June 30, 2019
On our last full day in Peru, we met our driver after breakfast and drove an hour and a half to Cusco. Cusco is all about location, location, location. Cusco is a jumping-off point for tours of nearby Machu Picchu and the Sacred Valley and why most visitors end up here. The undisputed archaeological capital of the Americas, Cuzco is the continent’s oldest continuously inhabited city. Once the heart of the Incan empire, Cusco became a UNESCO World Heritage Site in1983. Cuzco is a city of contradiction. Ornate cathedrals built over Inca temples. Rural Andean woman with pet llamas sit next to the finest boutiques that sell expensive alpaca knits. McDonald’s and KFC set in Inca stones.
The Hilton Garden Inn is located in the Santa Ana quarters, about a 10-minute walk, downhill, from the Plaza de Armas. And, if you’re not up for walking back up, you can take a cab, which we did. Just behind the hotel, we had some local shops, lots of hostels, and a laundry. It has fabulous views over Cuzco, especially at night. Walking also gives you a different perspective than staying right near the main square.
After we checked in we walked to the Plaza de Armas. We were going to do a Free Walking Tour of Cusco but bailed (Inca Dinca Done!) and went shopping instead.
Jacob and Allan bought Baby Alpaca scarves as gifts. We would have loved to have had Vicuna, the softest and rarest wool in the world. Jacob bought Rana a necklace from Ilaria. Allan had given me an Ilaria cuff years ago.
The Plaza de Armas is the heart of Cusco. From first to last light the plaza is never still. The central square of the city, bordered by the imposing sandstone Cusco Cathedral (completed in 1654 with the aim of removing Incan religious beliefs and now a UNESCO heritage site) and the smaller but beautifully intricate Church de La Compañia de Jesus. A statue of Inca Emperor Pachacutec stands in the middle of the plaza.
June is the festive season in Cusco with people celebrating local festivals every Sunday with parades, markets, and performers. We were there on a Sunday. The plaza was filled with parades of people in colorful traditional dress dancing and singing.
San Pedro is the main market in Cusco. It has a wide selection of fresh fruits and veggies and a great place for fresh fruit and vegetable smoothie/juice. It is also a good place to buy a variety of items like chocolate, coffee, fresh coca leaves, spices as well as traditional souvenirs like bags, scarves, and hats.
San Pedro Church is located south-west of Cusco, in the front of the San Pedro Market, around 700 meters from Cusco Cathedral.