October 28 – November 9, 2019
Day 384 – 396
Coming to Cusco with Mathilde, we discover this beautiful city. This is the most touristic city in Peru (which is already very touristy). Different reasons for this. First, the fact that this is the “base camp” in order to visit Machu Picchu, the most visited site in Peru.
The city itself is a UNESCO world heritage site. The city center, full of Inka architecture and museum is beautiful. Very different from any other city in Peru.
The architecture, the buildings, and even the paved road are very well preserved. Obviously, this mass tourism leads to the fact that many locals try to harass foreigners by selling all kind of stuff.
But overall, it is a very big city so it is possible to find local places.
In Cusco, I meet again with Aurora and Mehran, with whom I did trekking in Huaraz in the north of Peru.. we spend some time there in a nice hostel, Koko’s house, where we find ourselves home.
Amongst all, we are in Cusco for the Halloween party, which we celebrate how we can. Especially when travelling and without a lot of clothes, we have to improvise the costumes
Like many other South American city, you have mountain, which mean you can hike to have a nice panorama of the town. and it is always a nice way to see the city differently.
Like none other cities I have seen in Peru, the roof of the houses are beautiful. It is just some simple tiles, but it is much better than the usual steel sheets.
The Boleto Tusitico
Cusco is also very known for its many, many archeological sites around the area of the sacred valley. And one way to see a lot of them is to buy the “boleto turístico”, a ticket that gives you entrance to 16 different sites, and you have 10 days to see them all.
Amongst this, you have access to 5 Cusco museum, which are… boring. Definitely not the best other boleto. We still can watch a local show promoting indigenous dances and songs.
But as I said, the best of the boleto is to visit the different Inka archeological sites of the sacred valley.
The Sacred Valley
We spend 6 days roaming around the sacred valley with Aurora, Mehran and Mathilde. For this, we experience the 4-persons hitchhiking, which sometime works and sometime doesn’t. But that’s the beauty of hitchhiking.
So we visited more than 10 different Inka ruins. I will present you the most interesting ones.
The Pisaq ruins are amongst my favorite ones. It is a huge complex made of many terrasses and ruins. It took us a all day to visit it all.
It is a huge hike to visit all the different part of it, including a 1000m elevation.
The reward at the end is the beautiful panorama from Pisaq town and the valley when you reach the top.
Ollantaytambo is a importante town in the sacred valley for tourism, since it is the starting point of the Inka trail to Machu Picchu. As well, this is also a town you pass by in order to go to Machu Picchu by bus or by train.
We hitchhike to there and camped there under the rain.
Appart from the official ruins included in the boleto, you have also other free ruins next to it. Every time, you need to hike up to visit them. The Inkas were specialists when it comes to build constructions on the mountain.
We then visit the mains ruins and it’s terrasses. From the top, you can have a view from the sacred valley and the beginning of the Inka trail.
From Ollantaytambo, we are only 30km away from the Machu Picchu in sight view.
We spend the night in a very nice hostel in the city: Hospedaje de colores.
The difference when visiting Chinchero is the market held inside of the site. This “local” and “artisanal” market (even though everybody sells the exact same thing) propose lots of different clothes, all made with the very local alpaca wool.
When you are not an expert, it is always hard to know if they are selling you real alpaca or just something else. But these type of market are colorful for sure ! And with the locals dressed up with there indigenous costume.
The ruins next to it are also interesting, especially with the way the Inkas carved some path in the rocks, sometime stairs, sometime houses.
Pikillacta is a bit further away and isolated from all the other ruins, which make it much less touristy. And that’s a shame because this Inka ceremonial site is worth visiting.
It is a huge town and, unlike many other ruins, it looks very different. No terrasses for instance !
The ruins ares in a bad condition since there is not a lot of renovation. But this gives it some beauty.
The Moray site doesn’t have any ruins, but only terrasses. It was used by Inka for agriculture purposes.
Why terrasses ? With the sun, the wind and the elevation, terrasses give the advantage of having various climate on the different terrasses, and this allows to cultivate various plantations.
For instance, at the Moray site, there can be a 15°C between the topmost and bottommost terrasse.
Puka Pukara & Q’enqo
About less than 6km away from Cusco, there are 4-5 différents Inkas ruins sites. One way to visit them is to go to the furthest away and to walk back.
All the sites are small by themself, but the small hike between them is quite nice.’
At the end, even though we are just visiting Inka ruins over and over, seeing terrasses over and over, most of them have this special caracteristics that make them special.
In my blog, It is hard to make it very interesting, as it is only ruins again and again. And I guess it is even more interesting when you learn about the history of these sites. But since I am not a big history guy, I didn’t really got involved in the understanding of the Inka history.
But overall, we stayed around 10 days in Cusco, between visiting the sacred valley, resting and especially planning our next trek!