Cusco Things to Do Tips by toonsarah
Cusco Things to Do: 421 reviews and 739 photos
View from the Caretaker's Hut
Everyone who goes to Peru has to see Machu Picchu, and perhaps slightly to my surprise it lived up to its reputation as a tourist "must see". I've created a separate page about our visit there, but here are a few things I'd recommend if you're planning a visit:
Take a hat and sun screen, even if the weather's overcast - in those mountains it can change very quickly (it was cloudy all morning when we were there but clear and bright in the afternoon)
Take bottled water - there are no facilities inside the site. The same applies to food as well of course.
Do think about having a guide, especially if you only have the one day to see the place. OK it can be a bit of a hassle going round in a group, but a guide will make sure you see all the essentials and tell you some of the history, and there should still be time to explore by yourself in the afternoon.
If you don't think you have the stamina to climb to Huayna Picchu try the path up to and beyond the Caretaker's Hut which will get you high enough for some great photos - but even that will take some effort at this altitude!
The Inca ruins at Ollantaytambo consist of some spectacular terracing up the steep hillside, and at the top of this a temple site - apparently! I must confess we didn't climb all the way up.
At the foot of the terraces are various other temples and a well-preserved (or restored?) Inca fountain. Despite the fairly large number of tourists and a group of local school children on an educational tour, I found the atmosphere here very peaceful, perhaps because of the stream running through the site and a number of small pools. On the hillside opposite the ruins you can spot Inca granaries carved out of the rock.
Don't forget your "Boleto Turistico" which you'll need for entry to the ruins. And while you're here please do take the time to explore the village too - it's built on Inca foundations and the houses are very traditional and worth a closer look. See my "Off the beaten path" tip for more information.
Pisac market stall
We went to Pisac on a Sunday, despite being warned that it wasn't a market day. Well, I don't know what it looks like when it is market day, but what I saw certainly resembled a market! I guess there must be many more stalls on the real market days?
Anyway, after a while you realise that most of the stalls sell more or less the same things, so really the number we had to look at and choose from was fine. There are all the usual tourist souvenirs you find everywhere in Peru, and despite being a very touristy place, we got good prices with a bit of bargaining.
I liked the fact that in places this was still a real local market too, with various food-stuffs for sale and people chatting to friends and having their lunch together. We also visited a lovely little art gallery on the south side of the market square and bought a small watercolour for only a few pesos.
Church of San Blas
We particularly enjoyed this part of Cusco. It's got a pretty white church and a lot of small galleries and craft workshops, including several where you can watch the artists and craftspeople at work. There was a relaxing atmosphere in the square and we found a funky cafe selling great smoothies and generously filled sandwiches (above the church and to the right a little).
This is a good place to come to unwind and escape the crowds, although you have to climb a rather steep hill to get here - not easy at this altitude! But there are several interesting shops on the way, so take your time and look around.
Weaver in the museum courtyard
If you head up the steps to the left of the cathedral from the Playa des Armas you'll find this museum in a lovely old colonial building. There are some beautiful vases and pieces of jewellery which made me really appreciate the art of these people I'd been hearing about throughout my travels in Peru.
The main attraction for most visitors is the display of real mummies, and it is a display - they are set out in a rather bizarre scene, with a mummified dog for company!
We also enjoyed meeting the local crafts people who use the central courtyard as both workshop and market-place. It's a good spot to shop for textiles.
Address: Cuesta del Almirante
Sacsayhuaman (you say it "sexy woman" - well almost!) is an Inca place of worship perched on a hill above the city of Cusco. The ruins cover a large area of ground, and give you a really good picture of Inca building techniques. Our guide pointed out both the largest and the smallest stones used in the construction, as well as some stones she claimed were arranged in a way designed to look like various animals - I couldn't make out most of these though, apart from a duck-billed platypus (which aren't usually seen in Peru!)
The real fascination though is seeing the incredible craftsmanship in fitting these massive rocks together so tightly, and in a way that's stood the test of time so well, despite being in an earthquake zone. You can also learn a lot about the way the Incas lived and worshipped, although you'll need a guide or a good guidebook, as otherwise you'll just see some impressive but meaningless walls.
Directions: Up on a hill above the city - but I recommend taking a tour or even better going with a private guide.
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