on April 27, 2005
Chinchero was once the country estate of one of the last emperors. There was once a great Inca religious site, but the Spanish came in and built a church atop it. There is a steep walk through a narrow walkway to get to this church, with a market just before the entrance. The foundation is the original Inca stone foundation. The interior of the church has a glorious gold altar and beautiful frescoes painted by Cusquenian Indians. No pictures or video are allowed inside, hence the lack of photos of this. However, I did find a photo on this website.
In more recent history, Chinchero was home to the Shining Path terrorist group. It is slowly starting to lure tourists back, though there are no accommodations in the town. Therefore, you must stay in Cusco or elsewhere and find transportation in.
Although you feel like you're in the middle of a valley floor, surrounded by high peaks in the distance and thousands of acres of farmland, Chinchero is actually higher than Cusco (12,000 feet; some say it is 14,000 feet up, but I doubt that) and atop the mountains between the Sacred Valley and Cusco on a plateau. It stands too high for farmers to raise corn, lettuce, or fruits that grow in the valleys, but Chinchero is known as a prime growing area for potatoes and grains. Inca families honor the land and plant carefully laid-out fields that look like they are weaved together.
The easiest way to get to Chinchero is to join one of the many Sacred Valley tours offered by many hotels and tour companies in and around Cusco. Look around the Plaza de Armas in Cusco for these operators. The average cost of these tours is $25, plus the $20 Tourist Ticket (a ticket for admittance to 16 historical sites in Cusco and the Sacred Valley, including Chinchero). Most tour companies also include a buffet lunch with the tour. Tours last all day, departing Cusco around 9am and returning around 6pm.
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