Cusco: former capital of the once mighty Inca Empire; a place of elegant Spanish colonial architecture built atop sturdy pre-Columbian foundations; gateway to Machu Picchu and the Sacred Valley. And, it just so happens, a really great place for a bar crawl.
Yep, apart from all that other stuff, Cusco is a fun city for a drink or two. The historic center of Cusco is bursting with locals and foreigners—the latter representing every vacationing mindset from shoestring backpackers to high-rolling luxury tourists—and many of them end up in the bars (surprise, surprise), especially on the weekend.
Unfortunately, altitude and alcohol aren’t a great combination—and Cusco sits 11,200 feet above sea level. At this elevation, altitude sickness becomes a genuine concern, so you need to acclimatize. Don’t venture out on an epic bar crawl on your first night in town. Take it easy for at least 24 hours after you arrive in Cusco, giving your body some time to adapt.
Love and rohypnol are two other potential perils in Cusco’s bars and clubs. Before you fall in love with a local after five pisco sours, be aware of the brichera (female) and brichero (male). These amorous but amoral figures target foreign tourists with the aim of capturing their hearts before draining their bank accounts. As for rohypnol, it’s one of the preferred weapons of the pepera, the name given to the skilled drink spiker who targets wealthy-looking tourists to drug and then rob.
Suitably forewarned, it’s time for a bar crawl …
Tony Dunnell is a freelance writer living and traveling in Peru since 2009.