Travelers around South America rarely miss the Andean Capital, Cusco, in Peru. It is not only the base for the spectacular site of Machu Picchu, but it is also a perfect blend of history, traditions and modern trends. A Cusco city tour will lead an eco-minded traveler to discover untouched places, a genuine culture and a glorious history. Due to the increasing tourism, Cusco has become an international city, with people coming and going from every corner of the world. Cusco is the right place to stop for a few days, enjoying the beautiful pre-Columbian and colonial art and breathing the Incas atmosphere. What is surprising in Cusco, is the preservation of its peculiar nature, with Plaza de Armas as the travelers core centre.
Getting around in Cusco
The beauty of Cusco doesn’t match the transportation system, as far as sustainability is concerned. Tourists and inhabitants use to move around using minibuses and combis, usually packed, very old and not ecological. Tickets are very cheap though, with fares that normally are around 50 cents (Peruvian soles) for adults or 30 for children.
Approved radio taxi companies offer a safe and reliable service, but with higher fares (although still cheap). In this case there are more chances of finding a low emissions vehicle.
Trains and buses are usually caught to move outside Cusco. The railway company is called Perurail and provides customers with a smooth and, in some cases, excellent service. It is used to visit Machu Picchu, Puno and Urubamba, but, as the price is not that cheap, some travelers label it as overrated. In any case, it deserves at least a journey.
Walking and biking, which are considered the most sustainable and ecologic way of transport, are for the very healthy, fit and used to heights. Being located at over 3.000 meters of altitude, the air is very rarefied and makes it hard to breath under effort.
Travelers are advised to be very careful, moving slowly and avoiding physical effort for the first 24 hours of permanence in Cusco.
Eco tours and activity
Well, Cusco is considered the Mecca of any South American trip, so it obvious that tours and eco activities are very well spread out. Urban Adventures organizes both bike and walking day expeditions in Cusco and close surroundings. This is a good, way, though very tiring (remember you are 3.399 above sea level), to express your eco-friendly attitude. Urban Adventures walking tour lasts for 4 hours and stops in the most interesting point, like a coca shop or San Blas district, home to bohemians, artists and hippies.
Urban Adventures biking tour is a 3 hours journey through the fascinating Incan Empire archeological and mysterious sites.
For the fittest and most adventurous Chimu Adventures offer a 6 day Inca Trail tour, which incluse the famous 4 day trek to Macchu Picchu.
Kayaking is also possible along Urubamba and Apurimac rivers.
Green accommodation in Cusco
Cusco is very affordable for travelers tired bones, and there is also a good choice of green, environment oriented, accommodation. One of those is Cusco EcoPackers hostel, located in the main area of the city. Eco Inn Cusco and Rupa Wasi Eco Lodge are two worthy alternatives, with the latter serving fresh and local food.
Organic food and vegetarian dining
Peruvian food is traditionally based on corn, potatoes and chili, so that is the prove of a vegetarian attitude I their diet. After Spanish conquest and colonization, many new staples where brought from the Old Continent and now Peruvian cuisine is a blend of traditional and imported ingredients. Anyway, vegetarian and organic restaurants and bars run their business in the country, especially in Cusco.
A wise choice would be Greens Organic, located in Santa Catalina Angosta, 135, a few steps away from Plaza de Armas. They serve local and organic food and vegetarian dishes mixed with international cuisine.
A nice try is the vegan restaurant and salad bar Comedor Vegetariano, in Mercado San Blas. Prices are more than affordable, with an interesting menu, lovely food and a vegan-friendly owner. Recommended dishes are the veggie stuffed pepper, Peruvian Saltado and the potato yucca soup.
Photo Credit: Shapeshift