Peru Feature: The Mountain City of Cuzco

photo by Agencia de Noticias do Acre

Cuzco (“Qosqo” in Quechua), situated in the Urubamba Valley of the Andes mountain range, was once the capital of the Inca Empire. Today, it’s a city renowned for its colonial architecture, controversial history, and countless ruins—the most famous of which is Sacsayhuaman, the fortress where Conquistador met Incan in 1536. The modest metropolis of Cuzco has a healthy nightlife, but also maintains a balanced sense of tradition through its indigenous population. Cuzco has many draws, including delicious Peruvian cuisine, markets, colorful textiles, and cobblestone streets. Sites not be missed are San Pedro Market, Plaza de Armas, and Plaza de San Francisco.

Visitors often fly from Lima or Arequipa, though be aware of the onset of altitude sickness. At 3400 m above sea level, it’s important to establish physical equilibrium before any heavy activity.

Photo By Agencia de Noticias do Acre

Day Trips and Tours.

There are plenty activities to enjoy during your stay in the ancient city. Within Cuzco are ample opportunities to participate in city tours, cooking classes, and folklore shows. Beyond the city limits, the traveler can take comfortable or adventurous day trips to the Sacred Valley of the Incas and the villages of Ollantaytambo and Chinchero. The villages that surround the city—and their remarkable agricultural terraces, stone canals and aqueducts—are still used as they were 500 years ago. Adventurous travelers can enjoy whitewater rafting, paragliding, canoeing, horseback riding, or rafting down the Rio Apurimac. You can even travel to Machu Picchu—but it’s best to stay overnight to fully enjoy the ruins there.

If you want to escape the city and learn about the real Quechua community, there are even chances to barter in local craft markets, speak with indigenous families, enjoy traditional a Quechua lunch, and participate in a community activity such as farming, fishing, painting houses or cooking.

If you have time, visit the Ccochahuasi Animal Sanctuary, a rehabilitation center for victims of poaching located between Cusco and Pisac. There are deer, pumas, macaws, alpalacas, llamas, condors, and a host of other incredible creatures.

photo by McKay Savage

Ask your Willamette Intl Travel about arranging day tours and transfers to Cuzco and Machu Picchu. We can arrange private, group, half day, and multiday adventures during your Latin American itinerary. Tune in next time, when we take a closer look at Machu Picchu! Call us at 503.224.0180 or email info@wittravel.com.

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I made this in the kitchen over the weekend–delicious and great for a snack!

Peruvian Aji Salsa Verde Recipe

1 bundle of fresh cilantro, chopped

2-3 jalapenos (with seeds for spicy, seedless for mild)

1 large garlic clove

6 TB olive oil

¼ cup fresh lime juice (2 limes)

Salt to taste

Black pepper to taste

Pulse all ingredients in a blender until smooth. Add more hot peppers, black pepper or salt as needed.

1 Comment

Filed under Peru

One response to “Peru Feature: The Mountain City of Cuzco

  1. Cusco is great! Definitely plan for the altitude. Add an extra day just to rest. If you splurge on the luxury hotel Monasterio, you can ask for oxygen in your room in case you have a really negative reaction to being over 11,000 feet in elevation. I find after 24 hours, I’m fine and can walk at a normal speed. Even then, if I walk briskly uphill or run, I get out of breath! But it is definitely worth it. Let your Willamette agent know if you would like to join me on a future guided group tour of Cusco, Machu Picchu, Lima. I led a successful Walking Softly trip with many Willamette clients several years ago.

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