Cusco was an incredible city with a fascinating history. We stayed for 3 days to set up our trek to Machu Picchu and had a little extra time to explore the city. Before our actual trek, we had a few days as well, giving us some great memories during two very different months.
Our first trip was at the end of June. We took a walking tour of the city and learned not only about the local hot spots and sights, but about the history as well. Fun fact: each of the 13 churches in Cusco were built on top of the inca temples that the Spanish destroyed. The Spanish ruined the religious sites of the incas and then built their churches on top of said sights, replacing the religion (in their eyes). What that created and shows up as today is an array of towering, giant churches with stones at their base that differ from the rest. The stones at the base of the churches are part of the original inca walls and architecture. The difference is incredible between the two.
The incas had to sand down each stone to fit with the surrounding ones, giving a perfect and smooth fit to the wall. The Spaniards used brick like shapes that all matched and are even. This is clearly shown when the point in the church turns in to a mixture of shapes in the rocks. For the parts of town that are still comprised of the original inca buildings, there are many sights to see. Two in particular our group stopped at. The first was the 8-sided stone. This massive rock lies near the base of one of the churches, carved to connect with 8 surrounding rocks. It is customized to fit so well, and also the rock in the city that touches so many points in a building’s wall. The second sight we got to see was a wall with animals formations in the rocks. One was a puma and the other a snake. I have included the part of the wall with the snake to see if anyone can spot it. But, seriously, it’s a snake… It won’t be that hard to spot. 😉
The only things in Cusco that are outnumbered by people are the llamas. They are everywhere! Because everyone, myself included, thinks they are so damn cute, the little Peruvian ladies walk around with their decorated llamas and baby goats. Whenever people want a picture, they are charged anywhere from 1 Sol to 5 Soles, depending on the location in town. Now, I have already stated that I won’t pay for a picture of a llama when I can walk to a field and take them for free. So, I never got a picture with the llamas. I did however, sneak around a corner and snap a few quick pictures of an especially cute one… Guilty. I couldn’t help it! The lady was all dressed up and on a mission to pimp out her llama! She was also trying to charge us 5 Soles for a photo. That’s just stealing!
Aside from the llamas running around all decorated, there were llama sweaters and llama gear galore! There is a large central market full of food and shops, but the better prices are in the side streets surrounding the main square. One of these shops is where Chase and I got our matching llama sweaters… Yes ladies and gentleman, the answer is always yes to matching llama sweaters! From Ugly Sweater Parties at Christmas to cozy nights by the fire, we are set for life with these sweaters. We even have a Machu Picchu photo in those sweaters for Christmas cards! To say I am thrilled to have a llama get-up including hat, sweater, mittens, and socks is a total understatement… I just love llamas. I doubt my family would be surprised if I brought one home!
Around the main plaza, Chase and I wandered to our heart’s content. It’s a relaxing place, with tons of benches, restaurants, and festivities for whatever holiday they happen to be celebrating. In Cusco, 322 days of the year is a celebrations with parades and festivities. This makes for a great time anytime. Our first time there was during the Winter Solstice and the second was Peruvian Independence Day. We saw parades, dancing men in masks, and golden statues that had been moved for the events. Also, every single building in Cusco flies the Cusco flag. Ironically, it is the rainbow flag we often see in the states. However, Cusco has had the flag for over 2,000 years! Sorry folks, they had it first…
When we were in town the second time with Chase’s family, we explored the central market further. It was large and packed! The front third is comprised of little booths full of hand made items such as sweaters, socks, hats, purses, and other trinkets. In the middle, there is a large food section full of fresh fruits, veggies, and meats. Lastly, the back is full of booths that serve meals, varying from dinner to drinks to snacks on the run. The fact that so many things are fit into such tight spaces and still perfectly functional is amazing! It was some great food, too!
After our trek, we had one day left in Cusco before the drive back to Lima. Luckily for us, it was independence day for Peru! There were people everywhere, tons of street food, and firecrackers going off by 7 am in the morning! Every person from the surrounding towns came in for the day to celebrate. It was a bluebird day with the smells of delicious street food surrounding us. Chase and I also got to bring his parents to Juanito’s, a local sandwich restaurant that another couple showed us on our first trip. It was AMAZING, and even better than the first time! To this day, it is still the best food I have had in Peru. With a happier heart and a happier stomach, my last day in Cusco was a grand success!
The days in between that included our trek are soon to come! The trek was too epic and exciting to squeeze in to a post about Cusco! 😉
From somewhere new, Jess