After our early departure from Puno, we were able to spend 9 days in Cusco! It was spent over 2 apartments, both in the center of the city.
Cusco was the capital of the Inca empire, where its four geographical sections met. As such, in and around the city (called the “Sacred Valley”) are an enormous amount of Incan ruins.
This is the first place on the trip Steve and I had both been. (Steve was in Galapagos as a teen). For our first anniversary we travelled to Peru on a tour. We were only briefly in Cusco (1.5 days?) on our way to the classic Inca Trail (4 day hike) to Machu Picchu. (Will post about our 2019 trip Machu Picchu later!)
We were amazed at how much bigger and fancier Cusco is now. It was certainly very touristy in 2005, but stores were pretty much all cheap sweaters, gloves, tees and key chains. Now there are multiple high-end alpaca wool clothing chains (3-5 stores each) and Patagonia and North Face stores! There also were new US chain restaurants in the main plaza and many higher end and international restaurants – and never ending hotels, it seemed. One tour guide said there about 3x more tourists now than then.
Because of the length of our stay we had plenty of downtime and time to do schoolwork. We also were there long enough to use the kitchen and cook our own breakfasts and some other meals too. This was a nice break for all.
Our first day we saw a big parade as if all local/regional towns sent delegations in various types of traditional dress and dances. At first we thought it was for tourists, but local officials, camera crew and stands full of locals indicate it was for locals and not for all the tourists:)
One of the first things we did was take a double decker bus tour which let us get an idea what was around, and allowed us to see some sites just outside the city from on high. Plenty of gorgeous views. We also got to see a “traditional” shaman ceremony. It was interesting!
Quorcancha is the main Incan site in Cusco city center. It was a major Inca temple, with parts covered in gold. You don’t have to know much Inca history to know what happened to that gold! (We might even see it next month in Spain;) at this point the site most resembles an old monastery, but was still interesting.
We also went to the newer “Machu Picchu museum” in Cusco which houses the original finds by Hiram Bingham that were for many years housed at Yale (where he was a prof.). After a lengthy international legal battle the artifacts are back in Peru. No pictures allowed in that museum but they did clearly work with Yale on the exhibit and cast a better-than-expected light on Bingham and Yale.
More Incas to come!