Cusco, the Navel of the Earth, is an important city in the history of Peru. It is at 3,400 metres and is on a hillside.
The Plaza de Armas (main square) has two gorgeous cathedrals on it, as well as many shops and restaurants. The city has millions of tiny, narrow and steep cobbled streets, which makes exploring just fantastic.
There are many women wandering the streets dressed in traditional clothing trying to sell their bracelets, beanies or get a picture of you with their baby llama. They wear the traditional clothing, so that if you take pictures of them they can ask you for money.
The older part of town, behind the Plaza de Armas, shows off many older buildings that use traditional Incan construction. The base of the building is stone and the upper part of the walls and rendered. There is one important temple, and one of its important features is a large stone in the construction of the base that has twelve angles. I’m not quite sure why this is such a big deal though, I am sure it must have some religious significance.
Away from the Plaza de Armas in the opposite direction is a local market with some fantastic fresh fruit juice stalls, fresh fruit, cheese, bread, meat, grains etc. It’s always interesting to wander local markets.
The city’s layout is supposedly in the shape of a Puma – an animal sacred to the Peruvians. Once I had wandered to the top of the hill and found a great lookout point, I can assure you it’s a stretch of the imagination to see the puma shape. At the lookout point was a great hostel with a café/bar called Limbo that had comfy couches and an amazing view of the city.
It was in Cusco that I had the chance to learn how to make a good Pisco Sour. I also had the opportunity to eat guinea pig and alpaca. While the guinea pig was served whole, teeth and all, I gave it my best shot but didn’t like it. The alpaca however is delicious! I have tried Alpaca in three different dishes and every time it has been amazing. Worth a try!
The Sacred Valley
The Sacred Valley is a valley with a river flowing through it, the villages in the low and high lands of the valley were mostly agricultural communities.
There were four places we visited in the Sacred Valley: a Llama farm, Pisac, Amaru and Ollantaytambo.
I cannot recall the name of the Llama farm, but it was a site set up to teach people the difference between Llamas, Alpacas, Vicuñas and the other kinds of Llama type animals. Llamas have longer necks, pointier noses and ears and their tails point upwards. Alpacas are shorter in height and neck length, their ears and faces and less pointed and their tails point downwards.
The site also gave up the opportunity to learn about how the alpaca wool is spun, dyed and used. We got to see demonstrations of all parts of the process. The weaving was particularly impressive!
Amaru (the name means Snake, another important animal in the Peruvian culture) is a local village in the hills that is supported by Intrepid. We were invited into the homes of the local community to meet the women and to enjoy a home cooked traditional meal made from foods they had grown themselves. The food was absolutely delicious!
The women also dressed us up in their traditional clothing and we took photos.
They were the most welcoming and friendly people, and we were all invited back to visit again soon.
Pisac is a town in the lowlands, where we stopped to see how the silversmith’s create their intricate pieces of jewellery. Silver is a metal found in the area. We also had the opportunity to explore the local markets for souvenirs.
The town itself was snugly nestled in the lowlands, and everywhere you looked there were mountains setting a beautiful scene.