These first two months in Cusco have been a dream.
It’s hard to even believe that I’ve been here for almost two months already! Each day continues to surprise me with new discoveries and adventures, and there is still so much for me to learn about this amazing city and the people who live here. Cusco is beginning to feel more like home. I know which buses to catch to get to our classes. I know where to buy the best churros in town. I no longer get quite as out of breath walking up the stairs to our apartment, and our favorite lady in the San Blas market recognizes us when we arrive for lunch.
My first impressions of Cusco have been overwhelmingly positive. I keep telling my friends and family back home that they have to come visit, not just for the sake of seeing me, but for the sake of exploring this wonderful part of the world. Many international travelers might think of Cusco as just a starting point for Machu Picchu trips, but the city has so much to offer: rich history, vibrant culture, delicious food, beautiful scenery, and incredibly welcoming people.
One of my favorite things about Cusco is that it is an international city, yet it still maintains a strong sense of place and community.
Many travelers pass through Cusco, and the tourist industry is undeniably a major factor in the city. Its influence can be seen in the large number of hotels, restaurants, and shops aimed at international visitors.
There is also a relatively small but still prominent community of foreigners who live in Cusco. Many of them were once travelers who fell in love with the city and decided to stay, and their influence on the city is also noticeable. For example, the trendy San Blas neighborhood is filled with places like vegan grocers, yoga studios, and a delicious crepe restaurant, many of which are owned by international transplants.
However, while international influences definitely contribute to Cusco’s vibrant scene, they don’t dominate it. From the frequent street parades to the crazy number of steps to the omnipresent rainbow city flag, to me Cusco feels uniquely like Cusco and unlike any other city in the world.
If you get the chance to visit Cusco and stand in the central historic plaza at 6 a.m. to watch the sunrise, you will see backpackers and locals alike headed home from a night of dancing at the same time as families are arriving to attend mass at the majestic colonial-era cathedral. This is a perfect snapshot of Cusco: international and local, modern and historic, social and serious, and above all, breathtakingly beautiful.