Located at an altitude of over 11,000 feet in the heart of the Andes mountains, is the dynamic and historic city of Cusco Peru. Cusco, which is also spelled Cuzco, is the famed capital of the ancient Inca Empire, and it has served as a travelers’ mecca for 100″s of years. Though Cuzco Peru was the center of the Inca Empire for a relatively short time, relics and imprints from the great civilization remain to this day, melding into a modern world that seems unable to change the unique character of the city. When you visit Cusco, you feel as if you’ve been transported to another dimension. Perhaps that is partly due to the altitude’s effect on your body and mind. If you are flying here and haven’t yet adjusted to the Andes Mountains, prepare to spend the better part of your first day simply lounging around getting acclimatized. Or, there are natural means h to ease your symptoms.
At one of the outdoor Cusco markets, you can inquire with the indigenous peoples about the coca and muña leaves, both of which when chewed or steeped as tea help to alleviate the effects of the altitude. These leaves emit a short-lived buzz of sorts that will likely have you giggling a bit. Stay at the right Cusco hotel, and you can have the tea delivered to your room as need be. Cusco is, however, more than just Inca relics and magic leaves. There is a hearty Spanish colonial feel to the city, but, with modern day descendants of the Inca still pulling llamas through the historic heart of town, it’s hard to think that the Spanish occupation was just a minor glitch in the progression of Inca history. The arrival of Pizarro and other Spanish conquistadors in the 16th century did mark an end to the Inca Empire, but the Spanish may not be the only cause of blame. Smallpox and a fueling Inca civil war of sorts helped to make conquering Cusco easier for the Spanish, and the cathedrals and churches they left behind are among the attractions you are rewarded with when you visit Cusco. The baroque main cathedral in the central tourist gathering spot of the Plaza de Armas is one of Cusco’s most impressive architectural structures. But perhaps even more fascinating when it comes to Cusco architecture are the surviving walls from the Inca. These walls were, and are, so strong that the Spanish often chose to simply build on top of them instead of destroy them. As if the stone streets and the city’s “living museum” feel were not enough, seeing these hundreds of years old stone walls as you make your way about town is truly a treat. And, to think that the Inca used no mortar to bind the rocks of these walls.
Cusco Peru is a city that is perfect for travelers. It is a jump-off point for excursions on the Inca Trail and to nearby Machu Picchu, as well as other places of interest in southern Peru, and the communal traveler feel here may be stronger than anywhere else in the world. If you are thinking of renting a car in Peru, find a place to park it once you arrive and opt instead to get around by foot. You never know what you might encounter exploring town by way of your own two legs. Perhaps you will meet locals who will key you in to the hottest nightlife spots, or maybe you will get a chance to have your picture taken with an Inca descendant and his or her llama. Just make sure to politely ask before taking pictures of the local and indigenous people, as well as offer a small and modest monetary gift. The friendly nature and disposition of the indigenous population in Cusco Peru will surely make a mark on your soul that you will carry with you for life. You will meet fascinating Amerindians who weave and handcraft some of the most unique goods you will find anywhere. Shopping in Cuzco Peru is another of the joys of Cusco, as is taking advantage of the great Cusco dining options. After all, haven’t you always wanted to try guinea pig? You can in Cuzco Peru. If guinea pig doesn’t make your preferred menu, there are plenty of other options to choose from, as the city’s blend of international eateries is among the best of any South American city.
Cuzco Peru is a very special place worthy of spending the time for any traveler. Many people will stop here before heading to Machu Picchu, or to other points of interest located within Peru’s Sacred Valley. The markets at towns like Chinchero and Pisac are top considerations besides the mystical Machu Picchu ruins, as is the town of Ollantaytambo.
Travel Connections provides breakfast and dinner and all transfers during their tours.