on September 19, 2006
Located higher than other attractions in the Sacred Valley and well worth a visit is the charming village of Chinchero, with a population of 2,000. Chinchero is less than 30km from Cusco and is normally included in Sacred Valley tours. Chinchero was once the country estate of one of the last Incan emperors, Yupa Inca, and before Spanish rule, the village was fondly known as El Pueblo Del Arco Iris, or "birthplace of the rainbow." You can easily see why.Upon arriving Chinchero, you have to scale steep steps to get up to the huge main square, which is more than worth the effort. Entrance to the town is through the "Boleto Turistico" ticket (70 soles, approximately $25). Although the walk isn’t far, the steepness makes it a good 20-minute journey, but it doesn’t feel this long as you pass numerous tourist shops along the narrow, cobbled streets. Along the way you also see Inca Walls with 10 enormous trademark trapezoidal niches. As soon as you enter the main square, you are met with breathtaking views across the Andes, especially of Chicon and Veronica Mountains, in the Urumbamba Mountain range. Try and visit on a Sunday, as this is when the main Plaza de Armas square is at its busiest, with the hustle and bustle of the tourist market in full swing. You may find cheap prices in Pisaq and Cusco, but I think Chinchero prices are cheapest of the lot and also hard to beat on quality as well. I would definitely recommend saving room in your suitcase until visiting here. The market traders are the most conservative I came across during my time in Peru, still dressed in traditional garb, and for once you feel as though the dress is not for show, but real life. While bartering in the afternoon sun, you have the magnificent adobe brick colonial church dominating the back drop, built upon original Incan foundations. Inside you can find locally important paintings of the "Escuela Cusquena." Also in Chinchero on Sundays, and to a lesser extent Tuesdays and Thursdays, is an agricultural market held at the bottom of the town, where they use the practice of "catu," where currency is discarded and everything is "sold" through exchange.For me, though, the highlight of a trip here is stepping slightly off the tourist trail. Standing in the Plaza de Armas Main Square, facing the colonial church, take the steps to your left, towards the Inca terracing. Here you will find many potato farmers sitting, waiting for their produce to dry, ready to be sold at a future market. These are the Andean people that see very little of the tourist trade and make for a very interesting conversation, even if their grasp of Spanish was weak, and mine of Quechua even weaker.As the town is located 3,800m (12,500ft) a.s.l, approximately 400m higher than Cusco, I would save a trip here until you are fully acclimatized; otherwise, enjoyment will be less.
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