Cusco: Breathtaking in more ways than one

It is easy to see why Cusco is designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It is a beautiful city in South America, with aesthetic and cultural appeal. It has a history of Incan legends that fascinate many.

Cusco: Breathtaking in more ways than one

Member Rating 0 out of 5 by lashr1999 on May 19, 2006

Cusco is a city in southeastern Peru near the Andes mountains. It had been the capital of the Incan Empire. In fact, its names come from a word meaning navel or center of the world. Evidence of the Incan civilization is scattered throughout Cusco. The most famous ruin from this period would have to be Machu Picchu A 4 day hike or a 4 hour train ride from Cusco will get you here. The site is as impressive as all those pictures I’ve seen in National Geographic.

Besides the great Machu Picchu there are other Incan ruins closer to Cusco that should be experienced, such as Sacsaywaman, Templo de la Luna, and TamboMachay. Many of these sites are close to each other on our tour we saw five of these sites in a day. If you do not do a tour, purchase a Cusco tourist ticket before you visit the first site for $10 which will get you to about 15 historic sites in Cusco.

The influence of the Spaniards who conquered the area with Pizarro in 1537 can readily be seen in the center of town. The Spanish and Incan mix of architecture can be seen in the building such as San Blas, the cathedral, and Santa Clara. A short walk from the Plaza de Armas takes you to these sites.

Although the Puma shaped city has many ancient sites it does have modern conveniences. There are several good restaurants around to try, and at night relax at one of several bars, pubs, or cafes.

${QuickSuggestions} Cusco is situated very high in the Andes, about 3326m above sea level. For the average people it may be a little difficult to breath here. Altitude sickness can be mild or severe. It does not depend on age, weight, or height. In fact, I became winded after climbing a few stairs, and on the second day I became winded when sitting. An elderly lady on our tour, had to be flown out the first day because of breathing problems. To avoid problems, take it very easy the first day while your body adjusts. Drink plenty of bottled water. Some hotels such as mine give you free cocoa—leaf tea which helps curb the symptoms. It is legal and it will not make you high. It tastes like light green tea and is also supposed to aid in digestion. Diamox is a medicine you can get from the pharmacy to reduce symptoms as well. ${BestWay} Many places are accessible by walking short distances from the city center. If you do not feel like walking, cabs are relatively cheap and can take you where you want to go. There are some areas with narrow street where cabs cannot go, this was the case for my hotel. You have to take a walk to the corner and catch a cab or bus from where the roads are wider

Los Apus Hotel & Mirador

Member Rating 4 out of 5 by lashr1999 on May 19, 2006

Los Apus hotel was built on the foundations of an ancient colonial house. It is a 20-room hotel, restored in a Swiss-colonial style. There are public balconies and a terrace on the top, which provided good views of the city although they are partially obstructed.

The rooms themselves are small but tastefully decorated and comfortable. The walls were a peach/pink color with wood trim. Spanish-styled, recreated religious painting on a wood frame were hung around the room. The room had a double-size bed and wood furniture and floors. The bathrooms were clean, with plenty of hot water. The rooms had old-styled radiators instead of heaters. The rooms are built around a central atrium, so you could hear the noise from the lobby as well as some of the other rooms. A good tip is to try for rooms on the third and fourth floors, since they have private balconies with good views. My room had a window opening into the atrium, but I could walk to the public balconies a few doors down to take in a view.

In the mornings a free continental breakfast is served in the lobby with eggs, milk, tea, coffee, cheese, juice, and bread. If you are on an early morning tour and have to get up at 4am, breakfast is on the top level with the same foods. Cocoa tea is available thoughout the day for free in the lobby to help you if you have altitude sickness. The food served for lunch and dinner is a bit pricey, so it is better to try a restaurant outside.

The staff was friendly and helpful. They helped me to call my tour company when they did not come to pick me up a half-hour late.

The best feature of the hotel is the location. It is near San Blas and a few block away from the Plaza de Armas. The street is too narrow for buses or cabs to go to. You have to walk a few blocks down where the streets are wider to catch a cab or bus.

Of note is that three Peruvian films were filmed here:1) Bala Perdida, 2) Un Marciano Llamado Desea and 3) Cuando el Cielo es Azul.

I got my hotel through a tour package, but the published cost of a room is $89 for a single room. People have gotten it for less during off-seasons.

Los Apus Hotel & Mirador
Atocsaycuchi 515
Cusco, Peru

Pisaq Market

Member Rating 3 out of 5 by lashr1999 on May 19, 2006

The Pisaq market is close to the Scared Valley and Sacsaywaman. Many tour buses which go to the Sacred Valley may make stops here as well. Remember that the markets are only open Sunday, Tuesday and Thursdays from 9am - 5pm.

The best day to visit is on Sunday. It is on Sundays that the locals set up a mercado de treque (trade market). This market dates back to the ancient Peruvian days where Peruvians in the highlands depended on trade. The natives trade vegetables, herbs and potatoes for other goods like matches, oranges and medicines. Excellent pictures can be taken of people in their native dress and of the colorful fruits, vegetables, dyes and spices.

Also, on Sundays there are masses held at San Pedro Apostol de Pisaq at 6am and 11am. You can see Peruvian people walk out in their Sunday best after mass. When mass is not going on you can check out the church. You can see interesting colonial paintings inside.

On Tuesdays, Thursdays and Sundays, you can go to the Pisac artesian market. Here, you can haggle for goods such as carved gourds, carved chess sets, alpaca goods, weaved blankets and other goods. I have no haggling skills, it seems. For a statue I liked, I thought I got a good price of 60 sols for which 120 sols was being asked. However, other friends in my group were able to get the same statue for 40 sols. It would seem the sellers ask for 75% more for their goods. Another tip is that if you buy different goods at the same stall you can get more of a discount as well. Look for stalls that are not in a central area, the people here will give you more of a discount to buy their goods.

Cusco, Peru


Member Rating 0 out of 5 by lashr1999 on May 19, 2006

Ollantaytambo is a town which is in the western part of the sacred valley. It takes about 2.5 hours to get here by bus from Cusco.

What is amazing is that some of the Incan structures in town are still used today by people. You can see houses built on top of dark pink Incan rock walls. The town itself is a great surviving example of how the Incans arranged their towns. The towns are divided into blocks called cunchas. Each block has a large stone doorway that leads to a courtyard. Houses surround this central courtyard.

The fortress at Ollantaytambo is magnificent. It was built into a mountainside to be used for defense and religious purposes. The fortress itself is made up of stepped terraces made of massive stone. Climbing about 200 steps up you get a nice view and a sense of breathlessness if you are not used to the altitude. Our guide said these huge stone were moved from quarries from the opposite hillside. To get the rock to the final site, workers used a system of rollers, ramps and slopes. In addition, they used rocks to divert the river to help with the transport of the stone.

The history of the place is fascinating. This fortress we were told served as a place where Manco Inca gathered his forces after the fall of Cusco to conquistadors from Spain. When Spanish forces attacked the site the Incans forced them to retreat and enjoyed a short lived victory. Shortly after, the Spanish returned with four times the number of troops that they had previously and took over the site.

Our guide told us of a beautiful Quencha legend that surrounds the site, which is put on as a play in Peru. As the story goes, a general of the army named Ollanta fell in love with the rulers daughter Kusi. After winning numerous battles, the ruler Pachacutec offered the general anything he wanted. Ollanta asked for Kusi’s hand in marriage. It was sacrilegious for people in different casts to marry. Ollanta was forced to leave and Kusi was jailed with her son. Ollanta gathered forces and started a rebellion which lasted 10 years. Ollanta was eventually defeated and enslaved. When Ollanta was taken, Pachacutec had just died and Pachacutec’s son took over. Pachacutec’s son listened to the story of the two lovers and granted a pardon and allowed their marriage. The two lovers then lived happily with their child.


Member Rating 0 out of 5 by lashr1999 on May 19, 2006

Tambomachay, or Tambo de la Caverna, is about 15 minutes away from Cusco by bus. It’s name comes from two words from the Quencha language. Tampu means lodging and Machay means caves.

The site itself has four terraces on a hill. The terraces are made from irregularly carved stones. What is amazing about the site is its water system. There are two aqueducts, which are carved into the rock and from which clean water flows throughout the year. Hundreds of years later, you can still see three fountains with clear water flowing out of them.

The water coming from these springs were worshipped as a source of life. There is a small stone puddle at the lowest level, believed to be a sacred spring. It is thought that this was where the Incas came to worship water. Imagine if there were no other people in the place and it was quiet, and all you could hear was the sound of water. It would be very spiritual.

There is a fortified tower in front of the building. This suggests that, in addition to a place of worship, it may have served as a defense system and communication place.

Many tours visit this site as well as four other sites which are located close to this site. The cost of the tours are about $10, and you can use your $20 tourist ticket to gain entry into this site.


Member Rating 0 out of 5 by lashr1999 on May 19, 2006

I encountered Patiti restaurant while walking along the Plaza de Armas after a long tour, hungry and looking for a good place to eat. The sound of music and of the people inside drew me in.

The décor of the restaurant is elegant. The back wall is mirrored and the side walls are a tasteful faux green marble. Of note is that some of the walls are actually part of an old Inca palace that once stood in the Plaza de Armas. The tables are covered in fine table clothes and have yellow cloth napkins and vases with cut flowers.

The service in the restaurant is great. After you sit down you are given a free Pisco sour and some bread to have while you wait. Your water is always kept full and the main course was served relatively fast.

The menu at Patiti is varied, they serve both Peruvian and international food such as pasta. I had wanted to try cuy or guinea pig the previous day. However, in the afternoon at a Chiceria I went to I saw what these cute mouse like creatures looked like. I could not bring myself to eat a family pet even though the price for the dish was half what other places charge at around $8. I was actually surprised by the menu prices. I was going to pass the restaurant by since I thought it would be too expensive. However, the main dishes cost about $12. The main dish I ended up choosing to eat was Carapulcra which is a spicy pork stew. The dish was excellent and tasty and beautifully presented on the plate.

All the while, a traditional Peruvian band played Peruvian music. At different times during the day, different Peruvian groups stop by to play their music and sell their CDs.

The bathroom was clean. However. you could hear noise from the sidewalk through the window which was distracting,

I am glad chance lead me to this restaurant and my frugality did not dissuade me from entering

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