Things To Do In Cusco
Along the Cusco Region, traditional or the old ways are not simply overlooked. Bright colored national costumes provide a connection to the past, as do the wild celebrations and local festivals with a hint of agnostic custom blend with the serious Catholic fiestas. Pretty much as vibrant is the impressive landscape of the Cusco Region that tilts from the Andean mountains to the rich woodlands and Amazon marshes of South America. The Historic Center of Cusco is extraordinary. The plaza is great and its sides are decorated with arcades and churches, including the cathedral. The buildings are all built during the colonial period and have retained all their glory despite many years of existence.
When To Go:
The right time to visit Cusco starts from the months of June to mid-September. Despite the fact that temperatures rest in the mid- to upper 50s as the year progressed, the city sees less downpours amid its winter months. During this peak season expect a lot of individual trekkers as you wonder around its famous locales. To avoid the huge influx of visitors and high room rates, visit amid May or between late September and early November. Abstain from going between late November and April, when the heavy rains can lead to cancelled flights and inconvenience your travel plans.
These are the not to be missed places and things to do when in the Cusco Region…
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Centro Historico de Cusco
The Centro Historico de Cusco is like a small jewel of Peru; although it is derived from the colonial era it brings together the remains of the Inca culture and is preserved in an excellent manner. The colonial center and streets with Inca walls are extraordinarily interesting and animated. The old town is really nice with the beautiful Plaza de Armas that represents as one of the symbols of the region. Located at 3399 m above sea level, it has been declared a World Heritage Site in 1983 by UNESCO.
To think that this was the capital of the Inca Empire (and is considered the historical capital of Peru), suggests the importance that this city had its own moment of fame and glory and that’s why it is so beautiful. The central square is so rich in monuments that will leave you breathless, the main streets are lined with shops and clubs that come alive at night and make the city an ideal destination for nightlife. Beautiful evening stroll, the lights of the houses on the hill make Cusco a small jewel that is worth knowing in Peru. The historic center is safe even until late in the evening. The whole area around the Plaza de Armas is very neat, clean, and well kept.
Plaza de Armas (Huacaypata)
The Plaza de Armas (Huacaypata) is definitely the most beautiful square of Cusco. On this plaza, the green flower beds and trees along with the beautiful buildings and churches in its perimeter create a spectacular mix. There are also many benches, some of them very shady and ideal for a stop during the hottest hours when it's summer. You can sit even on the steps at the entrance of the two churches (the Cathedral and the Iglesia de la Compania de Jesus). There is also a porch that covers almost the entire perimeter with a beautiful fountain in the center. You can take great selfies or group pictures at the stunning and colorful flowerbeds present on the lawns.
The square today is a great meeting place in the city because of the number of bars, restaurants and shops. Many of the restaurants have outdoor tables, and there are also places that remain open until late at night. The perimeter of the square is open to traffic. It's very nice to walk in the arcades and then move in the middle and to take a pause at the fountain area after visiting one of the two churches. The square was built under the Inca empire; originally it was twice the size and was the center of the cultural life of the Incas. Since Cusco was designed by the Incas in the shape of Puma, this square (given its importance) was allocated at the heart of the puma (in the center). The Pizarro and the Spaniards conquered Cusco in 1532 and transformed the place into what we see today, a row of buildings, two churches and its colonial ambiance. The square is a must if you go to Cusco!
The Inca Trail is a great experience to try when in the Cusco Region. The first day is quiet with little elevation. Day 2 is quite heavy because you climb for five hours to the highest pass as you rise above 1000 m altitude over the mountains. The guides lead this fantastic trail leading to the views of the Macchu Picchu. It is a great combination of nature, culture, movement, and adventure. This tour is not advisable for people with vertigo. Along the trail you can see snow-capped mountains on one side and on the other side are mountains covered with green vegetation. The trail in the high forest involves crossing with the llamas and other exotic animals on the way, and seeing the starry heavens without any contamination of artificial light, everything is just amazing!
The guides do an incredible job and make the experience much more comfortable, especially on the culinary side since you need to spend at least 3 nights of camping. The expedition usually consists of nine tourists, twelve bearers, and two guides. They have great food, warm tents, and perfect organization. The carriers are truly exceptional in making you feel at home and show every kind of attention and respect. The Inca Trail takes 4 days to accomplish and is not advisable for everyone. You must be trained and prepared to face the challenging weather conditions. Getting to Matchu Pitchu with the Inca Trail for 4 days gives the famous world wonder its charm and meaning even more. Aside from a 50 meters uphill climb from Hydro to Aguas Caliente, it is all flat along the road and you'll have to spend a lot of time crossing bridges along the rails. One iron bridge is particularly creaky but the locals makes it safe for the last stretch to get the top of Machu Picchu, here it takes an hour and a half and so many breaks, many stairs to get to the top but it is all worth it.
It is truly impressive and nice to walk in this park especially at sunset. The Sacsayhuaman Park is well kept and clean, and when you walk on the lawn at the center you will be almost surrounded by its massive walls. It is nice to climb the stairs and go on the terraces in front and watch the walls from there. You can see the ceremonial fortress (the name means satisfied falcon), built by the Incas before 1500 (the work lasted 70 years and employed about 20,000 workers) and stands on the hill of Carmenca, the northern side of Cusco at an altitude of 3700 meters.
The site was first built by the Spaniards who used the stones to build houses and churches in the city (although looting persisted until about ten years ago). The most striking thing is the precise joining of the stones of the walls. It is almost inexplicable to understand how the Incas could cut stones with such mastery, when between one and the other it will not even pass the blade of a knife.
There are three rows of walls that measures a thousand feet long and made of huge blocks of stone. The main wall is formed by stones reaching as high as 5 meters and a width of about 2.5 meters which can weigh between 90 and 120 tons. Although it was first conceived as a temple, it was a place of historical battles with Spain. From its walls, high and arranged in three planes the park looks so impressive and well fit to show the grandeur of man with the construction of this structure.
According to archaeologists, Cusco has the shape of a puma that connects the fortress of Sacsayhuaman which represent the head. The site was used for the worship of the sun god. In its surroundings is also the statue of the "Black Christ" (25 meters high), from which you can enjoy an amazing view of the city of Cusco. The site is open from 7:00 am to 18:00 pm and is part of the circuit inputs that you can explore if you have a tourist ticket. It can also be reached on foot through a walk of about 30 minutes from the Plaza de Armas, otherwise take a 10-minute drive. It is better to visit the site at the time of the opening before the arrival of tourists vans and to avoid the long lines before the sun reaches its peak.
Catedral Basilica de la Virgen de la Asuncion
The Catedral Basilica de la Virgen de la Asuncion is one of the majestic basilicas in Cusco that is solemn and impressive. First, one of its peculiarities is that it is formed by three temples (three churches) inside, all linked together with the basilica itself at the center, the church of the Triumph on the right and the Sacred Family on the left. It overlooks the northeast side of the Plaza de Armas and is definitely one of the most beautiful monuments in the city.
From the outside you can see the majestic façade, formed by the three facades; the main cathedral and those on his left and right side, behind, and the other two churches. The entrance of the cathedral has a fee (16 soles) and is not included in the boleto tourist card. The operating hours are Monday to Saturday (except Thursday), from 10:00 am to 11:30 and then from 14:00 to 17:30 pm.
Temple of the Sun (Coricancha)
The Temple of Sun Coricancha is one of the most beautiful monuments to see in Cusco. This was the religious center, as well as the geographical and political symbol of Cusco and suggests the reason for his majesty (it is here where they paid tribute to the Inca god "Inti" and was the place where the Incas first found the gold content of the city). The temple of the sun was the principal attraction of the entire Coricancha; and it takes up more than half the width of the present Church of Santo Domingo. The western end corresponds to the current drum overlooking Avenida Sol, while its eastern end corresponds to the churchyard. Near this temple there are four other temples where what remains are now only ruins (Temple of the Moon, the Temple of Venus, Illapa temple, and Temple K'uychi).
In the cloister of the church (very nice) are reproductions of the rooms at the time of the Incas as well as the miniature reproductions of Coricancha and beautiful paintings. You can also go upstairs where there are corridors with wooden floors and exhibitions. At one side of the cloister you can visit an exhibition about the Inca, their life, customs and then look on the archaeological park on a balcony where you can not only see the remains of the walls of the various Inca temples closely, but you can also enjoy a beautiful landscape. The entrance is from Monday to Saturday from 8:30 am to 17:30 pm and Sunday from 14:00 pm to 17:00 pm. The ticket costs 10 soles and is not included in the tourist card but it is still seeing it all.
Tipon is part of the tourist ticket and where you can find the Sacred Valley South. The main feature of this archaeological site is the irrigation system of the Incas that still works until today. It is impressive to see how the paths were made if you think that there were no machines before like what we have today. It is advisable to make your way up to the left side where you will have a broader view of the place. It's amazing to see the technology that the Incas applied to dominate the use of water in their fields.
The high point of a visit to Tipon is you will come across a group of children who will cheer your day as you view the amazing scenery with songs, dances, and photographs, all in a very spontaneous way. The joy of their performance is contagious. The place is very impressive starting from; the cutting area and fitting of stones, the distribution of water abstracted for irrigation; the housing cultivation areas, the construction of terraces which served to contain the slopes, and the acclimatization for agriculture. As experts will say, this is the perfect concept of advanced hydraulic engineering.
Salinas de Maras
At the Salinas de Maras, the saline is supplied by a natural salt source coming from a nearby mountain. There are many natural pools that surround this place and it is here where you can buy the pink salt and fleur de sel and get it at a much lower price than in downtown Cusco, They say the pink salt is much healthier and that only exists in the Himalayas, but do not buy from the expensive dealers but rather search here first. The best thing is to get there early so you can enjoy the place that has small paths between the salineras. Do not forget to bring sunscreen and a hat for protection from the sun.
The "salt mines" of Maras are constituted by about 3000 pools with an average area of 5 square meters each, all on the mountainside called "Qaqawiñay". This mountain sheds a source of warm and extremely salty water that is piped to the more than 3,000 drying tanks. Each tank takes about 3 weeks for the salt to dry and removed, and then again receives a charge of water. This is an amazing journey and a very special adventure that you must not miss on your itinerary of Cusco, Peru.
The saline is supplied by a natural salt spring and the salt is collected during the dry season. The salt pools built on the mountain are a very impressive sight and the landscape around it is breathtaking. The vision of crystallized salt on the water surface of the pools and the different colors of the pools at different stages is very striking- in short; it is an enriching experience and certainly a must while in Cusco.
The Ausangate is a beautiful mountain that can be admired from across the Sacred Valley of the Incas. For those who have many days to spend in Cusco, it is worth investing in an excursion to know more about this mountain. If you like cold and rustic atmosphere and if you want to have the best view of the mountain ranges, this is the right place.
Ausangate is a great place to relax for a couple of days, a highly recommended place to visit if you have enough time. It is one of the highest peaks of Peru and according to Inca mythology this mountain fertilizes Mother Earth. There are walks to learn more in detail and where you can also sleep in tents. You will see llamas and alpacas everywhere on this enigmatic mountain in Cusco.
Santuario Animal Cochahuasi
Located on the road of the Sacred Valley between Cusco and Pisac is the Santuario Animal Cochahuasi. It is an animal rehabilitation center that performs an extraordinary job of preserving the animals that are endemic to the natural environment of Cusco. The visit which helps to maintain the center is very interesting for the variety of animals that take refuge there, including seeing a few species of condor, Peruvian dogs, eagles, alpaca, and vicunas. It is an amazing place where people passionately care for and protect endangered animals, besides keeping them in their natural habitats with the sole intention of preserving the species or prepare them to return to the wild. The flight of the condor an inch of your head is one of its exciting features. You cannot pass up on this sanctuary that is maintained by voluntary donations which makes it even more important to see it.
In Cusco, there are many things to see like; the cathedral, the barrio de San Blas, the convent and Church of La Merced, Iglesia de la Compania, Coricancha and convent of Santo Domingo, not to mention the beautiful alleys that run through the center including the Calle Hatun Rumiyuq, the road that goes from the Cathedral to St. Blas where you can appreciate the famous stone of the twelve angles. It 's along this serpentine roads and alleys where you will always discover something new, something that no one had not even noticed before, palaces with beautiful balconies, and decorated doors. In particular, it’s delightful to explore the colorful Market de San Pedro. The region of Cusco has everything you need if you want the best adventure in Peru.