Peru Travel Information
The high-flying Andean city of Cusco (also Cuzco or Qosq'o in the Quechua language) is the uneasy bearer of many grandious titles. It was once the foremost city of the Inca Empire, and is now the undisputed "Archaeological Capital of the Americas", as well as the continent's oldest continuously inhabited city. Few travelers to Peru will skip visiting this premier South American destination, which is also the
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The high-flying Andean city of Cusco (also Cuzco or Qosq'o in the Quechua language) is the uneasy bearer of many grandious titles. It was once the foremost city of the Inca Empire, and is now the undisputed "Archaeological Capital of the Americas", as well as the continent's oldest continuously inhabited city. Few travelers to Peru will skip visiting this premier South American destination, which is also the
gateway to the Machu Picchu & Choquequirao Sanctuary Complexes.
Although Cusco was long ruled by an Inca (king) or a Spanish conquistador, there's no question of who rules the roost in the 21st century: city life is almost totally at the whim of international tourists. These days, nearly every building surrounding the historic Plaza de Armas seems to be a tourist hotel, restaurant, shop, travel agency or busy Internet café.
While Cusco has rapidly developed infrastructure to at least partly cope with the influx of tourism over the last few decades, its historical past retains a powerful grip on the present. Massive Inca-built walls line steep, narrow cobblestone streets and form the foundations of modern buildings. The plazas are thronged with Quechua-speaking descendants of the Incas, and ancient treasures are carefully guarded inside colonial mansions & churches, and even below the ground surface many old constructions are still found, as those recently found at the 1st block of El Sol avenue, near the Plaza de Armas.
USEFUL INFORMATION ABOUT CUSCODangers & Annoyances:
- While most travelers will experience few problems in Cusco, it's a fact that more tourists are robbed here than in any other Peruvian city. Take special care going to and from the train stations and the central market, as these are prime areas for pickpockets and bag slashers.
- Ruthless robberies in taxis have been on the rise. When taking cabs, use only official taxis – look for the company's lit telephone number on top of the taxi.
- Lock your doors from the inside, and never allow the driver to admit a second or third passenger.
- Avoid walking by yourself late at night or very early in the morning. Revelers returning late home from bars, discos or setting off for the Inca Trail before sunrise are particularly vulnerable to "mata-leon" (choke & grab) attacks.
- Don't buy drugs. Dealers & police often work together, and Procuradores (Gringo alley) is one of several areas in which you can make a drug deal and get busted all within a couple of minutes. Women especially should try not to let go of their glass of liquor or accept drinks from strangers; spiking drinks with drugs has been frequently reported and continued with rape & stealing.
- Take care not to overexert yourself during your first few days if you've flown in from lower elevations, such as Lima or Puerto Maldonado. You may find yourself quickly becoming winded or dizzy while traipsing up and down Cusco's narrow streets. A few luxury hotels offer in-room Oxygen supplements, which may ease some of the headaches and insomnia that are common ailments at high elevations.
Money & Costs:
- Many banks on Av. El Sol and shops around the Plaza de Armas have foreign-card-friendly ATMs, as do the airport and the main bus terminal.
- Casas de Cambio (foreign exchange bureaus) give varying exchange rates and are scattered around the main plazas and along Av. El Sol. Moneychangers can be found outside banks, but their rates aren't much better than "casas de cambio" and rip-offs are common.
- BCP: (Av. El Sol 189) has a Visa ATM, gives cash advances on Visa, and changes US dollars and traveler's checks.
- Interbank: (Av. El Sol 380) 24-hour global ATM machines accept American Express, Cirrus, MasterCard, Plus, Visa, etc.
- LAC Dolar: (25-7969; Av. El Sol 150; 9am-8pm Mon-Sat) Reliable casa de cambio that has fair rates and changes traveler's checks into Soles for no commission.
CUSCO TOURIST TICKET
Tourist Ticket Rates (BOLETO TURISTICO CUSCO):
- Foreigners: S/. 130.00 approx. (US $ 51,00).
- Students: S/. 70.00 approx. (US $ 28,00).
- Partial Ticket: S/. 70.00 approx. (US $ 28,00). (Only for partial circuit; only for students under 26 with ISIC cards). Children under 10 years are FREE.
- This ticket does not include Machu Picchu: Also does not include the Koricancha - Santo Domingo Complex - separate entrance fee of S/. 10 Soles, approx. (US $ 4,00) and does not include entrance to the Cathedral, its fee is S/. 25 Soles approx. (US $10,00) the religious place is managed by the Catholic Church.
- Head Office to buy tickets: Av. El Sol N° 103, (Mon-Fri 8am to 5:30pm & Sat from 8:30 to 12:30).
- OFEC Branch Office: calle Garcilaso s/n (Mon-Sat 8AM to 5PM & Sun 8AM to 8PM). Tourist Ticket may be also purchased in our offices.
- Cusco Tourist Ticket: (Boleto Turistíco) allows you to see and know the most important & historical places of the city, and some archaeological complexes that are located in the local surrounding area of the city of Cusco.
The ticket allows you entry to the following places:
- Cusco Cathedral.
- Religious Art Museum.
- Church of San Blas.
- Regional History Museum.
- Puca Pucara.
- Pachacutec Monument.
- Performance of Andean Dances & Live music.
- Population: 384,935 (2007).
- Area: 70,015.3 km2 (27,033 sq mi).
- Elevation: 3,410 m (10,860 ft) at the Plaza de Armas.
Cusco is nestled in the Huatanay river valley, high in the Andes mountain range at a whopping 3,400 meters (10,800 ft). It is surrounded by rough and rocky mountainous terrain and is close to the Urubamba valley or the Sacred Valley, which was an important agricultural center for the Incas. To fully appreciate the surrounding geography of Cusco, taking a flight into the city gives you an absolutely jaw-dropping view of the snow-capped Ausangate & the Salkantay mountains along with the entire Andes range stretching far to the North; make sure to sit on the left side of the plane when coming from Lima, with the North facing to the window in order to catch this unforgettable picture of Cusco's geography. Buses coming into the city from the coast also give very spectacular, astounding, mesmerizing views for you to take many snapshots.
CUSCO CLIMATECusco has a subtropical highland climate (Köppen Cwb). Its climate is generally dry and temperate, with two defined seasons:
- The Dry Season: lasts from April through November, with abundant sunshine, and occasional night-time freezes: July is the coolest month with an average of 9.6°C (49.3°F).
- The Wet Season: lasts from November to March, with night frosts less common: November averages 13.4°C (56.1°F). Although frost & hail are common, snow is virtually unheard of, but occasionally occurs. The only one big snowfall was recorded in June 1911.
HOW TO GET TO CUSCO
- Nearly all departures & arrivals from Cusco's Aeropuerto Internacional Alejandro Velasco Astete (code CUZ; 22 2611), a few kilometers south of the city center, are in the day, because climatic conditions in the afternoons typically make landings & takeoffs more difficult but since 2014, when a modern night landing light system were installed at the Airport runway, there are increasing flights at night, being the last at 8pm. Several airlines offer regular daily flights to & from Lima. These may get canceled or lumped together with other flights during quiet periods. Your best bet is to reserve the earliest flight available, as later ones are the most likely to be delayed or canceled if weather changes. A few domestic carriers also have regularly scheduled flights to La Paz, Puerto Maldonado, Juliaca, Arequipa and Tacna.
- Flights tend to be overbooked, especially in high season, so confirm your flight when you arrive in Cusco, then reconfirm 72 hours in advance and again 24 hours before departure. If you buy your ticket from a reputable travel agency, the staff will reconfirm for you.
- Check in at least 2 hours before your flight. Beware that check-in procedures are often chaotic, and even people with confirmed seats and boarding passes occasionally have been denied boarding because of overbooking errors. During the rainy season, flights can be postponed for 24 hours due to bad weather. Bring all valuables and essentials with you on the plane, and securely lock any checked baggage.
- AERO CONDOR PERU: (www.aerocondor.com); It has 3 daily flights from/to Lima & thrice weekly from/to Puerto Maldonado.
- LAN: (www.lan.com); Av. El Sol 627B. Major regional airline with 20 daily direct flights from/to Lima, Arequipa, Juliaca & Puerto Maldonado.
- STAR PERU: (www.starperu.com); Two daily flights from/to Lima.
- LC PERU: (www.lcperu.pe); It has 5 daily flights from/to Lima.
- PERUVIAN AIRLINES: (www.peruvianairlines.pe); Two daily flights from/to Lima.
- TACA: (www.taca.com); 1 daily flight from/to Lima (except on Wednesdays).
- AVIANCA: (www.avianca.com); 5 flights from/to Lima daily.
- AMASZONAS: (www.amaszonas.com); 1 flight daily from/to La Paz at 10am.
Cusco by Land:
- All international services depart from Cusco's main long-distance bus terminal.
- For Bolivia, several companies offer through buses to Copacabana (13 hours) and La Paz (18 hours). Many will swear blind that their service is direct, though the buses usually stop in Puno for several hours in the middle of the night until the border opens. You get daily buses departing around 9pm or 10pm.
- Terminal Terrestre, the town's main long-distance bus terminal (departure tax US$ 0.30), is 2km southeast of the Plaza de Armas, several blocks off Av. El Sol. This is where you'll find all of the major luxury bus companies, including Tepsa, MovilTours, Oltursa, Cruz del Sur & Ormeño, as well as scores of smaller económicos (economic). Regular buses depart frequently for Puno (US$6.50 - US$10.50, 6 to 7 hours) via Juliaca. But why not treat yourself ?
- Qeros Tours Peru can offer luxury tourist-class cars/vans/buses with panoramic windows to Puno, with departures every morning. The splurge-worthy US $ 35 fare includes beverages and an English-speaking tour guide, who talks about the various sites that are briefly visited en route, including Andahuaylillas, Raqchi, Abra La Raya and Pucará.
- There are now two options to get to Lima. Most direct buses now ply the quicker route via Abancay & Nasca to Lima (US $ 30 - US $ 55, 17-23 hours), but this can be a rough ride and is prone to crippling delays during the rainy season. Companies include the most luxurious Cruz del Sur, Tepsa, Oltursa, MovilTours, Internacional Palomino and the cheapest is Expreso Sanchez.
- The alternative is to go via Arequipa, a longer but more comfortable and reliable route for reaching Lima (25 to 27 hours). Oltursa Royal Class, Ormeño, Cromotex have a daily departure at 9am, but this route also costs notably higher than the shorter rout via Abancay.
- Buses to Quillabamba (5 to six hours) via Santa María leave a few times per day from the Santiago bus terminal in western Cusco. Daytime buses to Quillabamba are safer and have spectacular scenery while climbing the 4,600m Abra Malaga and then dropping down into the steamy jungle, the route is completely paved.
- Buses to Puerto Maldonado in the Amazon Jungle (10 hours) via Urcos leave from Cusco's Bus Station every day from 6:00pm - 8:00pm. Getting to Manu NP is just as problematic. We recommend you ask for our Manu Jungle Adventure Service or ask one of our agents.
Cusco by Train:
- Cusco has two train stations: Huanchaq Train Station, near the end of Av. El Sol, serves Juliaca and Puno on Lake Titicaca and the San Pedro Train Station, next to the Mercado Central, serves Ollantaytambo in the Sacred Valley & Aguas Calientes (Machu Picchu). Estación Huanchaq (Estación Wanchaq has trains for Puno that usually leave at 8 am. The journey has great views of the Andes and along the shores of Lake Titicaca, but even in the best class, some seats are not very comfortable, and the ride is known for being a "bone shaker", Machu Picchu trains actually leave from the Poroy & Ollantaytambo stations. For more info, ask our agents.
Getting around in Cusco:
- Getting around in Cusco is straightforward and relatively simple, especially because so many of the city sights are within walking distance of Plaza de Armas, in the historic center. You will mostly depend on leg power & omnipresent, inexpensive taxis to make your way around town.
Cusco by Foot:
- Most of Cusco is best navigated by foot, although because of the city's 11,000-foot elevation and steep climbs, walking is demanding. Allow extra time to get around, and carry a bottle of water. You can walk to the major complexes just beyond the city (Sacsayhuamán and Q'enko) but you should be rather fit to do so. It's also best to undertake those walks in a small group and not alone.
Cusco by Taxi:
- Unlike in Lima, taxis are regulated in Cusco and charge standard rates (although they do not have meters). Taxis are inexpensive and are a good way to get around, especially at night. Hailing a cab in Cusco is considerably less daunting than in Lima, but you still should call a registered taxi when traveling from your hotel to train or bus stations or the airport, and when returning to your hotel late at night (there have been reports of muggings and even rapes tied to rogue taxis).
Cusco by Rent-a-Car:
- Renting a car in the Cusco region (more than likely to visit the beautiful Sacred Valley & mountain villages) is a more practical idea than in most parts of Peru. Rental agencies which has pickups and even Toyota Land Cruisers. The other option is to hire private service tours to visit touristic places; that service include private transportation and guide.
CUSCO HEALTH AND SAFETY
- It is best to drink bottled water while traveling to Cusco as with anywhere through South America to prevent contracting any harmful parasites or water-borne illnesses. If no bottled water is available, be sure to travel with water purification tablets or boil water for 15 minutes to eliminate any harmful bacteria.
- Many travelers are affected by the high altitude in the city. It is best to avoid caffeine, smoking or alcohol as this will amplify the effects of dehydration that altitude often induces – be sure to drink lots of water as well. Munching on coca leaves or drinking coca tea is a good remedy for "Soroche" (Altitude sickness). Medication is also available from all good pharmacies & drugstores.
- Travelers in Cusco should always remain wary of thieves. This particularly applies when in crowds or at bars and restaurants, where bag-slashing or pick-pocketing can be easily concealed. Store valuable items in your hotel safe and always keep an eye on your bags – never leave bags unattended while you're there.
Medical services in Cusco: Cusco's medical facilities are limited; head back to Lima for serious procedures.
- Clínica Pardo: Av. de la Cultura 710; 24hr. Consultation US$ 20.00 (Local Phone: 24 0387).
- Clínica Paredes: Lechugal 405; 24hr. Consultation US$ 30 (Local phone: 22 5265).
- Hospital Regional: (23 9792, emergencies 22 3691; Av. de la Cultura s/n; 24hr). Cheaper than private clinics, but not as consistently good. Consultation is US$ 7.50. Yellow-fever vaccinations available 9am to 1pm. on Saturdays.
- InkaFarma: (24 2967; Av. El Sol 214; 24hr). A well-stocked pharmacy.
- Tourist Medical Assistance: (TMA; 26 0101; Heladeros 157; 24hr). Offers emergency medical services, health information and legal assistance.
RESTAURANTS IN CUSCOMost Better restaurants in Cusco:
- Inka Grill, Portal de Panes 115, Plaza de Armas. This is, according to many, the best food in town with some excellent “Novo Andean” cuisine on offer. This means they use native ingredients and revived Andean recipes alongside more modern and innovative cooking techniques to create some excellent and intriguing dining options. They also have a wide selection of vegetarian dishes, hearty home-made pasta, delicious coffee and sumptuous takeaway pastries to feast on. Good service is at hand with attentive staff.
- Tunupa, Portal Confiturias 233, 2nd Floor, Plaza de Armas, Cusco - $10. This is another offering on the Plaza de Armas with a large variety of food. Options include a fabulous dinner buffet with meat, seafood, vegetables and traditional Peruvian fare. It usually caters for groups meaning there is usually a lively and jovial atmosphere. There is an evening show every day with colorful Andean musicians and dancers or alternatively there are seats and tables with an excellent view of Cusco's Plaza de Armas.
- Inkanto, Portal de Carnes 254, Plaza de Armas, Cusco - $11. Pristine décor greets guests to Inkanto with crisp white tablecloths and good quality furnishings. The food does not disappoint – this is chiefly Italian cuisine with fantastic pizza, pasta and risotto enough to make your mouth water without even considering the freshly baked bread rolls with olive oil and balsamic vinegar that come as an aperitif. A great option for those looking for some fine Italian food on the square.
- Cicciolina, Triunfo 393, Cusco - $11. This is another Mediterranean offering with Italian food again taking center place but by no means the exclusive option. Tasty aperitifs include shellfish marinated in coconut milk with Asian spices. The entrées feature Italian pastas – one particularly good dish is the Lamb Ragu which has an outstanding sauce. Moroccan spices also feature and even the odd Peruvian number – "Causa de Cuy" is a delicious pureed potato dish with fresh lime and – you guessed it – Guinea Pig, an Andean delicacy that has been eaten for centuries.
- Granja de Heidi, Cuesta San Blas 525, 2nd Floor, San Blas, Cusco - $4. A fresh-from-the-farm restaurant with top quality local ingredients, Granja de Heidi is a great value restaurant in the San Blas district of Cusco. Wonderfully healthy home cooking is the order of the day with a range of locally inspired dishes infused with the style of the pleasant German chef-owner. Vegetarian options are also available, with the Rocoto Relleno (stuffed red chili pepper), a definite hit for those who can handle their spices. The desserts are simply exquisite – try the Chocolate Fudge cake which will leave you in awe of how chocolate can actually be made to taste that good.
- Chez Maggy, Procuradores 344, 365, 374, Cusco - $5. Maggy's always has a great atmosphere with backpackers and it offers a great value meal with Peruvian, Mexican and Italian food... all on the menu. Particular favorites are pizza and the Ravioli dishes, an excellent take on the Italian original with their own distinct Andean influences and flavors. There are three locations on Procuradores street though the last one on the left probably has the most authentic and rustic character.
- El Molino, Plateros 339, Cusco - $5. This is another excellent pizza & pasta restaurant tucked away close by to the Plaza de Armas. It is locally owned and has a cozy and intimate environment with wooden tables and colorful painted murals on the walls. It is beautifully warmed by the central wood stove that cooks delicious flavors of pizza with crusty and thin hand-rolled dough. Try the ham, mushroom and pepper special, some salty anchovies with olives or stick to simple Pepperoni and cheese - there is even an experimental "Fruit Calzone" for those who are looking for something a bit sweeter.
CUSCO TRADITIONAL FOODEven though many places offer menus in English, words often seem strange and have meanings they don't mean the same to native speakers. One of these is the word "typical". It appears in restaurant names and in the descriptions of their offerings. It is so common. And yet, it does not have exactly the meaning it does for most English speakers. To the people of Cusco the word "typical" suggests food that symbolizes Cusco. The mere mention of "typical dishes" brings to mind the city and its region, as well as its calendar of feasts, since many of these dishes are obligatory for certain days of the calendar, much as Turkey and Cranberry sauce are for an American Thanksgiving. In what follows, we list and describe some of these typical dishes that you can find in Cusco. They are delicious and stem from Cusco's geographic diversity and its traditions.
- Adobo: A pork stew made with Chicha (corn beer), it is particularly consumed for New Year's day in hope for good luck in the coming year since the pig symbolizes abundance.
- Puchero: This stew traditionally called "timpu", is eaten in february as part of the celebration of carnival, it is made from lamb and vegetables.
- The 12 dishes of Holy Week: As its name indicates, these are 12 dishes that are served on this important time, the dishes stand for the twelve apostles and they are prepared on the basis of various fruits, vegetables and fish; however, they may not contain meat in honor of Christ's passion.
- Watia: Traditional, typical dish consumed in June, it is prepared in rustic ovens made in the countryside in the moment from clods of dirt (kurpas), its main ingredients are: potatoes, sweet potatoes, oca (a native tuber) and uchukuta (a famous andean hot sauce).
- Chiriuchu: In Quechua, chiriuchu means "cold food", it consists of small pieces of roasted Cuy (guinea pig), boiled chicken, jerky or chalona (a salted, dried meat), sausages, fish eggs, cheese, corn fritters, parched corn and qochayuyo (dried seaweed), and finally the rocoto pepper, it is prepared for the feast of Corpus Christi in either May or June.
- Roasted Cuy (guinea pig): This is the most symbolically important dish of the Cusco region, it is prepared for important events. condimented with wacatay (black mint), garlic, cumin and salt, the cuy is oven roasted.
- Choclo con Queso: This dish consists of ears of fresh corn, boiled and served with pieces of fresh, local cheese.
- Chairo: This is a local soup prepared with pieces of lamb or beef, tripe, bacon, potatoes, squash, white freeze-dried potatoes (moraya), wheat, carrots and cabbage.
- Sara Lawa: An andean cream soup made from fresh, ground corn, potatoes, cheese and eggs, it is seasoned with turmeric.
- K’apchi de Setas: This is a stew whose ingredients are mushrooms, green broad beans, potatoes and milk, it is served with rice.
- Escabeche de gallina o pescado: Pieces of either cooked fish or chicken are pickled in vinegar along with boiled onions, cauliflower, carrots, peas and are served with a dusting of chopped parsley.
- Solterito: A stew of vegetables such as carrots, broad beans, onion, seaweed and strips of bacon skin.
- Picante de Tarwi: This is an energy-rich dish made with Tarwi (edible lupine seeds), it also has potatoes, cheese and is seasoned with garlic, hot pepper, onions, mint and wacatay (black mint), it is served with a toasted and boiled rice.
- Drinks: Chicha (corn beer), Cocona juice, Chicha Morada, Frutillada, Aguajina.
CUSCO TOURIST ATTRACTIONS
- Cusco History: Long before the Incas occupied the Cusco valley, various indigenous groups had settled in the region. Most notable of these were the Sawasirays, Antasayac, who farmed in the valley around 700-800 AD – they too constructed temples from the hard rocks of the surrounding mountains. The ruins of some of these still remain; others were built on top of and incorporated into the design of Inca Temples after they reigned in the region (ironically, much in the same fashion as the Spanish would impose their own religious structures on to Inca foundations).
- Despite a rich tapestry of pre-Incan culture in the region, the Inca's developed another depiction of the founding of Cusco. According to Inca legend, Manco Capac and his sister Mama Ocllo emerged from Lake Titicaca to travel across the Andes and found the city of Cusco. They were sent by the Sun god Inti to find a suitable spot where they could sink a golden staff easily into the ground. The first place they found was the site of Cusco and the early Inca people developed an economy around farming and weaving here, skills that were taught by Manco Capac and Mama Ocllo.
- The expansion of the Inca Empire to incorporate other Andean peoples began with the reign of Pachacutek Yupanqui midway through the 1400s. He swiftly gained political and religious control over the surrounding regions. He conquered other peoples both by force and by benevolent subversion, imposing Quechua as a common language and creating a state religion.
- Cusco was crafted as the center of his empire. As a part of the city's development the buildings were transformed into grand stone structures with fantastic architecture that have lasted to this day. It became a thriving metropolis that could rival any Mesoamerican or European city of the time; the hub of an expansive empire that, at its largest, would stretch from southern Colombia to northern Argentina and from the Amazon to the Pacific. Pachacutek masterminded Cusco to resemble the shape of a Puma. Its head was the ferocious Sacsayhuaman, its heart was the Huacaypata ceremonial square (now the Plaza de Armas), its hips were Qoricancha (symbolizing the reproductive center of Inca religion) and its tail was at the junction between the two rivers, Saphi and Tullumayo, that had been redirected to provide water to the city.
- This care and precision that was poured into Cusco's planning extended beyond animal imagenary: at its height, colonial Cusco was an absolute masterpiece of urban planning, with the best architecture in the empire being saved for the sacred capital. Cusco was divided into 4 quarters, each of which corresponded to one quarter of the Inca Empire: Chinchaysuyu to the northwest, Antisuyu to the northeast, Qontisuyu to the southwest and Collasuyu to the southeast. The streets were lined with smartly constructed houses and temples; they ran straight and thin and with channels to guide rain waters and avert flooding.
- The arrival of the Spanish turned Cusco to a very different purpose. It became the key to extracting the wealth of the Incas; the immense quantities of gold and silver that the Incas had refined. The Spanish imposed their own leadership on the city in order to gain control of the vast population within the Inca domain, and to extract tribute from the various corners of the Empire. They stripped the city of any precious metal that could be found, destroying and melting down an unquantifiable amount of artwork and religious objects that had been crafted in gold and silver by artisans of the Empire. These were transported to the coast and loaded on to ships to be transported to Spain. Only through imagination can one contemplate how the city would have looked in its prime.
- With the introduction of the new Capital city, Lima and the shift in Spanish interest to Silver mines in the south (such as Potosi, Bolivia), Cusco's importance slowly dwindled, and it became a quiet provincial town of the republic for the following centuries, firstly for the Imperial Viceroyalty of the Spanish Empire and subsequently for the Peruvian Republic, which became independent in 1821. To recognize this extraordinary cultural history, reflected in the unique architecture, UNESCO declared Cusco a World Heritage Site in 1983.
- Barrio de San Blas: This neighborhood housing artisans, workshops and craft shops, is one of the most picturesque sites in the city. Its streets are steep and narrow with old houses built by the Spanish over important Inca foundations. It has an attractive square and the oldest parish church in Cusco, built in 1563, which has a carved wooden pulpit considered the epitome of Colonial era woodwork in Cusco. The Quechua name of this neighborhood is Toq'ocachi which means the "Opening of the Salt". Calle Hatun Rumiyuq: This street is the most visited by tourists. On the street Hatun Rumiyoq ("Of the Old Rock") was the palace of Inca Roca, which was converted to the Archbishop's residence. Along this street that runs from the Plaza de Armas to the Barrio de San Blas, one can see the "Stone of 12 Angles", which is viewed as marvel of ancient stonework and has become emblematic of the city's history.
- Convent and Church of La Merced: Its foundation dates from 1536. The first complex was destroyed by the earthquake of 1650 and the rebuilding of the church and convent was completed in 1675. Its cloisters of Baroque Renaissance style, choir stalls, colonial paintings and wood carvings are highlights of a visit to this church, now a popular museum and tourist attraction. Also, on view is an elaborate monstrance made of gold and gemstones which weighs 22 kilos and is 130 cm (51.18 in) in height.
- Cusco Cathedral: The first cathedral built in Cusco is the Iglesia del Triunfo, built in 1539 on the foundations of the Palace of Viracocha Inca. Today, this church is an auxiliary chapel of the Cathedral. The main basilica cathedral of the city was built between 1560 and 1664. Stone was used as the main material, which was extracted from nearby quarries, although some blocks of red granite were taken from the fortress known as Sacsayhuamán. This great cathedral, of Renaissance plan interior presents late-Gothic, Baroque and plateresque interiors, and has one of the most outstanding examples of colonial goldwork. Its carved wooden altars are also important. The city developed a distinctive style of painting known as the "Cusco School", and the cathedral houses a major collection of local artists of the time.
- Plaza de Armas: Known as the "Square of the Warrior" in the Inca era, this plaza has been the scene of several important events in the history of this city, such as the proclamation by Francisco Pizarro in the conquest of Cusco. Similarly, the Plaza de Armas was the scene of the death of Túpac Amaru II, considered the indigenous leader of the resistance. The Spanish built stone arcades around the plaza which endure to this day. The main cathedral and the Church of La Compañía, both open directly onto the plaza.
- Church of La Compañía: This church, whose construction was initiated by the Jesuits in 1576 on the foundations of the Amarucancha or the palace of the Inca Huayna Capac, is considered one of the best examples of colonial baroque style on the American continent. Its façade is carved in stone and its main altar is made of carved wood covered with gold leaf. It was built over an underground chapel. This church has a valuable collection of colonial paintings of the Cusco School.
- Koricancha and Convent of Santo Domingo: The Coricancha (Quri Kancha) was the most important sanctuary dedicated to the Sun god Inti at the time of the Inca Empire. This temple was named the site of gold because all its walls were covered with gold leaf by the Incas. With this structure as a foundation, colonists built the Convent of Santo Domingo, in the Renaissance style. The building, with one baroque tower, exceeds the height of many other buildings in this city.
- Sacsayhuaman: to the north of Cusco, is another imposing example of Inca architecture. The ceremonial center was for years thought to be a military fortress built to safeguard the city from possible attacks by the Antis, an invading force from the East. After careful inspection of the layout, however, it is now believed to be a sanctuary and temple to the Sun, which actually rises opposite where the Inca's throne was once located. After Inca priests were excavated from the site in 1982, the hypothesis that the venue was a ceremonial location was strengthened further. The exact function of the site will probably continue to be disputed, but what is heavily admired is the architecture of Sacsayhuaman. The slabs used to build the center interlock together so perfectly that it is impossible to fit a piece of paper in between any two blocks, despite the fact they are a variety of various shapes and sizes. A little way further outside of Cusco on the route to Pisaq in the Sacred Valley is Tambomachay, which is said to be a the sacred bathing spring of Inca rulers and their royal women, although its exact purpose is under question: other theories pose that it was a resting place for the Inca, a hunting ground, or the site of a water cult. The site consists of a number of fountains and large ceremonial stone bath known as the Bath of the Inca.
- Puka Pukara: is just opposite Tambomachay and is composed of several chambers which are supposed by many to have functioned as a hunting lodge or guard post to the sacred valley. This is nicknamed the red fortress due to the fact that it is built of stones that emanate a pink tinge. The complex contains agricultural terraces, stairways, tunnels and watchtowers.
- The Temple of Qenqo: meaning 'zigzag' appears to have functioned as an amphitheater. The temple gets its name from the number of channels that criss-cross the stone work. These channels probably carried either sacrificial Chicha or blood for the purpose of appeasing the gods and divination.
- The Sacred Valley of the Incas: It was undoubtedly a key area of settlement to the Incas. Its agreeable climate and fertile plains make a rare and fruitful combination for the high Andes. It was also the route to the jungle and therefore an area with access to the fruits and plants of the tropical lowlands. Pisac: Most people visit Pisac to see the market on Sunday, but there are smaller markets on both Tuesday and Thursday. However, Pisac is a pretty village and has plenty of small handicraft shops and is worth a visit on any day of the week. Pisac Ruins: A vital Inca road once snaked its way up the canyon that enters the Urubamba Valley at Pisac. The citadel, at the entrance to this gorge, now in ruins, controlled a route which connected the Inca Empire with Paucartambo, on the border of the eastern jungles. Set high above a valley floor patch-worked by patterned fields and rimmed by vast terracing, the stonework and panoramas at Pisac's Inca citadel are magnificent. Terraces, water ducts and steps have been cut out of solid rock, and in the upper sector of the ruins, the main Sun Temple is equal of anything at Machu Picchu. Above the temple lies still more ruins, mostly unexcavated, and among the higher crevices and rocky overhangs several ancient burial sites are hidden. Urubamba (Quechua: Urupampa, which means "Flat land of Spiders") is a small town in Peru, located near the Urubamba river under the snowcapped mountain of Chicón. The town is located near a number of significant fortresses of the Inca Empire, and frequently houses tourists visiting those sites and at the same time you can enjoy here the more delicious typical food.
- Ollantaytambo is a town and an Inca archaeological site in southern Peru, some 60 kilometers northwest of the city of Cusco. It is located at an altitude of 2,792 meters (9,160 feet) above sea level, in the district of Ollantaytambo, province of Urubamba, Cusco region. During the Inca Empire, Ollantaytambo was the royal estate of Emperor Pachacuteq, who conquered the region, built the town and a ceremonial center. At the time of the Spanish conquest of Peru, it served as a stronghold for Manco Inca Yupanqui, leader of the Inca resistance. Nowadays, it is a very important tourist attraction on account of its Inca buildings and as one of the most common starting points for the 3-day, 4-night hike known as the "Inca Trail". Around the mid-15th century, the Inca emperor Pachacuteq conquered and razed Ollantaytambo; the town and the nearby region were incorporated into his personal estate. During the Spanish conquest of Peru, Ollantaytambo served as a temporary capital for Manco Inca, leader of the native resistance against the conquistadores. He fortified the town and its approaches in the direction of the former Inca capital of Cusco, which had fallen under Spanish domination. In 1536, on the plain of Mascabamba, near Ollantaytambo, Manco Inca defeated a Spanish expedition blocking their advance from a set of high terraces and flooding the plain. Despite his victory, however, Manco Inca did not consider his position enduring, so the following year he withdrew to the heavily forested site of Vilcabamba. In 1540, the native population of Ollantaytambo was assigned in Encomienda to Hernando Pizarro. In the 19th century, the Inca ruins at Ollantaytambo attracted the attention of several foreign explorers.
- Chinchero is a small Andean Indian village located high up on the windswept plains of Anta at 3,762m about 30 km from Cusco. There are beautiful views overlooking the Sacred Valley of the Incas, with the Cordillera Vilcabamba and the snow-capped peak of Salkantay dominating the western horizon. Chinchero is believed to be the mythical birthplace of the rainbow. Its major claim to tourism is its colorful Sunday market which is much less tourist-orientated than the market at Pisac. The village mainly comprises mud brick (adobe) houses, and locals still go about their business in traditional dress. The village may have been an important town in Inca times. The most striking remnant of this period is the massive stone wall in the main plaza which has ten trapezoidal niches. The construction of the wall and many other complexes & agricultural terraces (which are still in use) are attributed to Inca Tupac Yupanqui, who possibly used Chinchero as a kind of country resort. Entrance to the main plaza and its complex requires a 'Boleto Turistico'. In the main plaza, an adobe colonial church, dating from the early seventeenth century, has been built upon the foundations of an Inca temple or palace. The ceiling and walls are covered in beautiful floral and religious designs. The church is open on Sundays for mass. Half an hour's walk from the village brings you to Lake Piuray, which once fed Cusco with water. It takes about 3 hours to walk around the lake passing through small picturesque villages.
- Maras and Moray are located at an altitude of 11,090 feet above sea level. Maras is located at a distance through the Izcuchaka-Chequerec road of 48.10 km through the road of Cusco-Chinchero of 48.88 (this is the most used). In the town of Maras, one can appreciate the change of the glaciers of the Sacred Valley and the Vilcabamba valley. Nowadays, this district holds an important attractive from the Pre-Hispanic period, in the town one can see the many arches from the colonial times, made for the noble in the XVI & XX century. Maras was the forced passing point for the different caravans of mule drivers that transport tropical products and especially the coca leaves from the jungle, to satisfy the needs of the city of Cusco and the rest of the country. It has a church that was made out of adobe, typical form of religious architecture from the small towns, in this altar one can find a cross made out of granite, the interior of the church they have paintings from the Cusco Art School, representing all of the apostles, who's painter was don Antonio Sinchi Roqa Inca, who was born in Maras and painted all of this with much enthusiasm for his church. Moray (3,500 meters) lies 74 km from the city of Cusco. It is famous for its sunken amphitheater, made up of four circular terraces which appear to disappear into the earth like an artificial crater. The site was apparently an Inca agricultural research station designed for experimenting with crops at various altitudes & temps (some of which run down to depths of 100 meters). It is believed that the terraces, built over containing walls filled with fertile earth and watered by complex irrigation systems, enabled the Incas to grow more than 250 plant species & their varieties.
- Salt mines of Maras: Impressive complex of salt exploitation, located in the area called Qoripujio, at a distance of 4km from the town of Maras. It has salt mines; these mines were exploited since Inca times like a way to exchange economic value. From Maras, one can visit their salt mines through a narrow path, here once you can find with mules that still carry salt that is extracted from the natural salt mines.
- Tipon: 25 Km/16 miles southeast of Cusco (45 minutes by car) on the tarred Cusco - Puno highway, taking the turnoff near kilometer marker 20,5. According to legends, Tipon is one of the royal gardens that Wiracocha ordered to be built. It is made up of twelve terraces flanked by perfectly polished stonewalls and enormous agricultural terraces, canals and decorative waterfalls that, along with the native flowers of the area, offers the visitor a stunning vision. The site is composed of different sectors: Tipon itself, Intiwatana, Pukutuyuj & Pucará, Cruzmoqo, the inka cemetery of Pitopujio, Hatun Wayq'o, among others.
- Pikillaqta: The Peruvian site of Pikillacta is an enormous set of complexes belonging to the Wari empire. The site is located in the Lucre Basin of Cusco Region at the east end of the valley of Cusco, some 30 kilometers from the capital city of Cusco. The word Pikillacta means "flea city" in Quechua, its original name is unknown. The site covers an area of nearly 2 square kilometers, including an enormous rectangular enclosure with hundreds of separate rooms, some small & plain, some large enclosures and compounds, some richly decorated. Some of the rooms contained human remains, and based on that, Pikillacta is thought to represent a ritual facility for the practice of ancestors worship. One of the most interesting aspects of Pikillacta (and there are numerous) is the hydraulic works that connect the water resources of the site to the terraces & cultivable fields in the Lucre Basin, including canals, reservoirs, causeways & aqueducts. This complex set of features allowed intensive agriculture of maize, potatoes & other crops. The purpose of Pikillacta was pretty clearly not residential - in fact, it appears to have been used only sporadically. Excavator Gordon McEwan believes the primary function of the site was administrative. Pikillacta, says McEwan, was a device used by the Wari Empire to control its subjects by controlling the location and context of the Wari religious ceremonies.
- Machu Picchu: (Spanish pronunciation: ['matʃu 'pitʃu], Quechua: Machu Pikchu ['mɑtʃu 'pixtʃu], 'Old Peak') is a pre-Columbian 15th-century Inca site located at 2,430 meters (7,970 ft) above sea level. It is situated on a mountain ridge above the Urubamba Valley in Peru, which is 80 kilometers (50 mi) northwest of Cusco and through which the Urubamba river flows. Most archaeologists believe that Machu Picchu was built as an estate for the Inca emperor Pachacuteq (1438–1472). Often referred to as the "Lost City of the Incas", it is perhaps the most familiar icon of the Inca World. The Incas started building the "estate" around 1400AD, but abandoned it as an official site for the Inca rulers a century later at the time of the Spanish Conquest. Although known locally, it was unknown to the outside world before being brought to international attention in 1911 by the American historian Hiram Bingham. Since then, Machu Picchu has become an important tourist attraction. Most of the outlying buildings have been reconstructed in order to give the tourists a better idea of what the structures originally looked like. By 1976, thirty percent of Machu Picchu had been restored. The restoration work continues to this day. Since the site was never known to the Spanish during their conquest, it is highly significant as a relatively intact cultural site. Machu Picchu was declared a Peruvian Historical Sanctuary in 1981 and a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1983. In 2007, Machu Picchu was voted one of the "New 7 Wonders of the World" in a worldwide Internet poll. Machu Picchu was built in the classical Inca style, with polished dry-stone walls. Its three primary buildings are "the Intihuatana", the "Temple of the Sun" and the "Room of the 3 Windows". These are located in what is known by the archaeologists as the "Sacred District of Machu Picchu". In September 2007, Peru and Yale University almost reached an agreement regarding the return of artifacts which Yale has held since Hiram Bingham removed them from Machu Picchu without permission in the early 20th century. In November 2010, a Yale University representative agreed to return the artifacts to a Peruvian university.
- Manú National Park (MNP) is a biosphere reserve located in the Madre de Dios region & Paucartambo province, Cusco. Before becoming an area protected by the Peruvian government, the MNP was kept idle thanks to its inaccessibility. The park remains fairly difficult by road (and easy for bikes) to this day. In 1977, UNESCO recognized it as a Biosphere Reserve and in 1987, it was pronounced a World Heritage Site. It is the largest National Park in Peru, covering an area of 15,328 km². The Biosphere Reserve includes an additional 2,570 km², and a further 914 km² is included in a "Cultural Zone" (which also is afforded a level of protection), bringing the total area up to 18,811 km². The park protects several ecological zones ranging from as low as 150 meters above sea level in parts of the Southwestern Amazon moist forests to Peruvian Yungas at middle elevations to Central Andean wet puna at altitudes of 4,200 meters up. Because of this topographical range, it has one of highest levels of biodiversity of any park in the world. Overall, more than 15,000 species of plants are found in Manú, and up to 250 varieties of trees have been found in a single hectare. The reserve is a destination for birdwatchers from all over the world, as it is home to over 1,000 species of birds, more than the number of bird species found in the United States & Canada combined. It is also acclaimed as having one of the highest abundance of land vertebrates ever found in the Latin American tropical forests.
CUSCO CULTURAL CALENDAR
- Jan 20th – Fiesta de San Sebastián: This is a feast to honor San Sebastian, the patron saint of Cusco. There are great festivities such as folkloric dances and feasts of local food and fruits.
- February/March – Carnaval: Carnaval is celebrated in Cusco in fine style with a big street party to mark the occasion. This is done in typical Andean fashion, with solemn traditions and processions taking center stage, lit up with the expected dash of color, music and dancing. One tradition that travelers would be advised to look out for is the people of Cusco throwing buckets of water over each other !
- March/April – Easter Monday - El Señor de los Temblores (Lord of the Earthquakes): This celebration began in 1650, after a painting of Jesus entitled "Cristo de la Buena Suerte" purportedly stopped an earthquake that was rocking Cusco to its foundations. The image of the "Señor de los Temblores" on the crucifix, a somber painting of Christ with brown skin, is paraded around the streets before returning to the Plaza de Armas to bless the thousands of people who have gathered there. This is the key celebration of Semana Santa (Holy Week) in Cusco, and is a particularly interesting insight into the fusion of Old World & the New World religions that has taken place in Cusco. The image of Christ is taken into procession in much the same fashion as the Incas used to parade their mummified ancestors – a key aspect of their religious beliefs. The pinnacle of the celebration also focuses on the "ñucchu" flower that used to be worshipped with Andean deities, but that now, with its deep crimson petals, signifies the blood of Christ.
- May 2nd-3rd – The vigil of the Cross: This celebration takes place atop every mountain with a crucifix on it. It has been a native tradition to decorate the crosses brightly as a figure and bless them. The crosses are first taken down and dressed in fineries amidst a celebration of food, drink and dancing. The following day, they are then taken to a special mass before returning to the house that it was decorated, again amidst jovial scenes of music, drinking & dancing that last into the night. The crosses are then returned to their resting places in the mountains.
- June – Corpus Christi: During this catholic festival, Cusco comes alive with colorful parades through the city streets. Corpus Christi has been celebrated since just years after the arrival of the Spaniards and their religion, and it has grown into a significant cultural event. The main parade begins at 11am with the procession of the statues of the 5 virgins dressed in elaborately decorated clothing on the Plaza de Armas. Each Cusco church also displays a statue of its own saint on the procession; these are accompanied by dancers & music, and are carried to the cathedral before returning to their church, where they remain throughout the year. There is also a feast of the Cuy, Chiriuchu (a dish of grilled cuy and chicken, trout caviar, sea algae, baked potatos, cheese, all eaten cold), bread and beer.
- May/June - Cusco Beer Festival: Organized by the local beer company, this is one of the largest music festivals in Latin America: several important national & international artists from across the continent travel to Cusco to perform. And what better way to enjoy live music in Cusco than with a cold glass of the local beer "Cusqueña"? The beer is in plentiful supply from the Cusco "Garden of Beer" which fuels this joyous party. The festival lasts for 3 days and kicks off a month of celebration in the city.
- June – Qoyllur Ritt’i (Snow Star Festival): This festival is held annually in honor of Señor de Qoyllur Ritt'i, a mythical tradition based around a white image of Christ that was painted on a boulder in honor of an indigenous peasant who had died in 1783, to whom Jesus had supposedly appeared. The festival is associated with fertility and worship of the land; as many as 60,000 agricultural workers of indigenous origin attend the festival as an annual pilgrimage. Various religious processions and rituals are performed throughout the event. This is a huge important event for indigenous people in the region, but it should be noted that conditions are often harsh and cold, and sanitary facilities are virtually non existent.
- 24th June - Inti Raymi: Festivities at the Peru's Sun God festival, Inti Raymi. The Inti Raymi Festival is held every year to celebrate the most important god in the Inca World: "Inti" (the sun). Occurring on the Winter Solstice of the Southern Hemisphere, the celebration brings together thousands of worshippers from all Peru who join those travelers fortunate enough to time their Peruvian vacations with this ancient Inca ceremony with roots dating as far back as the 13th century. Considered the most important ceremony of the Inca Empire, the rituals that take place during the event are re-created thanks to the oral histories and memories of local people which have kept the traditions alive for centuries. Read our Inti Raymi blog post to find out more about the festival.
- 14-15-16-17 July - Virgen del Carmen de Paucartambo: This is the most crazy feast in the Cusco region, it consists of 14 "cofradias" or quarters dancing to honor the virgin, these dancers are customed & masked like the subjects they represent: funny "Majeños" with their long funny noses with a beer bottle on their hands, squirting jets of cold beer at the public, the low jungle "Ccapaq Chunchus" jumping their odd dances, smart city & corrupt attorneys with their notebooks on their hands, dancing completely drunken and smoking the public with hot pepper smoke, the "Aucca Chilenos" mimicking, representing the chilean invasion in the 1879 Pacific War who raided & destroyed Peru, the "Chunchachas", an all-women cofradia representing the elected virgin women for the pleasure of the Inka, dancing their purification dance, among other exotic dances are just a few examples of the extraordinary & colorful richness in embroideries, music, art and their religious fanaticism... this festival is very much recommended for avid photographers (amateur & pros alike) for being immensely worthwhile the 3-hour trip from Cusco. You will never regret to have taken some time apart to live the adventure of traveling to this almost-forgotten frontiertown (the jungle is on the other side of the Andes, crossing the mountains) to participate in this off-the-beaten-track religious celebration nowadays turned into joyful pagan feast which became so with the passing of years.
- Last Sunday of August – Huarachicuy Festival: Also held at Sacsayhuaman, this is an authentic reenactment of the Inca Manhood Rite entitled "Party in order to Arm Gentlemen" by the Spaniards. This practice was common during Inca times to mark men's coming of age. In order to prove their worth, boys of around 12 years old had to pass athletic tests and perform in mock battles. Their success was marked by giving them their first Wara (breechcloth) and they were then deemed suitable for war & marriage. To celebrate the event today, several boys from the school "Colegio de Ciencias" (of which the Cienciano soccer team belongs) perform in stunning Inca costumes to mark their transition to adulthood.
- September 8th – Corpus of Almudena: Also known as the "Day of the Virgin", this is a colorful and vibrant procession from the church of Almudena on the southwest of Cusco to the Plaza San Francisco. As a part of the procession, masked dancers perform typical dances from Cusco and the highlands. There is also a large fair at the church itself which features the Chiriuchu dish of grilled chicken & Cuy (guinea pig). There is also a bull fight held the following day.
- December 24th – Santurantikuy: Held on Christmas Eve, this "Big Sale of Saints" is one big celebration of Christmas shopping on Cusco's Plaza de Armas. Many artisans descend on the square from the surrounding countryside to sell their Christmas gifts, predominantly to celebrate with images of Nacimientos (the Nativity). These are crafted in many different forms: pottery, embroidery & wood carving, for example. Artists also come from San Blas to sell their paintings and there are a range of other gifts for sale. This brings the magic of Christmas to Cusco in fine style, a celebration that lasts to the early hours.
MUSEUMS IN CUSCO
- Museo Inka: Address-Tucuman with Ataud. Located inside a building known as the "Admiral's House", since it was once the residence of Admiral Francisco Alderete Maldonado, the Museo Inka actually stands on ancient Inca foundations and despite serious damage from a number of earthquakes over the years, including the 1650 earthquake, the building remains one of the city's most impressive colonial houses. Inside the museum is an especially grand stairway, overlooked by many curious mythical creatures. The Museo Inka is regarded as the very best that Cusco has to offer in the way of Inca culture and is crammed full of wonderful artifacts, such as gold & metal handworks, textiles, pottery pieces, mummies, "keros" drinking vessels and other important archaeological findings. Look out for the very ornate ceilings and the Andean weavers, who often demonstrate their handicraft skills within the courtyard area. Cusco Inka Museum opens: Monday to Friday - 08:00 to 17:00, Saturday - 09:00 to 17:00.
- Casa Garcilazo de la Vega/Museo Historico Regional (Museum of Regional History): Address-Plaza Regocijo, calle Heladeros. The Casa Garcilazo de la Vega is a particularly historical colonial building and amongst the first of its kind to be built in Cusco. Formerly the residence of the Inca Garcilazo de la Vega, a famous Inca-Spanish historian who is buried at the cathedral, the architecture of the Casa Garcilaso is very traditional in its appearance. Inside, visitors will enjoy the displays of pottery, silver & gold pieces. Cusqueñan art from mainly the 17th & 18th centuries are also on display, while various seasonal events are worth looking out for, being staged in the auditorium room. Opens: Monday to Saturday 08:00 to 17:30. Entrance with 'tourist ticket' only.
- Museo de Historia Natural (Natural History Museum): Address-Plaza de Armas. The Natural History Museum is known locally in Cusco as the Museo de Historia Natural and is managed by the university. Various preserved animals originating from this part of Peru are displayed here. Although this attraction should never really appear at the top of places to visit, lovers of reptiles may be interested to see the extensive collection of some 150 different snakes from the Parque Nacional Manu. The entrance to the Museo de Historia Natural is often a little hard to find and stands next to the La Compañia de Jesus church, off the Plaza de Armas. Opens: Monday to Friday - 09:30 to 13:00, 15:00 to 18:30
- Museo de Sitio de Qorikancha: Address-Avenida El Sol. Situated alongside the church of Santo Domingo, the Museo de Sitio de Qorikancha is a small and intriguing, underground archaeological museum. Exhibits are based around the Inca and pre-Inca cultures, and include plenty of interesting pieces. The entrance is situated on the avenida El Sol. Opens: Monday to Saturday - 09:00 to 17:30, Sunday - 08:00 to 13:00. Admission: entrance with 'tourist ticket' only.
- Museo de Sitio Manuel Chávez Ballón (Site Museum): Address-Aguas Calientes. The Museo de Sitio Manuel Chávez Ballón is to be found directly below the Machu Picchu mountain, close to the Puente Ruinas, where it serves as an important archaeological site museum for the Cusco region. Whilst this museum may be fairly small in size, its contents are well displayed and focus on the actual discovery on Machu Picchu, along with its excavation and fascinating history. A short video presentation is on hand, with the main exhibits including a number of artifacts (many are currently housed at Yale University in Connecticut, USA). If you have time, do check on the neighboring botanical gardens, where orchids and native Peruvian flora are to be found flourishing. Opens: Wednesday to Monday - 09:30 to 16:00.
SHOPPING IN CUSCO
- The Mercado Central of San Pedro is probably the best place to head for those looking to explore the variety of goods that are produced in Peru. It has recently been smartened up and is now pedestrianized, making it a pleasant place for a stroll, a browse & a food try. Amongst the produce on offer are exotic meats, tropical fruits and vegetables. For the more adventurous eater, some of the best street food can be found in this market. Be warned though - these fineries can sometimes lead to few upset stomachs if you're not accustomed, so you'll see a lot of tourists lunching on the stalls and having a good time with the affordable pricing.
- Cusco is also well-known for its weaving & textile arts: There are various suppliers of such products and particularly of best quality as the Alpaca wares. A few of the best are Alpaca 111 (Plaza Regocijo 202, Cusco - Tel. (084) 243-233), which all feature beautifully soft alpaca clothing such as shawls, sweatshirts & jackets. Handicrafts stores are plentiful in Cusco, selling a range of artisan items – the best place to get these is at the Centro Artesanal Cusco, at the end of avenida El Sol, which is the biggest handicrafts market in the city. This has a large number of vendors selling various souvenirs such as alpaca textiles and clothing with beautiful & vivid colors. For more artwork, head to the Plaza San Blas and the surrounding streets which are sprawling with paintings, ceramics & handicrafts produced by local artists. There are also art galleries and crafts workshops here, where travelers can sometimes catch a glimpse of the artists in full action.
- "El Carmen" Informatics Shop Center: Situated on calle Nueva, if you're looking for everything on microelectronics & computing, well, this is your place in Cusco at the most budget prices on almost everything from NEW chips, memories, printed circuits, keyboards, CPUs to motherboards, netbooks, peripherals and the like, also you find pendrives, external HDs, notebooks, printers, mouses, screens & software, and service offices for repairings, cleanings and updating your gadget, so if you want to keep pace with the actual technology...find it here, you'll like it a visit.
- "El Molino" Commercial Center: If you are a backpacker or the like, traveling on a budget, you'll love to find in Cusco a shopping center where the plain local people shops, situated near the Cusco Bus Station and full with everything your imagination is full of... from modern micro-electronics (cameras, radios, DVD players, LED screens, PCs, etc) to leather products, clothing, shoes, boots, children wares, adventure gear, bikes, canned fruits, fishing gear, portable GPS, gadgets, to tiny & practical cell phones, etc. Just pay a visit to buy what you'll need at local prices.
- Real Plaza Cusco Shopping Mall: Last but not least, this brand-new shopping center puts the city to the same level of big Peruvian & int'l cities as Lima, London, Paris, NYC, Berlin, Tokyo and others. It was opened on October 2014 and it has 3 levels of complete budget stores, full with discounts and a big food court, movie theaters, parking areas, play park, book stores and, of course a lot, plenty of entertainment for all the family. This new "meeting point" is situated on the avenida La Cultura, about 5 more blocks down to the south of the UNSAAC university, ask the local people if you don't find it, everyone knows.