Cuzco, Peru – archaeology capital of South America

The PeruHop bus picked us up in Arequipa before dawn for the long trip to Cuzco. This particular trip had very few stops due to traffic problems in Cuzco because of the Corpus Christi festival going on that week. We had a brief stop to grab food to go for lunch, which turned out to be a terrible idea. Word of advice: don’t ever eat a “chicken sandwich” in Pukara, Peru – it’s probably not chicken and food poisoning is not a great way to start a week in Cuzco. Anyway, we made it to Cuzco around sunset and managed to run into some of our friends at our hostel, as they had also booked the same place. Once we checked in we went out for dinner with them, as well as a couple other backpackers from Switzerland, at a restaurant near the Plaza de Armas, which was absolutely delicious. We said goodbye to our friends that evening as they were doing a Machu Picchu trek early the next morning and then heading back to Scotland. That night also turned out to be terrible, as the chicken sandwich from lunch came back with a vengeance and left me attached to the toilet for the whole night. The next day we did very little due to my recovery. Since we spent so much time in Cuzco, it makes little sense to do a day by day post, so I’m going to put it more of a list to save space.  

  • Casa Concha, the Machu Picchu museum put together with the Yale collection excavated by Hiram Bingham after his “discovery” of the site. The best part of this museum is the life-size figure of my archaeology advisor from uni dressed as the Inca ruler, complete with a skirt and gold gauges.img_0149
  • Plaza de Armas, the main square in Cuzco with a large fountain and two cathedralsdsc_0442
  • Qoricancha, the former Inca center which was converted into monastery by the Spanish after their conquest. The museum shows how the Inca stones were put together with metal and smooth grooves.   

  • Centro Qosqo de Arte Nativo, a nightly dance performance which highlights different dances from around Cuzco. Kirsten got pulled from the crowd and had to dance on stage at the end of the show, which was fantastic.  This is part of a city ticket which gives you access to most of the major archaeological sites and museums in the city.  I can’t remember the cost, however, students get half off with an ISIC card.  There are various lengths available from one day to one week.  I highly recommend buying this ticket if you are staying in Cuzco for a few days because if you visit just a few of the sites included you will save a ton of money on admission fees.

    Dancers at Centro Qosqo
  • Sacsayhuaman, a large archaeological site located on top of a hill overlooking Cuzco. The stones are monstrous and the site is huge. While technically included in the Sacred Valley sites, its a short walk from downtown so I’m including it here.  However, you can easily book a tour which combines this with a few other regional sites. It is also included in the city ticket.img_0177
  • Monumento Patchakuteq, a large monument and museum dedicated to the Inca ruler Patchakuteq.  This is included in the city ticket.

    View from the top of the monument
  • Various churches around the city, there’s a combo ticket that allows entry into 5 churches and a religious art museum

    One of the churches to visit.
  • San Pedro Market, we bought a lot of fresh fruit juices and a meal here because the prices are crazy cheap. There are also a lot of souvenirs available for fairly cheap here as well. Make sure to check out the innards market in the back corner, it’s bizarre!

    San Pedro Market
  • We were in the city for Corpus Christi, so the streets were always packed and at one point one square filled with stalls selling meals of guinea pig

    A ton of people in the Plaza de Armas for Corpus Christi festivities
  • 12 angled stone, this rock in one of the Inca walls demonstrates the ridiculous nature of Inca stonework and has become a popular tourist stop for photos. It was insanely crowded when we stumbled upon it and it took like 5 minutes for me to get a photo without people in front of it.

    Inca stonework that is not the 12 angled stone
  • We also visited a lot of archaeological sites in the Sacred Valley which are on the Cuzco tourist ticket, but those are written about in another post. Cuzco is a really great city to visit – very walkable and safe. This was my second visit and it was still just as great as the first time.