Exploring the Inca ruins and coca leaves in Cusco

They say when you first arrive at a new destination that sits at a high altitude – anything over about 2500 metres – you should rest immediately; lay down and do as little as possible. But when we arrive at Cusco, by plane, at an altitude of about 3390 metres, our guide Leo has other ideas.“We’ll drop our stuff at the hotel and then go for a walk,” he says. “I’ll give you about half an hour, meet in the lobby then.”

And so we’re off to explore the city centre. Leo believes this is the best way to ward off any potential altitude sickness. He’s been here a few times before, so we follow his lead. Though, secretly I suspect a few of us may have been looking forward to an excuse to relax for a while!

Cusco, in the Andean mountains in Peru, was once the capital of the Incan Empire and was the first Spanish capital of Peru. As such, it plays an important role in the country’s history. Today the influence of both the Incan and Spanish cultures can be seen throughout the city. It’s interesting, and a little disconcerting, to see Spanish buildings built on the foundations of Incan sites.

Our walk takes us through the beautiful Plaza de Armas – the main square – past the Cusco Cathedral and the Church la Campania de Jesus and up some rather steep local streets. We follow the Inca built wall along the Callejon de Loretto and stop in a couple of tourist shops to check out the Alpaca knits and traditional local dress. 

We stop at the Coca museum – well this is Peru after all – and learn about uses of the leaf beyond cocaine. And in particular how it can be used to offset the effects of altitude. One or two of our Two’s a Crowd guests may or may not have stopped to buy some leaves (you know the saying, what happens of tour, stays on tour). Cusco is a charming city to walk around, but it is very hilly and the following day it is with some relief, or so we think, that we all load into a van to take us to explore a series of Inca ruins on the outskirts of town.

We move higher into the heavens, up to almost 4000 metres to explore the remains of this remarkable civilisation. The air is thin and we all struggle a little with any physical activity but we make our way through the ruins slowly. When we first clamboured out of the bus at Qenqo it was difficult to see that what we were looking at could have held any significance whatsoever. To the untrained eye it looked like a pile of rocks. But walk behind the pile and it was clear to see that this was no naturally formed construction. Cuts in the rock and a tunnel underneath leading down man-made steps to an altar revealed its true origin.

From Qenqo we travel to Pucapucara, a series of rooms set out between walls made of rock sitting high on a hill and overlooking the amazing Andes mountain range.

The following day we are up early and on our way again. Our first stop, Sacsayhuman, is a remarkable display of the sheer strength of the Inca people. The size of the rocks, carved straight and smooth, and pushed into position to build walls is remarkable. I shudder to think how this site would have been built. Today, the grounds are very tranquil; we even get to see a few llamas strolling around the site, but it’s difficult not to think about the massive effort and the number of people that would have been needed to get those rocks into place!

If you’re feeling a little ‘ruin-ed’ out in Cusco you can visit the Awana Kancha llama and alpaca reserve and the Ccochahuasi Animal Sanctuary. At both sites you can get up close to the wildlife (look out for the Peruvian hairless dog!). Oh, and that little trick to avoid altitude sickness? I’m pleased to say no one got sick from the altitude. We moved slower, were quicker to tire and some of us even got sun burnt a little more easily, but keeping moving seemed to work. Diane Squires is a tour host with Two’s a Crowd.

A version of this post first appeared on Allabroad.com.au

What Our Clients Say

20 out of 10!

The trip was just great - I can't really think of any negatives. Diane will back me up when I say I usually give 10/10s - I gave her 20/10. Trish, Canada/Alaska

Excellent trip

I found the overall trip excellent. I believe Diane's professionalism, inclusive personality and ability to relate to all contributed to this. She worked to ensure the group was cohesive without individuals impinging on the personal space of others etc. a good skill to have and one she applied effectively. Kate, Canada/Alaska

Fantastic value for money

Fantastic value for money paid. Russell our guide is an asset to your company... he was fantastic! Overall the trip was magical from start to finish. Well done Two's a Crowd ... the best trip ever. Barbara, Canada/Alaska

Fantastic first solo trip

I had a fantastic trip. Absolutely loved Canada and Alaska. It's the first time I have travelled solo and was pleasantly surprised to find a bunch of people that all got on so well. Diane our host was great. She did a good job of getting us altogether for meals, excursions, shopping trips etc. I liked that she quietly got things done without being loud or "in-your-face". She was good at being one of us as well as our leader. Wendy, Canada/Alaska

Good balance of activities and spare time

Had a great time. Good mixture of organised activities and spare time. Diane was an excellent tour host. Russell the tour guide was great, very knowledgeable and personable with his insights into growing up and living in Canada. Sharon, Canada/Alaska

Well organised trip with an excellent host

The trip was well organised, with a good mix of activity and free time. The scenery was spectacular and fellow travellers were a great bunch. Diane is a excellent host - helpful, courteous and above all a pleasure to know. I found her bubbly personality a bonus and can only speak highly of her. Gary, Canada/Alaska

I had a fabulous time

I had a fabulous time. Lake Louise and the hotel were magnificent. The cruise was excellent. Diane made sure that she was available for group meals and sightseeing, and was alway in good humour and great fun. I would recommend your company to everyone and am very interested in the Scandinavia  tour at the end of 2017.

Cathy, Adelaide - Canada/Alaska May 2016

Great holiday

What a great trip! I experienced so much and participated in all that was offered. I had read and reviewed as much as time allowed me but was not prepared for what the trip gave me and that is a better understanding of the beautiful people of both countries. - Lesley on Vietnam/Cambodia

In good company

I thought the suggestions for optional things to do, in the "free" time were very good. So good, we really ended up with very little free time. So much to do! - Mary on Vietnam

Great time together

I found the trip interesting and eye opening with a great overview of both Vietnam and Cambodia. The other travellers on the trip were fabulous and we had a great time together. - Anonymous on Vietnam/Cambodia

Fantastic first experience!

Extremely well organised with fabulous guides throughout - especially in Vietnam! First holiday with your company and certainly not the last. - Glenys on Vietnam

Great group to travel with

Having a small group meant that the days were more relaxed and flexible and I really felt spoilt and looked after. Melinda on Borneo

Thoroughly enjoyed Uganda

Thoroughly enjoyed my trip especially Uganda. There was so much variety of things to do on this trip. Jaros & Julius were great. Thought in Kenya the Maasai Mara were beautiful people, so easy to get along with. Judy

Can’t stop talking about my experience

I just feel so privileged to have shared with the Maasai the most awe-inspiring majestic sights and sounds of Africa. The fantastic memories will be with me forever. Maureen

Absolutely enjoyable

Gillian was a fantastic host. She was there for us from the moment we reached Hotel Troy. Heather on Africa

Best holiday I’ve been on!

One of the best holidays that I have been on - really well organised. I would never have travelled to Vietnam or Cambodia on my own. Bronwyn

Well organised

Fun, well organised and a really great group. Barbara on Vietnam/Cambodia

Great time together

I found the trip interesting and eye opening with a great overview of both Vietnam and Cambodia. The other travellers on the trip were fabulous and we had a great time together.

Great value

Well done. No complaints. Very pleased with this trip. Great value for my hard earned dollars! Really enjoyed the [Vietnam/Cambodia] tour. 

Fabulous rapport filled with much humour!

A great bunch of people & I can't believe how we all had such a fabulous rapport filled with much humour!!!

I couldn’t fault anything.

The (Uniworld River) cruise was great, I met up with some wonderful people who treated me like part of the family !
The ship & crew were fantastic & the excursions were very good, I couldn't fault anything. I'd recommend this cruise to anyone.  Peter

Informative and educational

The entire trip was one of the most enjoyable and exciting. Also so informative and educational. I was so pleased to make the trip. Wish I was over there in that magical place.  Marjorie


I’ve just returned from the wonderful Kimberley trip.  It was my first experience with Two’s a Crowd and I was delighted.  Kay

Opportunity to experience

I have had the opportunity to experience things I would never had done by myself.  Solo travellers is a fantastic concept and use of social media has been a great way to share and keep in touch with friends and family. Judi

I need not have worried

Being my first tour and a senior member, I admit I was apprehensive but I need not have worried. It was great and I was very well looked after.  Can’t wait to go to Kenya with Two’s a Crowd.  Maureen

Smooth and seamless

A memorable trip of a lifetime, a wish fulfilled.  A fascinating cultural country steeped in history which I found totally enthralling.  Two’s a Crowd service was smooth and seamless.  Pam

A wonderful experience

It was a wonderful experience visiting Cambodia and Vietnam and gave me a better understanding of these countries. I had a great time with new friends, we had a good bunch and Leonie was the perfect host. Eric

Value for money

Value for money and outstanding co-operation from your staff and tour operators. Joan

Safe and secure and totally looked after

An awesome adventure for my first time overseas alone.  Leonie was excellent and both guides were also fantastic.  At all times I felt safe and secure and totally looked after.  Melinda

Well done Two’s a Crowd.

Leonie was an excellent host, the ideal person. I never felt any pressure to  be involved in every activity so I could explore alone during free time. Having 2 or 3 nights in most places was great – you could rest up or party. Well done Two’s a Crowd. Jenny

A completely different experience

It was a nice surprise holiday, a completely different experience from all my other holidays. Thanks. Piroska

I’ve had at least 10 travel agents.

In my travelling life, I’ve had at least 10 travel agents.  Two’s a Crowd is the first one where I haven’t had to correct anything in my travel documents.   Piroska

I’m so excited to have found you Two’s a Crowd.

“Finally. A travel company is recognising the needs of people like me”

This is perfect for me.

“I’ve been to Burma but can you please send me some information about other destinations. This is perfect for me.”

I really wanted to meet the people behind it

“I saw your ad in the local paper and could have phoned but I wanted to come in and congratulate you on starting this great business. I really wanted to meet the people behind it.”

Two’s a Crowd on the internet was definitely meant to be!

I’m really enthusiastic about the niche you are determined to cover in the market, and have the feeling stumbling on Two’s a Crowd on the internet was definitely meant to be.

I find them inspirational

Thanks for sending these emails as I find them inspirational and will sit dreaming for the next hour or so.

Thank you for providing a service for people like me

“I am very excited to read about your area of speciality, and look forward to devouring all information that might come my way. Thank you for providing a service for people like me.”

Excellent throughout.

The entire 14 days ran so smoothly from Two's a Crowd booking my flights to  airport transfers and then the 12 days camping in the Kimberley. Excellent throughout. Congratulations. Marjorie

See More Testimonials