The imperial city of Cusco has become one of the world’s great travel destinations. The city has stood for nine centuries and was once the capital of the Inca Empire. Unfortunately, many of the Inca masterpieces were looted and destroyed by the Spanish but the city still has much interest.
by LenR on July 27, 2009
There is so much to see in Cusco and in the surrounding area that the number of attractions almost becomes overwhelming. Some years ago someone had the thought of selling a combined ticket which would allow visitors to visit everything. It never quite worked like that because a few attractions refused to join but it covered enough and was priced appropriately to make it a good buy. That changed somewhat when the Archdiocese of Cusco took the cathedral, the church of San Blas and the religious art museum out of the ticket. It was not helped either when the price almost doubled in 2007.Never-the-less the ticket is still useful if you are planning a reasonable stay in Cusco and surroundings and plan to see many of the attractions. The "Tourist Ticket" of Cusco or Boleto Turistico is required to visit almost all of the Incan ruins in the Cusco Valley or "Sacred Valley", as well as the many of the interesting museums within Cusco itself. The ticket is good for 10 days, which is plenty of time to see just about all of the sites.The places you can visit with the ticket are in three separate categories. Within Cusco City there is the Museum of Contemporary Arts, Museum of Popular Arts, Site Museum of Qoriqancha, Monument of Pachacutea, Regional Historic Museum, and Center of Native Arts and Dance. Then there are the four Incan Ruins near Cusco: Sacsayhuamán, Quenqo, Tambomachay, Tipón, Pikillaqta. Finally there are the Inca sites in the Sacred Valley: Pisac, Ollantaytambo, Chinchero. Foreign visitors should expect to pay about S/. 140 (about $45 USD), Peruvian nationals pay S/. 70 with National ID. There is a discount for students under the age of 28, so take your current student ID for a potential discount. The Tourist Ticket can be bought at Avenida El Sol 103 of 102 (Tourist Galleries), opposite InfoPeru. This is in the first block after leaving the Plaza de Armas, on the left hand side if you are walking from the Plaza. You can also buy it at an office at the corner of Calle Garcilaso and Plaza Recogcio. The ticket can be bought at almost all the sites with the exception of Historical Regional Museum, Centre Qosqo of Native Art, Tipon and Pikillaqta. You can only buy your ticket using soles (not dollars). If you are interested in only Cusco’s cathedral, Inca Museum, Museo de Arte Precolombino and Temple of the Sun, the tourist ticket is no use. The Temple of the Sun, arguably Cusco’s most fabulous sight, levies its own admission price and is not part of the ticket. The Inca Museum and Museo de Arte Precolombino also charge admission independently. The cathedral can be visited separately or you can buy an integrated ticket to visit it, the church of San Blas and the religious art museum. This is what we did but it would have been just as good to buy individual admission because we didn’t make it to the San Blas church.
Some visitors use Cusco purely as a stopping point n the way to Machu Picchu but this is a mistake. One of the joys of this city is to explore the many narrow cobblestone streets with their colourful terra-cotta roofed buildings. If you are not acclimatised to the altitude, this can be a real problem.The central city is most enjoyable explored on foot. Even many of the streets which are open to traffic are so narrow that it’s simply faster to walk than to drive. One problem, however, is that streets change names every few blocks and this has been further complicated by the city erecting new street signs with old Quechua names to highlight its Inca heritage. These naturally bear no relationship to the common Spanish names that everyone still uses to designate addresses.I strongly suggest you walk the narrow, steep streets which lead north from the Plaza de Armas to the San Blas district. This area has recently been restored and the white-washed adobe homes with bright-blue doors shine in the sun. Many of the stone streets are built as stairs or slopes not suitable for cars so it is pleasant, but exhausting, walking. The area is known as Cusco's artisans' quarter since many of the best craftsmen have their workshops and small art galleries in the cobbled, narrow streets surrounding the 16th-century church of San Blas. It is believed that this area was also the artists' district even during the Inca times, with the streets filled with the best gold- and silver-smiths, potters, painters and carvers from throughout the Inca empire. San Blas church, founded in 1562, is of simple adobe construction but it contains an extraordinary wood pulpit once claimed to be carved from a single massive tree trunk. This is now disputed. At the top stands Saint Paul, his foot resting on a human skull, believed to belong to the craftsman who made the pulpit. San Blas really comes to life in the evenings when the bars and restaurants open. It is wise, however, not to walk the pedestrian-only streets late at night because of possible opportunistic thieves. The area above the fountain to the northeast of the plaza is a good place to take advantage of the view out over Cusco and the red tiled rooftops. On Saturdays there is a handicraft market in the square.
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