For several years my geographical travel preferences were limited to Europe: attractive, close, and relatively available. But once my friend who came back from one travel told me about the things to do in Cusco, and I decided to broaden my adventures limits, so this spring I paved the way for Peru.
About vacations, I am a quite demanding person when it concerns my comfort, but at the same time, I can’t stop looking for new adventures and exciting places. That’s why Peru happened in my life. For keeping the balance, I used a map in an old-fashioned way for route planning to mysterious Inca city Machu Picchu through the surroundings of Cusco area.
First I’d like to bring some facts about Cuzco to light in my blog, this place has a fascinating history.
The ancient city Cusco attracts those tourists who are not afraid of the Peruvian jungle and who are hungry for local color. The city and its vicinity suggest travelers explore the beautiful sights and monuments of the Incan Empire which made Cusco region so famous nowadays. And though a majority of tourists starts the trip in the capital, most of them eventually spend their time in Cusco.
9 Interesting Facts About Cusco
- Indian settlements existed on those lands more than 3 000 years ago, long before Spanish conquistadors coming.
- As well as the capital of Peru, Lima, Cusco was founded by the conquistador Francisco Pizarro.
- According to ancient legends, the first city in this area was founded by Manco Capac, the first Inca who laid the foundation for a civilization of his nation.
- Cusco ranks second in population among all cities in Peru.
- The city was called Cusco even at the time of the Incas. In translation from their language, Quechua, Cusco means “the center of the world“.
- Most churches in Cusco are built on the site of the destroyed Incan temples.
- There is a statue of Jesus in Cusco which looks just like the same one in Rio de Janeiro, but smaller.
- One of the twin-cities of Cusco is Moscow.
- The most travelers who come here on vacations are willing to visit Machu Picchu, and it is not far from Cusco.
For the reason of limited vacation period, I didn’t visit the capital of Peru, Lima city. People say there is the cheapest shopping, especially prices for a silver surprise in the right way.
My first destination point was exactly Cusco – one of the most sophisticated cities in Peru. Besides, at the time of the Incas, Cusco territory was the center of local civilization. Cusco had time to get all necessary elements of tourists land, but at the same time, it didn’t lose its traditional veneer.
There is everything that experienced travelers need: hotels to every taste and budget, restaurants with local or exotic food, currency exchange offices, a huge amount of travel agencies, gift shops, etc.
Despite active tourist arrivals, everyone in this area keeps Peruvian charm: local people wear a bright colored poncho, with different kinds of hats on their heads (about 200 types!), women carry babies on their backs, and cute alpacas and llamas walk along cobblestone streets. All this atmosphere inspires to take hundreds of pictures! Though pictures with Cusco inhabitants are not free, they turn out to be so fresh and exotic, that nobody is greedy to give some tips.
For exploring the city during Cusco trip, one day is more than enough. Cusco is a starting point to the top place – cherished Machu-Picchu, so this is precisely the place where each tourist should solve all formal issues of the road ahead. I mean money exchange and buying tickets. Sure, you can buy all the tickets in vain on sites, but it’s an acquired taste. I preferred to check all offices by myself.
Ticket Entry Rules
There are many exciting places in Cusco and the city: ruins of Inka citadels, mysterious ceremonial buildings, astronomical platforms, museums, unique garden labs, and salt flats, etc. So be sure that Cusco (Peru) activities will not leave you indifferent. But you can’t buy the entry ticket to visit only one exact sight, and you have to buy the tourist ticket for several sights entry, kind of “in bulk”. I chose a full tourist ticket which allowed me to visit 16 sights for 10 days (each ticket has its period).
My option costs 130 nuevo sol, and it’s about 40 dollars. One nuevo sol is subdivided into 100 centimos. A ticket is nominal, so I was asked to show my passport or documents identifying who I am, almost everywhere at the entrance.
The only exclusion: this ticked doesn’t cover an entrance to Machu-Picchu, and the most essential Incan temple Koricancha (Cusco).
My tips: turn to the main office of COSITUC, which is responsible for multiple tourist services in Cusco.
To-do List for Cusco
Except for all the sights of this city, I’ll share with you my own Cusco attractions:
- Plaza de Armas, the central square with a charm of Spanish colonial culture shining city flag flying above – a beautiful location for taking pictures.
- The sunset at the observation deck (Mirante, San Blas), there is an excellent view of the Andes, tile-roofed houses, and boundless fields of corn;
- Sun Pedro: Cusco Market. There each tourist can go shopping and be satisfied with loyal prices. People tend to associate words “gifts from Peru” with silver or alpaca products. But not everywhere at this market you will find sweaters made of real alpaca, and not all sellers tell the truth about the quality of clothes. What you should taste at Cusco Market: there are fruit and vegetable juices, and for those who love exotic, sellers will add a FROG to the cocktail! They say it helps men potency!
- Different kinds of Peru’s chocolate: my stomach fell in love with leaf coca chocolate, and chocolate with pink salt.
- The greatest choice of restaurants with local food. Everyone will find what to do in Cusco to any taste.
Accommodation Choice: Cheap or Safe?
Planning my Cusco trip the question of where to stay in Cusco was the most difficult. Like, everyone, I hoped to find the place with regular price and location. But, but, but… Precisely at the central square near the Plaza de Armas prices made me feel a real shock! One hotel which seemed to be standard, with wi-fi, bathroom and other services, turned out to be a brothel. Finally, after reading hundreds of reviews, I realized that I should forget about cheap options, for my safety, I chose an expensive hotel.
My advice: use checked sites, not private ads, because as it turned out, some cheap places suggest even tea with coca. Yes, real coca which helps to cope with height (4000 metres). It was not for me, so I settled in Tierra Viva Cusco Centro. I am sure there could be safe and cheaper apartments, but I was not ready to take a risk.
MUST SEE Places in Cusco
- Museo Inca. This museum keeps artifacts which allow to find out the history of Peru from time of Pre-Nink civilizations, Great Empire, and colonial period.
- Koricancha temple. During the time of Inca Koricancha was the most sumptuous temple. It was built in honor of Inty, god of the Sun, that’s why golden plates and gems faced the temple’s walls. After the conquest, Spanish people built Cathedral of Santo Domingo at ruins of Sun temple, but some old parts are available to see nowadays.
- Museo de la Coca. Coca leaves are still an essential element of Andes culture even in 3 000 years. In this museum, you can find out the history and meaning of coca, hot to use it, etc.
- Tipon. The Royal Garden is like a water temple, and the first thing which tourists see is a 2-metres waterfall going out from an artificial wall which is built of polygonal blocks. Tipon is located not far from Cusco, so you’ll easily get new pictures and impressions there!
- Cristo Bianko. The statue of Christ is situated not far from Sacsayhuaman, Archeological Park. It was a gift to Cusco in 1945 from Palestinian people in gratitude for the fact that Cusco was their shelter during the War. Each tourist should visit this place.
- Sacred Valley. There is a Sacred Valley near Cusco, and it’s better to go there with a professional guide, this incredible sight is a place of Inca civilization beginning.
- Machu Picchu – the top of places in Peru, the leading destination point and dream of all tourists! This mysterious city is situated 100 kilometers from Cusco, in the mountains at a height of 2450 metres, and even Spanish conquistadors couldn’t find this place. In 2007 Machu Picchu was included to 7 wonders of the world.
Also for me the best things to do in Сusco and best sights to visit are:
- San Pedro de Andahuaylillas, little church also called the Sistine Chapel of Andes
- Pikillacta. It’s ruins of a tiny city, and its name is translated as a “flea city”
- Tambomachay. This is a resting place. In 5-6 kilometers from Cusco, the water resort was built for Supreme Inka. There are 2 water cascades which give water at the same speed: if to put 2 bottles, they will be full at the same time.
As you can see, there are enough Cusco (Peru) points of interest.
Well, after sharing my impressions with you, I realized that there is much sense to revisit Cusco because there are too many exciting things to do in Cusco.
I guess the next time I will order the author tour and visit places and sights which are hidden from most tourists, Peru is a mysterious country. And I am sure you will agree with me after going to Cusco!