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24 Hour Introduction to Cusco, Peru

24 Hour Introduction to Cusco, Peru


By avatar  Stacy
Posted On 09/09/2018 17:10:58
Trip Date 01/15/2018  

Destinations | Peru | Cusco | What to See in Cusco | Plaza de Armas | Cusicancha | Hatun Rumiyoc Street | Cristo Blanco | Sacsayhuaman | San Pedro Market | Free Walking Tour Cusco | Jose Martinez



For many travelers, Cusco, Peru is simply the gateway city for a trip to Machu Picchu, but it really is much more than that. In addition to being a great stopover after a long plane trip (and also the launching point for many people on their way to Aguas Calientes), the interesting and historical city of Cusco is worthy of some of every traveler's time.

If you are considering a trip to Peru, take a look at this post for some ideas on how to get acquainted with the city of Cusco - it will make your time in Peru even more memorable. The best part is that, if all that you can spare is one day, you can still see and learn a lot about the city, and you can do so on a real budget (less than $10.00 for two people excluding meals, lodging and tips).


Arrival in Cusco Peru

Although we got very little sleep on our longest flight from Dallas to Lima, Peru, we ignored all of the advice to "take it easy on your first day to allow your body to adjust to the high altitude". After all, today was our only day to explore Cusco, and we had things to do and places to see! Upon our arrival at the Cusco airport, we easily requested an Uber and were transported the short distance to our hotel very near Plaza de Armas. After checking in to our room and grabbing a bite to eat we were ready for our afternoon tour.

Plaza de Armas: Starting Point for Walking Tour of Cusco

Before leaving home, we made a reservation for Free Walking Tour Cusco which started at 3:30 PM ... just as it began drizzling. We met Jose Martinez, the "red t-shirt tour guide" in front of the fountain in Plaza de Armas (aka Plaza Mayor), and he directed us to stand under cover while waiting for three others who were also registered for the tour. Within a few minutes, our group of five (the two of us plus one person each from England, Hong Kong and New York) was off to explore and learn about the city of Cusco (originally spelled Qosqo and sometimes spelled Cuzco today). Fortunately for all of us, the rain pretty much stopped for our entire tour.


Plaza de Armas Fountain

Plaza de Armas Fountain

After learning that the statue atop the fountain depicted an Incan in true warrior attire, we departed the main square. Our walk took us to our first stop, the original mid-point of the city, where we saw an illustration of the "puma" shape of Cusco. (Prior to the arrival of the Spanish conquistadors into South America, the city of Cusco was the capital of the Inca empire.)


Central Point of Cusco

Central Point of Cusco

During our three hour tour, Jose shared some of the history of La Catedral, the construction of which went on for 94 years due in part to an earthquake causing devastation and destruction in 1650. (Fortunately earthquakes are infrequent in the area, with the next one making impact in 1950 - only once every 300 years.)


La Catedral

La Catedral

As recommended by our guide, we wandered through La Cathedral during the free entry hours (prior to 10:00 AM) on the morning after our walking tour. We were successful with locating the The Last Supper painting which depicted a non-traditional guinea pig on the serving platter.


The Last Supper

The Last Supper

Compania de Jesus, also Catholic and located on an adjacent side of Plaza de Armas, was constructed in much less time - only 18 years!


Compania de Jesus

Compania de Jesus


Alpacas, Llamas and Mercado Artesanal

We entered a small courtyard that was home to a market, and the location where I was first introduced to alpacas. After learning how to distinguish an alpaca from a llama (alpacas have longer hair on their foreheads), Jose also shared that, in addition to Guinea pigs, hairless dogs and llamas, alpacas were one of only four animals domesticated by the Incas. I seriously wanted to bring an alpaca home with me ... but didn't think I could ever get Scott's consent!


Llamas and Alpacas

Llamas and Alpacas

Introduction to the Incas

Our very brief introduction to the expertise of the Incas was quite fascinating, as was hearing about the significance that the number "three" had:

  • Incas believed in three worlds - lower (underworld and death), middle (human life) and upper (stars and gods);
  • their belief in the three principles guiding each person - love, knowledge and work; and
  • the three Incan commandments - don't steal, don't lie and don't be lazy.


Although some of the decorative alleys were more recently constructed / refurbished, the designs depicted true Inca style and often included the "three-stepped cross".


Decorative Alleys in Cusco

Decorative Alleys in Cusco

Cusicancha

Our tour included the opportunity to spend some time roaming around the neighborhood of Cusicancha, the location of remains of some homes where Incas had settled so many years ago. As was typical with the style of the Incas, the walls were built without using any mortar between the stones in the walls. Although difficult to see due to high amounts of humidity on the glass viewing panel, there was an elongated skull reportedly found nearby that was also displayed in the neighborhood. (Some believe that the skull is that of an alien ... maybe one that helped the Incas with construction at the site?)


Neighborhood of Cusicancha

Neighborhood of Cusicancha

Hatun Rumiyoc Street

We saw numerous examples of "anti-seismic stone walls" which remained standing through both the 1650 and 1950 earthquakes. The building precision of the Incas just doesn't seem possible for the time - for example, the famous twelve angled stone with 12 sides and 12 corners all fitting perfectly between the 11 surrounding stones ... and without mortar of any kind. It was truly amazing to picture in my mind how these Inca warriors could possibly have built walls sturdy enough to remain standing all of these years without the assistance of the tools and technology available today (including wheels) ... maybe the legends about aliens helping with the construction are true!


Twelve Angled Stone on Hatun Rumiyoc Street

Twelve Angled Stone on Hatun Rumiyoc Street


Cristo Blanco

Our Free Walking Tour Cusco included an optional shared taxi ride to Cristo Blanco, of which all five of us were eager to take advantage. Jose negotiated with two taxi drivers who provided transportation for the short, but uphill drive to Cristo Blanco. After splitting the S/. 10 (less than $3.50 USD) cost among our group of three, we walked the short distance to the statue towering above the city.


Cristo Blanco

Cristo Blanco

We enjoyed the very impressive panoramic views of the city of Cusco.


Panoramic Views from Cristo Blanco

Panoramic Views from Cristo Blanco

Among the many red roofed buildings making up the city, we were even able to locate Plaza de Armas, the starting point for our tour.


Aerial View of Plaza de Armas

Aerial View of Plaza de Armas

Before beginning our return walk, we took advantage of the opportunity to have a member of our tour group take a photo of the two of us at this amazing viewpoint.


Proof that we made it to Cristo Blanco!

Proof that we made it to Cristo Blanco!

It was at this location that I had my second alpaca encounter and where I realized that these adorable animals were being dolled up in bright colors and utilized by the locals as a way to garner tips from tourists who can't resist their cute faces.


Photos with Alpaca for Sale!

Photos with Alpaca for Sale!


Sacsayhuaman Archaeological Site

After enjoying the views from above, we began our return walk past the walls of Sacsayhuaman Archaeological Site (pronounced "sexy woman" for the Americans).


Sacsayhuaman Archaeological Site

Sacsayhuaman Archaeological Site

Although there were some rather steep downhill patches on our one mile hike back to the city center, it was not terribly difficult as most of the walk was on a cobblestone road.


Following the Cobblestone Road to Cusco

Following the Cobblestone Road to Cusco

San Pedro Market

Our guided tour ended at the same place where it started - Plaza de Armas. We thanked Jose with a tip for the time that we spent together learning about his home city on the free walking tour. We also said our goodbyes to our tour companions from Hong Kong and England before walking to San Pedro Market with our fellow tourist from New York. Unfortunately our suspicions were correct and the market was already closed for the day so we missed out on the various food options that had come so highly recommended for dinner.


San Pedro Market

San Pedro Market

After Scott and I found a restaurant for dinner, we walked at a relatively fast pace back to our hotel as the "hawkers" were still at it - pushing their keychains, hats, and other trinkets as well as tours ... and even massages. I was worn out from the excitement of touring this small part of a country that was new to me. Coupled with the limited sleep from the past two days and the constant murmur of the street sellers, I was definitely in need of a good nights rest.


Tips for Exploring Cusco

Here's a few suggestions for making the most of your time in Cusco:

  • Although most restaurants and hotels will take credit cards, and you'll probably find some items that can be purchased with USD, you will likely want some Peruvian Soles (S/. or PEN) during your visit to Peru. If you have a lengthy layover in Lima (or your time is limited in Cusco), consider withdrawing from an ATM at the airport in Lima. You will also find a number of ATMs in the vicinity of Cusco's Plaza de Armas.
  • While you can certainly see all of the sites that we saw on our walking tour on your own, I highly recommend scheduling the Free Walking Tour Cusco with Jose Martinez. Hearing from a very knowledgeable local will definitely enhance your time in Cusco. The knowledge that you gain from Jose will also make a positive impact on other locations that you visit in Peru. Plus, there is no cost for the tour - just tip the guide generously at the conclusion of your tour.
  • The Free Walking Tour Cusco is offered three times daily (9:50 AM, 12:30 PM and 3:30 PM). Reservations are recommended for the tour as the maximum number of participants is 12 - 15 per tour.
  • Depending on your arrival time into Cusco, we recommend taking the earliest tour that your schedule will permit. By doing so, you will have time to make it to San Pedro Market before closing time. (Although we didn't have the opportunity to eat at the market, the word on the street is that the food is excellent ... and cheap too!) Additionally, if there are places at which you wish you had more time, you'll have the time to make a return visit.
  • If you can swing a visit before 10:00 AM, take some time to walk through La Cathedral during the free entry hours. The cathedral is very easy to find and touring on your own is definitely worth a small investment of time. Don't forget to see the non-traditional The Last Supper painting (right side of the cathedral in the far back corner)!
  • Prepare yourself for the non-stop barrage of sales pitches from the street vendors. From small trinkets to massages and tours ... or a photo with alpacas, they wake early and stay up late trying to make a living by selling their wares. The peddlers were by no means aggressive, they were just everywhere and were trying to sell a wide variety of stuff. Be prepared to either bargain if you want to make a purchase, or just say "no, thank you".


Need a Hotel in Cusco?

A short Uber ride took us from the airport (CUZ) to Casa Andina Standard Cusco Plaza near the Plaza de Armas. We were quite impressed with this three star hotel as we had all that we needed for our one night in Cusco. The staff was friendly and very helpful, our hotel room and bathroom were both clean and comfortable, our stay included breakfast and the hotel was very near the center of town.


Casa Andina Standard Cusco Plaza

Casa Andina Standard Cusco Plaza

Peru's Sacred Valley

If you are enroute to Machu Picchu like almost everyone who spends any time in Cusco, take a look at our post titled Traveling through Peru's Sacred Valley for an overview of our one day tour through the Sacred Valley. At a cost of only $85.00 USD (plus tip for up to 4 people), our tour was an excellent way to both see this important area in Peru as well as get us to Ollantaytambo, the starting point for the train headed toward Machu Picchu at the time of our visit.

Cusco, Peru

While the Free Walking Tour Cusco gave us a great introduction to the city, I'm sure that there is more to see. For those who have additional time in Cusco, what suggestions do you have for must see sights in the city?




Total FitBit steps today: 16,191
Weather:57F Cloudy


24 Hour Introduction to Cusco, Peru



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Created On 08/31/2018 13:44:49  
Updated On 10/29/2018 00:22:54
Scheduled On 08/31/2018 17:10:58
Posted On 09/09/2018 17:10:58
Last Editor Stacy
Location  Plaza De Armas, Cuzco, Peru
LinkId  24HoursCuscoPeru
StoryId  1535737489262





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