My South America Trip – Part 2 Lima and Cusco

We arrived LA at 7.15 am in a rather presentable state, all thanks to our fabulous flight experience. With our next flight at 11.20 am, we had plenty of time to spare.  This is my first time in LA airport and I find the layout spacious, very bright and modern with multiple LED advertising space. There was only a handful of shops and plenty of coffee houses. We had our first Starbucks in LA at the airport while waiting for our flight.

We had another transit at Panama city before landing in Lima. The reason why we chose this route is because Copa Airlines is a Star Alliance member and hence tickets redemptions means more savings!

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We only had a short 1 hr 44  mins transit at Panama and even though the airport is relatively smaller compared to other international airports, we had to find our way to the other end of the airport for our transit flight.

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Photo Credits: http://www.tocumenpanama.aero/images/mapas/nivel200/

The layout of the airport can be a little confusing as there are different clusters of departure gates all serving international and domestic flights. You can refer to the map above. However, there were sufficient directional signs showing the gates directions to guide you to the right gates so we had no issue with locating the gate.

We finally arrived in Lima at 1.09 am in the morning. We checked into the Costa del Sol Wynham Lima Airport hotel. We selected this hotel as we landed past midnight and did not want to travel any further. In addition, we had an early flight out to Cusco in another 27 hours later. After being severely dehydrated and sticky from not being able to shower for the last 36 hours, I did not take any photos of this hotel at all. However, the photos from the hotel site is quite accurate.

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Photo Credits: https://www.wyndhamhotels.com/wyndham/lima-peru/wyndham-costa-del-sol-lima-airport/overview

The proximity of the hotel from the airport is a stone throw away as you can see from the photo. The building in green is the Lima airport.

The lobby is very basic but very clean and bright. The counter staff were very friendly but the hotel was not very flexible when it comes to a more complicated booking. I had 2 different bookings from 2 different websites. 1 is prepaid and another is not paid yet. The staff collected only 1 night of deposit from me and would not collect the 2nd night so I had to let them authorise the 2nd night deposit again on my 2nd day of stay. Other than this 1 point, the staff was very helpful.

 The rooms are typical of an airport hotel. Bright with modern furnishings. Beds are comfortable and amenities are basic. The bathroom was bright and well- maintained. With our first shower after 36 hours, we finally got to rest for the night only around 3-4 am local time.

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 The breakfast room is located at the first floor with many tables. We had our breakfast around 9 – 10 am and the restaurant was very packed with customers rushing for their flights. The food spread is quite huge with the usual bread, cheese, ham and spreads. There are also some stations with the usual American breakfast choice of bacon, beans and scrambled eggs. They have a live egg station that does omelette and fried eggs to your choice, however when the restaurant gets overly crowded, this station will not operate. The restaurant is very under staffed during peak periods, so the suggestion is to either go very early or later to avoid the crowd.

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After fussing around, we got down to travelling to the city centre Miraflores with the airport express. For only USD 15 , you can get a round trip and there are various stops along the route where you can alight. Just make sure to let the driver know where you are alighting when you board. You can purchase the tickets from the counter inside the airport and board the bus from the car park located just behind the hotel. More details of the bus and it’s schedules can be found here

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Unfortunately, we were feeling a little under the weather and we had no more energy to explore further. So we stopped only at the Parque central de Miraflores to people watch and have our first meal of the day. The area was bustling with people sitting around in the park as well as people just chilling by the coffee houses and tourist shopping in the malls. We gave up visiting the beachfront where there are many popular restaurants and bars for the locals and tourists to hang out. 

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With our body time clock all messed up, we decided to have an early dinner and head back to our hotel for an early rest to recuperate for our early flight tomorrow. We headed to La mar which is the top 15 restaurant in Latin America. Extremely popular with locals and the rare tourists, this place gets very crowded. Strictly a no reservations joint, you have to head over early and queue for a table. Do bear in mind that the restaurant closes at 5.30 pm. My only comment about the restaurant is that if you are in Lima, you MUST give this a try! The full review of the restaurant can be found here La Mar Cebichería Peruana

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The next day, we checked in to the domestic airport counters which are located in the same building but further down ( in the direction away from the hotel ) The trick is to check-in for your flight and return to the hotel for breakfast as there is hardly any shops within the domestic airport. We had our 9.45 am flight on Peruvian Airlines and landed in Cusco at 11.05 am. We booked an airport pick up with Cusco Transport and tours at USD 15 for a private sedan car dropping us directly at our hotel door step. This is considered a premium price compared to the flag down taxis outside the airport but I prefer to go with the safer option especially in an unfamiliar country. It also saves me the trouble of haggling with the drivers on a reasonable price. In addition, this price is already considered cheap to the transfers offered by the hotels. Our driver could speak very good English and was very helpful with our luggage. You can check out their services here

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We are staying at the Antigua Casona San Blas for 1 night before the travelling to Machu Picchu the next day. There were multiple excellent reviews for this hotel in trip advisor and while there are many cheaper options available around the city, I can say there is no regrets at all. This is one of the best accommodation I had in Peru. From the service of the staff to the food at the restaurant, the cosy settings of the public areas and the extra comfortable beds, I was so glad we are booked in this hotel again upon returning from Machu Picchu. The outdoor area was great for chilling with friends and family.

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The room has a very country decor with brick floors, wood furniture and countryside light fixtures. The moment you enter the room, the home stay vibe is so strong you just want to stay in the room and laze in bed. Instead of the usual thick blankets, they offer a nice light throw made with Alpaca fur which is extremely warm yet non prickly.

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The bathroom was in wood and cement hues with a semi industrial yet modern clean feel. The water heater was strong and pleasant as the outside temperature can get a little colder at night. To support recycling, the hotel provides clean drinking water in a jug and a refill can be done via the reception counter. ( the plastic bottle belongs to us)

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The hotel pays attention to simple things like this key chain for the room key. Each room comes in different key chains. The ones we had for the first night was a little girl wearing a traditional costume. This was on our 2nd stay where we had a cute alpaca. A quick tip if you are interested to buy these cute keychains home, there are plenty shops selling them at the plaza but the store further from the centre, they sell key chains cheaper at 10 sole for 4 key chain. These key chains are also available around Peru or Bolivia but the ones I bought here are still the cheapest so buy all your key chain souvenirs here if needed.

The hotel also has stations around the hotel with free coca tea leaves for their customers. You can make their tea and have it in the hotel or bring it in your tumbler with you.

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After settling down, we took a short walk to the city centre. The plaza square is approximately 10 mins walk away. From the hotel exit, it is a slight slope upwards on the right and there is this small little square with a pretty view of the houses on the slope. A short walk to a narrow alley, you will be faced with the start of the downwards steps towards the centre plaza.

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As it was raining, the stone steps can get rather slippery. The same narrow alley is used by both cars and pedestrians so you need to be careful when walking on the path with crowd. This can be quite challenging in certain parts of the alley where the slope gets quite steep. On both side of the slope, you can find restaurants and stores selling traditional souvenirs. The walls at the sides are pre- Incan stone walls and were built mostly by hand labour. This explains why each stone comes in irregular shape and sizes. On another alley, there is one particular famous stone that has 12 angles. Unfortunately, we did not manage to find the stone.

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At the end of the slope, you will be greeted by a picturesque view of the main Plaza De Armas. Cusco is made up of multiple plaza where the local gather and hang out during the afternoons and evenings. Plaza De Armas is the most vibrant and is home to 2 very iconic buildings; Cusco Cathedral and the Church La Compania de Jesus. Both buildings are just adjacent from each other. The picture above features the cathedral.

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The Plaza De Armas covers part of what used to be the Haukaypata – old great Inca square. After the Spanish colonised the city, the only thing that remains from the Inca are the stone walls forming the foundations of the city. Most of the building are designed in Spanish architecture with the beautiful arches and column.

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What I loved was how the city conserved the historic buildings but yet incorporated new businesses in these buildings. There were Starbucks, KFC and Columbia sport shops within these ancient buildings and what was interesting was that the signs of these business were crafted in a way that looked antique and complimented the entire look of the plaza.

By the time we settled down for lunch, it was 4 pm and from the side effects of our coca tea, our appetite was greatly reduced. ( I like to believe we lost a great deal of fats from this leg of the trip as we ate only 2 meals a day) We popped into this restaurant called at the square; one of the many restaurants that lined the plaza with a small balcony view onto the square. One of the speciality of Peru was quinoa so we had to order a quinoa soup and a potato salad with avocados and tomatoes. The meal came with a free flow salad. The meal was very light and you could taste the fresh sweetness of the ingredients without much artificial seasonings. The meal costs us 170 soles for 1 soup, 1 avocado salad and 2 huge cups of juice.

We stayed in the restaurant for a good 2 hours as the weather is absolutely crazy in Cusco. In the period of 2 hours, there was interchanging torrential rain and skin blistering sun . We were so glad we were indoors as we saw people struggling with umbrellas, ponchos or simply dashing across the plaza in the rain. So 1 tip in Cusco is to bring a poncho with you wherever you go.

We popped over to Starbucks for a modern in ancient building experience and also to wait for the sunset for the orange hue landscape photos.

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The plaza starts to get crowded in the evening around 7 pm as people gather to see the sunset and bask in the cooling evening breeze. Families stroll the plaza with their dogs or babies and children running around the open space makes a very warm and tranquil landscape.

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The plaza is used for many main events, gatherings and festivals like the festival of the sun. With the backdrop of the beautiful buildings and well-maintained gardens, this plaza has seen many cheers, songs and laughter. We had an early night to get sufficient rest before the big climb

Tips on how to deal with altitude sickness:

  1. You can get a doctor’s prescription for altitude sickness prevention pills. Be sure to start the course of the medication 24 hours before you land in a high altitude environment and continuously to take it everyday until you return to normal altitude.
  2. You can drink coca tea regularly. Coca tea, also called mate de coca, is an herbal tea made using the raw or dried leaves of the coca plant can help reduce or remove the symptoms of high altitude sickness. However, this tea also has some side effects like appetite suppressant. 
  3. Try to eat lightly and not too oily or too full until your body is used to the high altitude.

 

 

 

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