Cusco and Surrounding Areas, Readers ReviewJanuary 16, 2012
Cusco is a beautiful city, and if you arrive by plane your first glimpse of it will be the high mountains surrounding the wide valley floor with Cusco nestled in between. My trip from the airport to the centre of Cusco was a little scary, as the taxi drivers like to drive fast, and a two lane street can quite easily become a 5 lane street when the traffic builds up. But don’t let this put you off. If you weren’t up for an experience, you wouldn’t have come to Peru! The whole place is bustling constantly, and there lots of people walking around and just as much traffic. Coming from a place where everyone drives cars, to see so many people walking around made Cusco appear intense, but after a few days here, I got over that and began to look past the hustle bustle, and notice the beautiful plazas, colonial buildings and wide elegant main streets and narrow cobbled side streets.
The Plaza de Armas is the main square with colonial buildings which is used as a great meeting place, crammed with shops, cafes and restaurants, including an popular American bar called Norton’s and another popular Irish pub called Paddy’s which serves fantastic food, to impress any homesick traveller. Both bars are in the same corner of the plaza and easy to find
I stayed in the San Blas area of the town, starting only two blocks behind the Plaza de Armas. My hotel of choice was the Rumi Punku, which catered to my every need, even ones I didn’t know I had until I needed it, for example, luggage storage, laundry, free internet, 24 hour access, heaters, hot showers & cosy beds. San Blas, which extends upwards towards Saqsayhuman is the artistic quarter of Cusco. Here you will find many more galleries, cafes, musicians and Shaman. It’s a chilled out area of Cusco.
On my first day in Cusco, and after a lovely cup of coca tea, we decided to take a stroll up to the Christo Blanco (a large white statue of Christ overlooking the city). Whilst we took it slowly, it’s probably not recommended to do such a trek without spending a few days taking it easy and acclimatising to the altitude first! Likewise, many drinks and hygiene products, (ie deodorant etc) are bottled at sea level, and like you, are not use to the change in pressure, beware that you contents might jump out of the bottle when you take off the lid!
Having explored the wider city more, the food markets can be an eye opening experience, the artisan markets are filled with beautiful presents to take home, and definitely don’t be afraid to explore the alley ways which are disguised as narrow shops entrances, as you will likely end up in the back of the stop which opens out on to courtyards surrounded by more shops or steps leading up to a cafe.
Around the touristy areas in Cusco, mainly surrounding Plaza de Armas, you will no doubt be approached by a local trying to sell you something. This might be a child wanting to shine your shoes, or an art student wanting to sell some art, or a farmer’s wife trying to make some extra money by selling sweets, cigarettes and woollen hats. If you choose you buy something, I’m sure you will get a good deal, but if you don’t want to, politely say, “No gracias” and walk on.
Many of the buildings in the city are built on the foundations of Incan buildings, and often you will see the fine block-work rising up a meter or so. There are also several museums dedicated to the history of Peru and a it is worth while making time to visit Korikancha on the Avenue del Sol.
Cusco is also a good central location to visit other Incan citadels nearby. A few I visited and recommend are the beautiful ruins of Pisac (which boast spectacular views and a daily artisan market in the town). Also take time to visit Saqsayhuman, an Inca site high above Cusco and the mysterious moon temple near Q’enqo. The wonderfully designed and preserved irrigation channels of the agricultural terraces of Tipon are worth exploring. My personal favourite are the three circular agricultural terraces at Moray, where you are able to climb down in to the centre to experience for yourself the change in temperature from the highest to the lowest terraces and discover the ingenious of the Incas.
Cusco is also the setting off point to Machu Picchu, whether you choose to go by train or walk the Inca trail.
Our travel professionals have written about many other exciting tourist attractions in Peru. Take some time to read through our comprehensive Guide to Peru for information on other places to visit.
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