Cusco is still one of our favourite cities from the whole trip – so far! It can be a little too touristy at times and yes everyone does just talks about seeing Matchu Picchu, but there was so much more to this location. For one the food was fantastic, great quality, great price and Simon could basically eat in nearly every restaurant! winner!
Apart from the food the city offers a great museums, food markets, a planetarium and shopping as well as being the perfect hub for heading out on day trips to various hiking and archeological locations – which we will mention later in the post – but first let’s chat about Cuscos history.
Originally the main city of the Ketchuan empire – the Inca name was only used for the kings whilst the ordinary folk were named Ketchaun – Cusco was originally designed in the shape of a Puma with a river running through the city. The Puma was a sacred animal and from this location key roads were built leading to other key sites of the Incan empire across South America.
Cusco originally had many temples for worship as well the Kings residency, which was evacuated when the king passed away – they’d then build a brand new palace for the new king. However during the Spanish invasion many of these buildings were destroyed with only the larger complexes left today from ether being to large to demolish and thus put to another use.
One of our days in Cusco was aimed at exploring all these other locations left by the Incans, Peru being an archeological play ground there was plenty to choose from! As we were on a budget we needed a fun, but cheap, day out. Many of the sites require to buy ‘Tourist ticket passes’ to visit with most sites coming under one ticket umbrella based on how big they are for instance.
Naturally we went for the local, and slightly more affordable, temples to visit knowing we had the Macchu Pichu hike coming up. This was also a great way to get some at altitude hiking done.
We grabbed a taxi four miles outside of the town to the hike down and temple hop back into Cusco. Our first building was a temple to worship the gods of water, with many fountains located and designed around the temple – Tambomachay
Next we hikes a short trip to our second location – Puka Pukara – originally thought to be an fortress or trading post leading into Cusco. Perched on top of a hill with views of all the surrounding valleys.
After this we headed down the hill towards our next location. However we got distracted, and slightly lost, and ended at new locations that weren’t on our map and for that reason we have no idea what they are called! One of the locations was a derelict building or temple carved into the side of a rock, another consisted of old farming terraces carved into the side of the hill.
At the end of our detour we ended up at the temple of the moon, thank god the sign out side!
Next we jumped back on our original hike and headed to the penultimate location – Quenco – a temple which has a zigzagging corridor carved out of the rock leading to a burial place were a mummified Inca king was discovered. (Quenco also a derivative from Quechuan for zig zag) This is one of the largest Huacas in the Cusco region, Huacas being a key holy site normally constructed around a rock formation and were predominantly used for mummification and sacrifice.
Last location, and certainly the largest, overlooking the town of Cusco is Saqsayhuaman. (Pronounced sexy woman) When the Spanish arrived they tried to destroy i but as it was so big they just gave up! Seriously, these stones were huge ….
What baffled us is how they got the stones up the hill and what techniques they used to create these impressive constructions.
Our time spent in Cusco was fantastic with some of the best people, locations and food we had on our South American trip. This is somewhere we would certainly head back to again as there is so much to see and learn about this fascinating Incan culture.