The Cusco region under the lens
Trips are often when we take our best pictures. So when Microsoft decided to take us to Peru to try out the camera on their Lumia phones, we thought it was the best idea we’d heard in a while. A dreamy panorama, almost as magical when seen through a camera lens as it was with our own eyes: here is the tale of our special envoy’s journey.
After 15 hours of travel, I arrived in Cusco, a city that stands 3,400 meters high in the middle of the Andes—it’s actually one of the highest cities in the world. While flying over the area, the beautiful scenery had already captivated me. Then, when I landed, the disorientation was instantaneous.
At the airport, I was almost hypnotized by the crowd of people offering taxi, hotel, and restaurant services—pretty much anything a tourist could need. Our guide appeared and grabbed my suitcase, leading me to the car. I looked out the window as we moved through the streets, nearly forgetting the goal of the trip, and letting myself be inspired by what I saw before snapping any photos.
Before I even got acclimated to the altitude, I put away the competitor’s phone and started immersing myself in the world of Lumia. Then, once we were on the road and aboard the train that would take us to Machu Picchu, the magic really started to happen. The phone’s screen is wide, and its resolution, impressive; the image it yields is therefore almost as majestic as reality. You’ll see. (Important to note: I’m not a photographer!)
What followed was a visit to the famous peak that was rich in history. Of course, we were not alone: the site welcomes thousands of people every day. We visited the wonder of the world, which is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site, from top to bottom.
The next day, we left for Chincero village, to the north of Cusco. First, we visited a factory where yarn was being woven. Craft in its most elementary form. We learned about the plants that help make the colours rich; we even got to see how red is created by squishing insects. Yep, you read right. The visit also ended with a bout of shopping. Of course.
Then, we were back on the road towards the Moray archaeological site, which used to be an Inca agricultural research centre. While we explored the circular depressions—a splendid demonstration of the people’s skills—we learned that each of the 10 rings makes it possible to simulate 20 different microclimates. This is what allowed the Inca people to cultivate hundreds of plant species in one place.
A few meters away is the Parador, where we stopped for lunch. Not only were we treated to typical Peruvian fare, but also to a cooking demonstration on the ground, which took place on a covered bed of white-hot rocks, a technique called Pachamanca. A very different experience, accompanied with flute melodies and the hot midday sun. Perfection.
Our foray into the old capital of the Inca empire would end at the MAP Café, where the group met one last time to exchange memories and photos. The restaurant’s dining room is a windowed area overlooking the inner courtyard of the Cusco Pre-Colombian Art Museum. Magical, indeed.
Other must-sees in Cusco
The Plaza de Armas, the centre of the city’s tourist area. It is also a location where many deciding historical events took place. The plaza is overlooked by the Cathedral Basilica of the Assumption of the Virgin, and surrounded by buildings with a double architectural style: their foundations, which we can thank the Inca for, and the upstairs part, built by the Spanish.
Those who would like to meet Cusquenians in their everyday lives will need to explore the hilly streets surrounding the tourist area, moving away from the costumes and touristy scenery.
What to eat and drink in Cusco
There are more varieties of corn and potatoes in Peruvian agriculture than you would think. What really left an impression? Mainly the ceviche. In this area of the country, far from the shore, it is more often than not made with trout. Our favourite? The one served at Calle del Medio. This is also where we drank the best Pisco Sour, an emblematic cocktail made with pisco and green lemon juice.
Where we slept
We stayed at Costa Del Sol Ramada. The hotel is very well located, and the rooms are spacious and clean. But it’s the inner courtyard, the original lobbies and other enchanting meeting spaces that really left an impression.
No matter which hotel you choose, expect to pay a pretty hefty price (at least $150 USD per night): Cusco is one of the most expensive cities in Peru.