Cusco hotel review: Siete Ventanas

When we returned to Cusco from our five-day hike through the mountains, there was no way we could stay in a hostel. We needed the comforts of a hotel,  private bathrooms and some personal space. So after a long day of walking door-to-door to pretty much every hotel in Cusco, we found Siete Ventanas.

Apparently, Siete Ventanas is a newer hotel not too far from the San Blas neighborhood and a five-minute walk from the Plaza de Armas. Overall, I really liked the hotel. The building is relatively new and clean, with a nice courtyard-style lobby. Our room, although it had a slightly dysfunctional toilet, was spacious and had a great view of Cusco. And it had cable TV.

And even though there was kind of a construction site down the street, we didn’t have to suffer through any crazy construction racket like we did in Paris last year.

Not to mention, we got a pretty good deal on the room rate thanks to Adrian’s negotiating skills. So I would definitely recommend giving Siete Ventanas a try!

Souvenir shopping in Cusco – my top 5

Cusco was our first stop on the trip, so even though there was SOOOO much I wanted to buy, I figured I should save a little money & room in my luggage for our stops in Arequipa and Lima. Well, I think I’d recommend doing most of your souvenir shopping in Cusco after all. Especially if you’re looking for some cool Inca-inspired or indigenous Andean artifacts.

That being said, here are my top 5 souvenirs from Cusco:

  1. My 20-lb antique iron
  2. A tapestry featuring various animals (similar to some of the ones hanging above)
  3. A toy alpaca, complete with real baby alpaca fur
  4. Alpaca hat & gloves (and leg warmers) – I LOVE these
  5. My llama duffel bag
I'm loco for llamas

Cusco: Museo Inka, San Blas & Chicha

Standing by the famous 12-sided stone....at least I think this is the one...

Our first tourist stop on Monday was the Museo Inka. As promised, the museum itself is nothing fancy but there was some good info about the various indigenous cultures of Peru. It was cool to learn about all the cultures that came before the Inca even:

  • The Paraca tribe made beautiful woven funeral cloths
  • The Pukara would include feline faces on their pottery and art
  • The Mochika had 11 different colors they used in painting pottery
  • The Nazca, while famous for their lines, also made really beautiful pottery with many colors and in lots of animal forms, even mythical creatures
  • The Wari tribe, which took over Cusco for awhile, also included feline faces in their art, complete with colorful eyes
  • Of course the highlight for me was seeing the Inca mummies, still very well intact

It was interesting to finally see cats represented. Most ancient cultures seem to have recognized something spiritual or significant in felines, but I hadn’t heard or seen too much of that in Peru until now. There are definitely a lot of dogs around town, but barely any cats.

After lunch, we went up by the San Blas neighborhood to see the Iglesia de San Blas. It was a very simple church, but known for its intricately carved wooden pulpit, complete with human skull! We also took advantage of San Blas’ unique shops and galleries to do some shopping. Continuing our souvenir shopping closer to Plaza de Armas, I officially topped myself in buying the most ridiculous souvenir ever by spending too much money on an antique iron that weighs probably 20 lbs. I also finally got a photo with a little lamb!

Antique plancha from Cusco
Me and a baby lamb

That night, we had dinner at Chicha, a restaurant of famed chef Gaston Acurio. Considering all the hype, the rest of the group was disappointed in the food. I felt it was simple but good. The tamales appetizer and pumpkin ravioli I ordered were pretty much what I expected so overall I was happy with the dinner, although it didn’t necessarily blow my mind. I’ll admit that the ambiance definitely didn’t compare to Fallen Angel.

Back in Cusco: La Catedral, Mercado San Pedro & Qorikancha

View of Cusco from our new hotel, Siete Ventanas

Now back in Cusco, we attempted to actually see the sights. We got off to a slow start though, because our first stop, the Inca Museum, was closed. So we walked around town and ended up at the Chocolate Museum. Which is really a coffee shop with some info about cacao in Peru and a few souvenirs. But admission is free, so it wasn’t a bad stop. I did actually learn a little about cocoa production and history. I also learned that Poland is one of the biggest consumers of chocolate (of course not compared to the US). And of course we bought some souvenirs. There was a complimentary cup of really cool tea they gave us that tasted like chocolate even though it was tea, so I bought a bag of that.

Santa Clara church…closed

Then we walked past the church and convent of Santa Clara, which sounds really cool with mirrors covering the interior, but it’s barely ever open and indeed was closed now.

So we did what we do best – shopping – at the Mercado San Pedro. And I finally got to eat choclo! Continue reading Back in Cusco: La Catedral, Mercado San Pedro & Qorikancha

Lasting Impressions from Machu Picchu

Once the Huayna Picchu adventure was over, we headed back down to Aguas Calientes to stop by the souvenir stands, eat and get our stuff together for the train ride back to Cusco. I finally bought my llama duffel bag!

As we were on the excruciatingly long train ride back to Cusco (the train stopped several times on the way for some technical difficulties – I think we even started going backwards at one point!), I actually felt sad that our hiking adventure was over. In a way, I felt like our vacation was over. What would tomorrow morning be like when we didn’t have to wake up at the ass-crack of dawn, in a cold tent, baby-wipe shower before a breakfast feast  prepared by Jorge in preparation for hours of walking?

Continue reading Lasting Impressions from Machu Picchu

My Favorite Machu Picchu Monuments & Moments

Machu Picchu is so overwhelming, it’s almost hard to make sense of it all and to truly take it all in. That being said, I wanted to highlight some of the most memorable parts of my visit to the ruins.

The Condor Temple
I loved how the wings of this temple are pretty much nature-made yet are so strikingly condor-like. No wonder the Incas worshiped nature.

The wings of the Condor Temple

Llamas, and sparrows, and chinchilas, oh my!
Yes, as I mentioned, I loved that there were animals throughout the ruins. From the bold blue sparrows to the photogenic llamas, the seemingly isolated ruins were really not that empty of life. And what better place to call home for this family of chinchillas that reside at Machu Picchu?

Family of chinchillas at Machu Picchu

Continue reading My Favorite Machu Picchu Monuments & Moments

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