What to visit in Cusco


Cuzco was the nerve center of the Inca Civilization, and today we have been able to discover it. Even its historic center, declared in 1983 a World Heritage Site by Unesco, breathes ancient times. It has so many monuments that it has been considered the "Rome of America".

The last two days have been really intense, so today we are going to take it easy. In fact, our stay in the capital of the Inca Empire and the oldest inhabited city in all of America (over 3,000 years old) is going to serve as a place for gifts for family and friends. For this we will not do it in the most expensive places, but we are going to go a little outside, to the Craft Center of Cuzco

We wake up late, and after breakfast we take a taxi (3 PEN) to this place, which they say has the best prices in the country. The conclusion we have drawn is that it may not be so much but if it has prices almost 50% cheaper than in the historic center and also enter the bargain. Gifts for everyone! (257 PEN)

We return by taxi too (3 PEN) since Cuzco is much larger than we expected. It has already grown to the surrounding mountains "by eating them" literally. His denomination as the "navel of the world It is given because the 4 main Inca roads of the great Inca Civilization towards N, S, E and W leave this city.

After a very relaxed morning, we took the opportunity to eat early (46 PEN) and we approached the famous Sacsayhuaman fortress, strategically built on a hill overlooking Cuzco, visit included in a tourist ticket that allows the main visits of Cuzco and neighboring legacies.

Its fame comes from its huge carved stones, assembled with amazing precision, that formed the outer walls of the complex. Some of them exceeding 9 m high and weighing more than 350 t, being one of the greatest architectural works of the Incas. You can also see figures on its walls (of flames, ...).

The sad thing is that there is barely 30% of what it was, since with the arrival of the Spaniards and future colonizers and descendants, stones and blocks were used to build the bases of numerous buildings in Cuzco.

Sacsayhuamán welcomes all June 24 a true journey to the most ancestral Inca traditions, the Inti Raymi ("resurrection of the sun"), a party that is celebrated annually honoring the gods of the ancestors and that begins in the Temple of the Sun (Qorikancha) that we will try to visit later.

The temple also served as a battlefield for the uprising of Manco Inca in 1536, which suggested that it might have been a fortress, although some consider it to be religious architecture.

It continues to surprise us, to be a Culture so close in time, as there are so few writings and there are still so many unknowns. We leave for our next stop, Qenko, although before we can see a replica of the Christ Redeemer of Brazil, although here it was a gift from a Palestinian colony and is somewhat smaller. Curiously, it seems that the biggest one is in Bolivia but the Brazilian is more famous and seems bigger to be on a hill.

He Quenko Archaeological Complex It is a sacred place where sacrifices were made in honor of the Sun, the Moon and the Stars. You can still perfectly appreciate the existence of a semicircular amphitheater in which seats and a kind of underground chamber are intuited.

It is precisely here, in the underground chamber, where the true feat of this place resides, since it is completely carved out of live rock. It is also disturbing to confirm how from the outer to the inner amphitheater, there is a significant thermal change in the stones, which allowed the conservation of the bodies. Fetal position Paula?

At this point we wanted to talk about another kind of myth / legend still unclear. In 1995 he found himself in the mountains near Arequipa (see DAY 5 of the trip) the mummy of a 13-14 year old girl in a very good state of preservation, the so-called Juanita Mummy. This opened the debate of whether the Incas made human sacrifices. The same debate arises in Qenko. One begins to think that the Incas did not make human sacrifices EXCEPT CHILDREN, for their purity. In fact, the Mummy Juanita is believed to be a "prodigy" girl because of the findings found next to her. It is also believed that in 1438 Pachacutec abolished it. You don't know very well what to think ...

We are going to leave mortuary chambers and several mummies and head towards Pukapukara, a complex that seems to be used more as a lodging and control center. A kind of "5 * Inca hotel", hehe

It is said that the function of Pukapukara was also to protect an important palace in the Inkandato, the last outer Inca vestiges that we will see in the day, in Tambomachay, a temple linked to water, where to access it there is a pleasant 10-minute walk.

The sources carry pure water all year round, since the time of the Incas, and today it is used to make the "Cuzqueña Beer" (which bases its sponsorship precisely on this detail). The volume is uniform and the liquid comes together to fall through a landfill to what had to be a liturgical source known as the Inka Bath.

Garcilaso de la Vega He writes in his stories about this place. In fact, it is one of the few that from 1604 writes more details about the Inca life and its history, since it was son of an Inca princess and a Spanish.

We return to the Historic Center of Cuzco to enter Qorikancha or, currently, Santo Domingo convent.

Qorikancha It was the most important sanctuary of the Incas dedicated to the God of the Sun, initially built in 1200 by Manco Capac and rebuilt in 1450 by Pachacutec. Juan Pizarro, after the conquest, would allow the Dominicans to convert it into a Convent and finally, in 1950, it would become a museum.

Inside, among the highlights, in addition to its imposing courtyard, we can observe the replica of an altar of the sun where the sun is not in its main place. We are seeing an evolution that the Incas suffered in their religious convictions, since from 1,200 to 1,328 the beliefs of Viracocha (represented as a kind of egg as seen in the photo) as Main God, as we would see the DAY 9 on the visit to the largest Inca Temple to this god in Raqchi.

Inside we can see the clearest signs of Inca architecture and the theory of three "S": solidity, symmetry and simplicity

The Incas did not see gold beyond an approximation of the sun's image. That's why when the Spanish arrived they melted it and took it leaving the original walls without this decoration.

INCISO: One thing that catches our attention is the intrinsic relationship between sun worship and the astronomical knowledge that the Incas had as Mayas (which we already saw on the trip to Riviera Maya in 1996 and especially in visits to Chichen Itza and Tulum). But the Maya are from many centuries ago and were a Civilization that lasted many more centuries than the Inca (from 3,000 BC to 1,400 AD). Or is not it? The main reflection that we have about it is that while the Mayas were a Civilization in itself, the Incas have been a congregation for expansionism of all those pre-Inca cultures they have inherited. That is why the Incas have been so architecturally rich, in engineering, in astronomy, in ceramics, in metallurgy, in textile, ...

Leaving aside "mental straws", we have reached our starting point again, the Parade ground, and we will not miss the opportunity to visit Cathedral, so famous in the city

The access to the Cathedral, in fact, is made by the Church of Triumph, built in 1539 on the basis of the Viracocha palace. Between 1560 and 1664 the cathedral basilica was built with stones such as those seen above and especially red granite blocks of the Sacsayhuaman fortress.

The result was a large Renaissance cathedral that mixes Baroque and Plateresque styles with Inca symbols and wooden altars. The following images (cannot be photographed) are from Google Images. Its interior impresses.

Since we have set, we do not stop. It is beginning to get dark, so I quickly go through the hotel to put on some warm clothes and pick up the clothes we left in the laundry yesterday (35.50 PEN), and we headed to San Blas, a very picturesque neighborhood of the city, although before we we found the 12 angles stone, famous in the guides ...

... and we make some other stop to see the particular Cuzco stores.

San Blas It is the neighborhood where the most picturesque artisans, workshops and shops of the city are located. Of course, its streets are steep and narrow, not minutes for post-Machu Picchu travelers, haha.

The walk is pleasant and serves us to know one of the liveliest areas of the city, which is also beautiful. What we do not like so much is that this no longer resembles Peru that we have enjoyed the whole trip. Cuzco is ABRASIVE TOURISM and tourists and travelers are nothing more than "walking dollars". They offer massages, braids, tours, guides, ... pfff ...

To say goodbye today we have decided to get into a traditional, but also tourist, show / dinner-show, if only to see their customs (drinks 16 PEN). We have not been too excited, far from what we found in the tango-show in Buenos Aires on DAY 2 of the trip to ARGENTINA-URUGUAY-ANTARTIDA 2009, for example.

What we will not deny is that it has helped us to have a fun time, accompanied by a guinea pig dish (OBJECTIVE FULFILLED !!) with quite little chicha (masters, which has not captivated us) and some "particular" characters "...

From Cuzco, Family, friends and readers, we are perfectly and already thinking about our next change of course. We are going to the Peruvian Amazon Rainforest. !! More tomorrow !!

Paula and Isaac, from Cuzco (Peru)

EXPENSES OF THE DAY: PEN 103.50 (approx 28.43 EUROS) and GIFTS: 257 PEN -approx 70.60 EUROS-