will probably enjoy venturing down into the vault. 
Korikancha –  Temple of the Sun. Probably my least interesting activity in Cusco; history buffs will love it. We were hot, tired, and hungry by the time we made it there. Sacsayhuaman – www.drc-cusco.gob.pe/index.php/saqsaywaman. Must visit. Allot half a day and take food/water/walking shoes. Excellent for children.

Stay
Hotel Arquelogo. 
www.hotelarqueologo.com. I loved this hotel. We had a big room tucked away under the eves and away from the other guests. There was a courtyard for playing and a massive breakfast. It was a ten minute walk to the Plaza.

We also heard good thinks about the Inkaterra. www.inkaterra.com/inkaterra/la-casona/

Travel Arrangements
Andean Explorer Train
From Puno to Cusco. /www.perurail.com
It’s a long trip (10 hrs) but it’s way better than the bus. You have a fancy personal table in the dining car, there is a bar car, and (the best!) observation car for kids. Ben loved it. They serve excellent meals and have a dance/fashion show halfway through the journey. The scenery is gorgeous. Note that the train does not run daily. Book tickets in advance.

 

 

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I never know which way is the preferred spelling: Cusco or Cuzco. It seems that even Cuscoians can’t agree on the proper spelling as we saw it both ways within the city. Evidently the original spelling was Cusqo and in 1990 they tried out Qosqo. Just to make things a little more confusing.

 

We arrived in Cusco/Cuzco/Cusqo/Qosqo after a ten hour train ride from Puno.
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This was the day that I’d been dreading the entire trip: ten hours stuck on a train with an energetic toddler and fifty other tourists. We got on and I groaned: each seat had a table set with china and silverware-heavy meal place setting. Ben is an expert at knocking over wine glasses and throwing knives on the floor.
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But I was in for a surprise. It was a great day. Ben ran around the train, charmed the gal that was worked the bar car, adored the performance of traditional song and dance, and spent most of his time doing circles around the observation deck. The other tourists, mostly elderly grandparent-types, spoiled him silly.
He even took a few naps. Lucky us.
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My Dears,
I was constantly reminded on this trip about the luck of our birth. Ben came into contact with a lot of local children and the differences were striking. Having a child with you while traveling only makes the differences more apparent.
Before this trip people asked me why we were bothering to take our son with us to Peru; after all, he won’t remember it.
Which is true.
But Chris and I will. And I hope that getting our kid traveling at a young age will make him appreciate other cultures, see the world, and also, hopefully, learn to be grateful for his lot in life. He has so much, when others are born with very, very little. I think it’s easy, as American citizens, to become complacent.
I’m not expressing this as eloquently as I’d wish, and perhaps expecting a not-yet-two-year-old to be grateful is a bit much… but the sentiment is heartfelt and I hope that as he grows he might gain a better understanding of our world and the different people that inhabit it.
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Upon our arrival in Cusco we visited Sacsayhuman (which is essentially pronounced ’sexy woman’).Peeps, I’ve never been to the pyramids in Egypt but I’d imagine there is a similar sense of awe when viewing massive stones that have been hauled into place using brute strength. The scale is simply astonishing.
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In the US its fashionable to dress up your dog in cute little costumes; in Peru, dolled-up lambs are clearly the hottest accessory right now.

 


Up Next: Part 5. Machu Picchu 


 Full Itinerary 

Part 1. Arequipa 

Part 2. Colca Canyon 

Part 3. Puno and the Floating Isles of Uros on Lake Titicaca 

Part 4. Cusco 

Part 5. Machu Picchu 

Part 6. The Sacred Valley

 

 

 

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