Sunday 27 April 2014

Chilling in Cusco!

Plaza de Armas, Cusco
While I fell in love with Arequipa and declared that I could live there, James’ favourite city in Peru was Cusco.

And despite the huffing and puffing that comes from strolling around a city at such high altitude we really enjoyed a good 6 or 7 days there pre and post Inca Trail, taking in the sights, visiting Inca ruins, meeting llamas in the street, stuffing ourselves at the local market, eating out with our new friends from the Inca Trail and sampling some of the local night life.

Lamas and their owners wandering the streets of Cusco

Local band
Temple of the Sun (a Catholic convent was built around it, but many of the Inca buildings remain)

The main plaza is very attractive. As well as the imposing churches, I particularly liked the wooden balconies that adorn most of the other buildings around the square. And most of the balconies belong to cafes or bars, so you easily while away your time sitting up there with a Pisco Sour, a beer or even sampling roast Cuy or guinea pig.

Pretty balconies overlooking the main square
A first taste of guinea pig 
On one of our first days in Cusco, we went on the free city walking tour.  These tours seem to be springing up all over the world now – we first went on one in Budapest about 5 years ago. They aren’t actually free, as you are expected to pay a tip at the end, but they are usually a good introduction to a new city from local guides.

The road up to the pretty San Blas district

San Blas square
The tour in Cusco wasn’t the best we’ve done, but it did help us to orientate ourselves a bit more. The guide also gave us some interesting insights into how Peruvians view religion and how they mix together the Incan beliefs in mother earth with the Catholicism brought by the Spanish. In particular, he told us about rituals of burying offerings to mother earth when building a new house.

He also noted how Incans had worshipped the mountains and so in a bid to convert the local population to Catholicism, the Spanish built crosses on top of the mountains. It seems to have been very effective.

A highlight of the tour was a trip to an instrument shop, where we were shown an array of post-columbian string instruments as well as panpipes and were treated to a demonstration of many of these by the shop’s owner.

One of the most striking things about Cusco is the sight of a huge white Jesus Christ up on one of the hills overlooking the city. 

We took it upon ourselves to climb up to see it and - despite being told along the way that we would need a mule to take us up there - it actually wasn’t that bad a climb, even with our post Inca Trail legs. 

Unfortunately for us, it did start to hail when we reached the White Christ – a message from God maybe?

To climb up, you just need to follow the signs to the Sacaysahuaman ruins (pronounced a bit like sexy woman), but then take the path that curves round to the right as you are walking up.

My new friend, near the White Vhrist

We also took a walk to the temple of the moon, which also overlooks Cusco. It was about a 40 minute walk from the White Christ. The ruins are very small and post Machu Picchu, really not that impressive, but it was a pretty walk, particularly towards the end of the afternoon, as long as you manage to avoid the smooching local teenagers.

Another new friend, who followed us all the way back into town  (we had to hide in a bank to get rid of him: we were worried he'd try and come back to our hostel with us: I still feel guilty) 

The view from the Temple of the Moon

Cave inside the Temple of the Moon
Related Posts
For an account of our experiences of the Inca Trail see El Camino de Inca
For more on our day at Machu Picchu, see Machu and Wayna Picchu and No Jumping at Machu Picchu and definitely no streaking
For an account of our day out from Cusco to Tipon, see A day trip to Tipon
For an overview of where we stayed while staying in Peru, see Where we stayed: Peru


  1. impressed with the cave and the views. Your new friends were very interesting! M.M.L

  2. Great post! I'm getting ready to hike the Inca Trail this summer and can't wait!!

  3. Thanks Jennifer! You'll have a great time. Have you looked at doing Wayna Picchu too?

  4. Salkantay trek is the alternative to the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu was recently named among the 25 best Treks in the World, by National Geographic Adventure Travel Magazine.