Cusco Journals

Cusco - The Navel of the World

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A May 2006 trip to Cusco by Liam Hetherington

Plaza de Armas Photo, Cusco, Peru More Photos
Quote: A truly cosmopolitan city. In Cusco, Spanish colonial churches sit atop ancient Incan stonework. Now backpackers from across the world are drawn by its history.

Cusco - The Navel of the World

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Overview

Looking Over Cusco Photo, Cusco, Peru
Quote:
According to myth and legend Cusco was founded by Manco Capac, son of the Sun, and Mama Ocllo, daughter of the Moon. At their parents' command they rose from the waters of Lake Titicaca and set off on their quest. They would found their city at the first spot where Manco Capac's golden staff could be plunged into the earth up to its very head. That place became Cusco, 'the Navel of the Earth', and Manco Capac and Mama Ocllo's children became the Incas. Cusco still maintains its Incan core. Supposedly shaped like a puma with its head at Sacsayhuaman, the city was ravaged following the arrival of Francisco Pizarro and the Conquistadors in 1534. The loot hauled from this, the capital of the Inc...Read More

Hotel Garcilaso II

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Hotel

Hotel Garcilaso II Photo, Cusco, Peru
Quote:
My first sight of Hotel Garcilaso came at the end of a long, tiring, all-day bus ride from the Colca Canyon. I was dead on my feet and would have slept in a cupboard if it were big enough. So imagine my surprise when I took in the hotel.A plain door leads from one of Cusco's gently-sloping main streets. Once through reception is a frankly stunning courtyard. A cedar stood at the centre, and pots decorated the overlooking balcony. To one side an urn dispensed hot water and I helped myself to the complimentary hot drinks (various flavours of teas were available—I stuck to the plain cocoa leaves).The staff couldn't do enough to help. They can arrange for your laundry to be cleaned and...Read More

Member Rating 2 out of 5 on August 9, 2006

Hotel Garcilaso II
Calle Garcilaso 233-285
Cusco
+51 (84) 227951

Fallen Angel

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Restaurant

Quote:
Adjacent to the Museo de Arte Precolombino, Fallen Angel thinks of itself as a work of art too. And the steaks aren't far off!The restaurant is a funky little place, full of couches in nooks. Trendy art decorates the walls—local equivalents of the British graffiti artist 'Banksy' if you know his work. We were escorted to our table. Well, I say table. It was a sheet of glass over a bathtub. There were goldfish swimming in the tub. All throughout the meal my eyes were continuously drawn down to the little fish swimming unconcernedly just inches below my plate.We had been recommended the steaks. The recommendation was good. The steaks were even better. Ed sniffly informed us that they...Read More

Member Rating 4 out of 5 on August 9, 2006

Fallen Angel
Plazoleta Nazarenas 221
Cusco, Peru
+51 (84) 258184

Pacha Papa

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Restaurant | "Pachapapa"

Pacha Papa Photo, Cusco, Peru
Quote:
"You must go to Pachapapa" Jonathan said when I mentioned I was visiting Cusco. "It's up in San Blas; it's great".Three weeks later I was in Peru. Determined to check out his recommendation I gathered four friends and boldly led them across the Plaza de Armas. San Blas is a lovely little square to the north-east of the centre, reached up sloping streets lined with Incan stonework. Thankfully, when we reached the Plazoleta San Blas, huffing and puffing, the restaurant was easy to find—an archway directly across from the modest little church led into a sunny courtyard.Finding a table in the shade we turned to watch the activity. In the centre of the yard a pit had been dug. Lined wit...Read More

Member Rating 4 out of 5 on August 9, 2006

Pacha Papa
Plaza San Blas 120
Cusco, Peru
+51 (84) 241318

Norton Rat's Tavern

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Restaurant

Norton Rat's Tavern Photo, Cusco, Peru
Quote:
Norton Rat's (and no, I don't know the provenance of the name) has one great selling point, one of the best views of the Plaza de Armas in Cusco. Entered through a courtyard off Callejon Loreto (the narrow Inca alley to the left of the Compania de Jesus Church) this pub is up on the top floor. Inside, it's larger than you'd think—with a long polished bar, dark wooden floorboards, cable TV, a pool table and a dart board. Wall decorations are themed around 'Explorer's Club' type maps of Peru and assorted motorcycle memorabilia. For my money though you're best heading straight through the bar and out onto the narrow balcony overlooking the Plaza. On a high stool there you can watch the world go by....Read More

Member Rating 3 out of 5 on August 9, 2006

Norton Rat's Tavern
Loreto 115, 2do. piso
Cusco, Peru
+51 84 246204

Fun y Fotos Coffee Shop & Studio

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Attraction | "Fun Y Fotos"

Fun y Fotos Coffee Shop & Studio Photo, Cusco, Peru
Quote:
All this culture can get to you—stunning ruins, evocative churches, bustling markets. Your heels are blistered from hiking the Inca Trail, and the mosquito bites you picked up in the rainforest are still itching. You want a silly, uncomplicated night out with friends. Where do you go? The answer is Fun Y Fotos. The bar does exactly what it says on the tin. Its biggest draw is its collection of costumes. Women, if you've ever wanted to dress as an Inca brave this is the place for you. And men, if you are harbouring secret fantasies of becoming a Peruvian lady of the night it's the place for you too. After donning their range of brightly coloured costumes you can have your photograph taken against a ...Read More

Member Rating 4 out of 5 on August 9, 2006

Fun y Fotos Coffee Shop & Studio
Calle Marquez 250
Cusco, Peru
+51 (84) 9740828

Paddy Flaherty's

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Attraction

Quote:
Wherever you travel in the world, no matter how far you go, you can be sure of one thing—you are never further than five miles from an Australian backpacker or an Irish pub. In Peru, Paddy Flaherty's, on the corner of the Plaza de Armas, is the nexus that all are eventually drawn to. Now, I am not a fan of Irish pubs. That's why I like Ireland—they just have pubs there, not 'Irish pubs'. However, when you are far away from home they provide a comforting atmosphere—outside it might be Manchester, Montreal, Moscow, or Mogadishu, but with a pint in your hand it all seems a very long way distant.This Irish pub doesn't serve pints. No Guinness (not even in bottles), no stouts, no bitter...Read More

Member Rating 2 out of 5 on August 9, 2006

Paddy Flaherty's
Triunfo 124, Plaza de Armas
Cusco
+51 (84) 247-719

Plaza de Armas

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Attraction

Plaza de Armas Photo, Cusco, Peru
Quote:
In the days of the great Inca the heart of the Empire were two great squares divided by the Rio Saphi—Huacaypata, the Place of Tears, and Cusipata, the Place of Happiness. The riverway has now been filled in and the two halves of the square are now separate. Cusipata is the Plaza Recocijo. Huacaypata is Cusco's grand Plaza de Armas.As an impressive centrepiece to a town the Plaza does its job admirably. Save for the churches (the baroque Jesuit Compania and the Cathedral atop its little rise) the surrounding buildings are no more than two stories tall. This allows the tourist to see the Andean hills rising around on all sides. Sweet as the plastered and balconied buildings are, this is only ...Read More

Member Rating 3 out of 5 on August 9, 2006

Plaza de Armas

Cusco, Peru

Museo de Arte Precolombino

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Attraction

Quote:
As you enter the Museo de Arte Precolombino you are presented with its guiding philosophy—to take the relics of the past and display them as the works of art they once were. In other words, this is not just a dry and dusty old museum, filled with minutely labelled shards of pottery; this is an art gallery.Indeed, the works on display look shiny and new, as if they'd been manufactured in the last century rather than in the first half of last millennium. I found this worrying. I'm not used to seeing pristine pieces of pottery or intact works of cunningly-formed silver in such quantities. Was I missing something in the English translations of the explicatory text? Were these merely pieces *insp...Read More

Member Rating 4 out of 5 on August 9, 2006

Museo de Arte Precolombino
Plazoleta Nazarenas 231
Cusco, Peru

Sacsayhuaman Archaeological Park

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Attraction | "Sacsayhuaman"

Looking Over Cusco Photo, Cusco, Peru
Quote:
Where Edinburgh is presided over by its castle, Tokyo by Mount Fuji, and Rio by Christ the Redeemer, Cuzco sits in the shadow of Sacsayhuaman. Atop the hill overlooking the town to the north-east sit great blocks of Inca stonework, some 8.5m high and weighing up to 300 tonnes. Once thought to be a fortress due to its high walls and obvious defensive position (and perhaps due to fact that forces of both Manco Inca and Francisco Pizarro used the site as such in the struggle for the city in the 1530s) its real purpose is now thought to more likely be ceremonial.Sacsayhuaman (pronounced 'sexy-woman' to my ears anyway!) is easily reached by taxi for about $1.50, though the more rewarding route is...Read More

Member Rating 4 out of 5 on August 17, 2006

Sacsayhuaman Archaeological Park
Located On A Steep Hill That Overlooks Cusco
Cusco, Peru

Koricancha-Temple of the Sun, Cathedral of Santo Domingo (Cusco Cathedral) Photo, Cusco, Peru
Quote:
If you have time to see only one sight in Cuzco, it must be the church of Santo Domingo at Qoricancha. The spacious Catholic church sits upon a curved hillock that rises up above the Avenida Sol. The mound looks landscaped, and it is, for this was once the site of Qoricancha, the Temple of the Sun, the holiest site in the holiest city in the Inca World.When the conquistadores marched in in the 16th century the walls of the temple were reputedly lined with more than 700 sheets of solid gold weighing more than 2kg each. The gardens were also decorated with life-size statues of men, women, children, flowers and animals like the White Witch's castle in The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe, excep...Read More

Member Rating 5 out of 5 on August 17, 2006

Koricancha-Temple of the Sun, Cathedral of Santo Domingo (Cusco Cathedral)
Plaza De Armas
Cusco, Peru

Pisac

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Attraction

Kanchiracay Photo, Cusco, Peru
Quote:
Pisac is a town of two contrasting halves. One is the bustling market which sucks in busload after busload of tourists. The other is the eerily deserted complex of ruins perched high above, where your only companions are the chilling eddies of wind.To me the market was not worth the 30 minutes I had spent crammed into the boot of an overloaded taxi, clutching at the back of the seat every time we sped around a blind corner over a precipitous drop down to the valleys below at what seemed to me to be quite unnecessary speed. The stalls all seemed to sell pretty much the same things—alpaca sweaters, ear-flapped woolly hats, ethnic pottery, bead necklaces - as you could get back in Cuzco. My fri...Read More

Member Rating 4 out of 5 on August 17, 2006

The Vigil of the Cross

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Attraction

The Vigil of the Cross Photo, Cusco, Peru
Quote:
As I stood in the shower I watched the water swirling around my feet to the plughole. It really does flow the other way in the southern hemisphere, I thought. But what I couldn't understand was why there were multi-coloured streams in the water. Until I put my hand on my head anyway; it came away with tatters of soggy confetti stuck to it. Then I remembered.I was lucky to arrive back in Cusco from the jungle during a festival. Inti Raymi may be the famous festival in June (when they hike up the hotel prices, or so I've heard), Carnival might be a blast throughout South America, and as a Catholic nation you can never discount the Easter festivities, but this was none of them. The second and t...Read More

Member Rating 3 out of 5 on August 17, 2006

The Vigil of the Cross
Plaza San Francisco
Cusco, Peru

Machu Picchu Inca Archaeological Site

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Attraction | "Machu Picchu - introduction"

Machu Picchu Inca Archaeological Site Photo, Cusco, Peru
Quote:
Suddenly the ruins loomed up around me, cracked and deserted. The early-morning cloud drifted like a spectral cloud of wraiths, shrouding the site in an opalescent blue glow. The cool moisture brushed my cheek, stubbly after three whole days hiking the Inca Trail. Dimly I could make out the looming bulk of Huayna Picchu towering above me. In the fog I could have been alone, isolated in the most famous of all mysterious lost cities, the testament of a dead civilisation. Did Hiram Bingham have this feeling, I wondered, this thrill of excitement up the spine mixed with the anxious churning of the stomach as it responded to the sight of the ghost-city, when he first discovered Machu Picchu in 1911?...Read More

Member Rating 5 out of 5 on August 20, 2006

Machu Picchu Inca Archaeological Site
Above The Urubamba Valley
Cusco Region, Peru

Machu Picchu Inca Archaeological Site

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Attraction | "Machu Picchu - My Impressions"

Machu Picchu Inca Archaeological Site Photo, Cusco, Peru
Quote:
The Intipunku, or Sun Gate, is the classic entrance to the site, the unforgettable climax to over 3 days of slogging along the Inca Trail. However, when I visited in May 2006 this route was closed. Peru is seismically active, and a landslide had erased a large section of the trail leading from the gate to Machu Picchu—the scar can be seen from the site. This means that all visitors have to come through the main entrance on the road up from Aguas Calientes (entrance is $20). Any backpacks or sticks you might have also have to be surrendered to the left luggage office. However, if you have your passport you can get a very pretty stamp in there.The first section you reach is a cascade of Incan ...Read More

Member Rating 5 out of 5 on August 20, 2006

Machu Picchu Inca Archaeological Site
Above The Urubamba Valley
Cusco Region, Peru

Machu Picchu Inca Archaeological Site

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Attraction | "Machu Picchu - Recommendations"

Machu Picchu Inca Archaeological Site Photo, Cusco, Peru
Quote:
My advice would be: 1) get there as early as possible. It is no longer possible for hikers to wander through the Sun-Gate at 6am to get first sight. Instead you have to come through the main entrance which opens at 7am. Buses run up from Aguas Calientes from before the crack of dawn, so if you are not a hiker seriously consider travelling up the day previously and staying overnight in the town before visiting the site first thing. The train from Cusco arrives around 10am—suddenly the place is overrun with tourists around 500,000 visits per year!). The earlier you arrive, the quieter the place will be and the more chance you have of exploring in detail. Once you’ve seen everything from...Read More

Member Rating 5 out of 5 on August 20, 2006

Machu Picchu Inca Archaeological Site
Above The Urubamba Valley
Cusco Region, Peru

Inca Trail

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Attraction | "The Inca Trail - Basics"

Inca Trail Photo, Cusco, Peru
Quote:
The Peruvian authorities are extremely concerned about protecting the integrity of the Inca Trail, and for good reason. The number of people who use it annually create a very great risk of degrading the trail and creating erosion. As a result since 2004 the authorities have imposed a quota of 500 hikers each day (200 trekkers, and 300 guides and staff). You simply cannot hike the trail on your own; those turning up ‘on spec’ and expecting to be able to do the trek will be disappointed. Tickets are only sold at least thirty days in advance, on proof that you have booked a tour with a licensed operator—it's easiest if the tour company itself organises your ticket. As of May this year tickets were $60 fo...Read More

Member Rating 4 out of 5 on August 24, 2006

Inca Trail
Andes Mountains
Cusco, Peru

Inca Trail

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Attraction | "The Inca Trail - Day 1"

Inca Trail Photo, Cusco, Peru
Quote:
We were woken at an unfeasibly early hour at our hotel in Cusco. Onto our coach and out through the shanties of Cusco, and into the Andes. We snoozed or got to know our hiking companions. Julio, our twinkly-eyed guide provided conversation for anyone who wanted it. Even at this early stage his immense knowledge and passion for the lost world of the Inca was clear. The hour-long drive was broken once for a photo-opportunity, then we continued on to Ollantaytambo to meet the rest of our group. We had a 30-minute break to get breakfast and any last minute supplies—in my case a sturdy walking staff (2 soles) and some knitted gloves (5 soles). I refused to purchase an ear-flapped Peruvian hat, a ...Read More

Member Rating 4 out of 5 on August 24, 2006

Inca Trail
Andes Mountains
Cusco, Peru

Inca Trail

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Attraction | "The Inca Trail - Day 2"

Inca Trail Photo, Cusco, Peru
Quote:
Day Two was always going to be the killer. Huayllabamba campsite is at 2950m above sea-level. That evening’s campsite at Pacamayu would be at 3600m. But first there was the small matter of Warmiwanusca, the 4200m-tall ‘Dead Woman Pass’, to negotiate first. This is an excruciating uphill slog. The trick is to take it at your own pace.The pace-setters went off first—Grant (triathlete, frighteningly fit, and a proper ‘adult’), Gary (footballer, extreme-sports enthusiast),and my mate Ed (recovering from knee surgery and food poisoning, had been advised by a doctor just 2 days previously not to attempt the Trail). I looked at my watch. 7:30. I had a 1250m climb ahead (the equivalent of climbing ...Read More

Member Rating 4 out of 5 on August 24, 2006

Inca Trail
Andes Mountains
Cusco, Peru

Inca Trail

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Attraction | "The Inca Trail - Day 3"

Inca Trail Photo, Cusco, Peru
Quote:
After the slog of Dead Woman Pass, Day Three was a treat. We woke to see dawn sparkling gold on the clouds in the valley below us, leaving us feeling that we were truly on top of the world. We started off with another hard climb for an hour or so, broken by a stop at the semi-circular Incan tambo (way-station) of Runkuracay which kept an eye out over the pass we had cleared the day before. From here onwards I really enjoyed the hike. The route was mostly downhill, I had got to know my fellow hikers enough to have some good chats, and Runkuracay proved to be just the first of a series of impressive ruins. The next one we reached was the stunning Sayacmarca, its stone blending in with the moun...Read More

Member Rating 5 out of 5 on August 24, 2006

Inca Trail
Andes Mountains
Cusco, Peru