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Cusco & our not-so Rainbow Mountain hike

We arrived from Copacabana, Bolivia to Cusco, Peru just before Christmas. We checked in at Pariwana Hostel - by far the most well set-up hostel that we have stayed in throughout our entire stay here in South America. Their beds are 100% heavenly comfort, they have an abundance of shower/toilet cubicles with always reliable hot-water, speedy wifi, an internet room with plenty of computers, a movie room with hundreds of DVD’s to choose from, an outdoor sunny courtyard with table tennis & relaxing bean-bags, friendly staff, superb cleaners, spacious bedrooms & lockers, and their own bar/restaurant facilities with very reasonable priced food.

Our complimentary breakfast included a buffet between 730am - 12noon each day, so even those wanting an extra long sleep-in from partying too hard the night before wouldn’t’ miss breakfast. Three different types of bread rolls, guacamole on toast, banana bread, cereal, three different types of porridges with fruit, jams, coffee, tea.. our morning food options were endless!

With a tourist agency located right inside the hostel, this made getting information about things to do, places to see, and booking your excursions around Cusco so simple and easy.

The first few days in Cusco we relaxed, explored the city, and celebrated Christmas with our new friends. Our dorm-room was filled with absolute legends who we ventured out with on a pub-crawl the first night we met them.. validating our connection & shared love for enjoying life, this world, travel,.. and beer :)

Christmas eve Pariwana organised a three course dinner & wine event in their restaurant/bar, with people from all over the world coming together and celebrating with one another while away from their family and friends during this festive time of year. Christmas was probably the first time in which we felt a little home-sick during our trip, so it was good fun to share food and laughs with so many other awesome individuals.

After dinner we all headed out to the main plaza in Cusco, where thousands of locals (and tourists) traditionally gather to let off MILLIONS of fireworks, this is no exaggeration! Even children as young as 4 years old were running around with them, throwing them at peoples feet - there were certainly no rules on the streets this night with trees, bins, peoples clothing, and market stalls all being set on fire at some point or another. This went on for hours, even waking up to the sound of more nearby fireworks at 5am the next morning!

Once recovered from our Christmas-time festivities, we did a little more exploring in Cusco. We found an amazing lunch spot called “Green Point Cafe” - a vegetarian courtyard cafe offering a Menu del Dia (menu of the day) option for only 15 soles / $6 AUD including a juice, salad, bread, soup, main course (choice of two options - our favourites were the cashew nut spaghetti & the korma curry), and a dessert. The food here was so fresh, healthy, tasty, and very decent sized portions - we were blown away with the value for money! The store at the front of the restaurant also sells home made peanut butter, breads, olive oils, truffles, and cookies - we may or may not have grabbed a few take-away items! Even if you are a meat-lover, we don’t think this lunch option will disappoint!

San Pedro Mercado - Another awesome pro about Pariwana is that they have kitchen facilities for their guests to utilise, which can be hard to find when staying at hostel’s in city locations at times. This meant that we were able to go to the local market, San Pedro, and stock up on pastas, rice, quinoa, fruit, vegetables, eggs, bread, spices & nuts - and come back and make our own delicious gourmet meals! We did a big shop costing us no more than 15 soles / $6 AUD and this made us around 2 lunches each, 2 dinners each, and lots of snacks and leftovers!

Not only are San Pedro Markets wonderful for fresh produce, but they also have hundreds of vendors selling souvenirs, alpaca clothing, jewellery, leather goods, musical instruments, hats, watches, sunglasses.. you name it! We even got some of our clothes repaired that have ended up with holes/loose hemming’s during our travels, by the ladies lined-up with their sewing machines all for only around 4 soles / $1.50 AUD per item! Bring your bargaining-game and a big grocery bag and you will spend hours weaving through the aisles of this place!

One excursion high on our Peru bucket-list was the hike to Rainbow Mountain - we had three other friends staying at Pariwana who were interested in doing this also and we found a recommended agency close to the main plaza where we bartered for a price of 70 soles / $27 each which included:

  • pick-up from our hostel at 3.30am

  • transportation in a mini-bus to Rainbow mountain (around a 4 hour drive)

  • breakfast at a small village (pancakes, bread, jam, coffee & tea)

  • a guide throughout the hike (we walked separately from the guide as the trail was quite easy to follow)

  • lunch at a small village (soup, bread, and spaghetti bolognese)

  • return transportation to your hostel, arriving back at around 6pm

We arrived to the beginning of the trail-head at 8.30am, the sun was periodically poking out from behind the clouds, and it looked like it was going to be a beautiful day! We paid our 10 soles / $4 AUD entry, and began our hike - the first half an hour was all relatively flat, but as you are beginning at 4,500 metres altitude, even the slightest amount of incline was leaving many people breathless and taking the option of riding a horse up to the top. But we did it the true way - with our own two feet! Once we started to climb up through the valley, we spotted all the snow. There had obviously been a large dump the night before, and as we started to reach higher elevation, we were even able to make snow angels (as pictured - Pat, our awesome friend who had never seen snow before this day!). Our sunny morning turned into a foggy and grey one once we reached the top of the mountain - it took around a total of 1.5 hours for us to reach the peak of the viewpoint to Rainbow Mountain, but at this point there was certainly no rainbow colours in sight, solely snow & mist.

Despite not being able to see the famous four colours of green, yellow, red and black made up of different minerals on the mountain, we instead were blessed with an equally beautiful rainbow mountain hike experience - we were also pretty stoked that this was our highest altitude adventure to date.. reaching a high of 5,2000 metres above sea level!

As we also completed the Salkantay to Machu Picchu trek (a five day hiking and camping trip, more information about this in our next blog so stay tuned!), we spent around 2 x weeks in Cusco, and still could have stayed much much longer - it was the first big city that we had visited in South America that wasn’t covered in smog, and we found the Peruvian locals to be amongst the friendlies that we have come across during our time in this beautiful continent.

If you have any questions or want to share with us your own Cusco experience, feel free to send us a message via our “Say Hello” link above :) And be sure to read our blog about our Salkantay to Machu Picchu experience - the true highlight of our time here in Peru!

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