Main Square, Cusco
When exiting the bus station doors you will immediately be bombarded with taxistas, local taxi drivers, offering you the “best” rates to the center of town. Whether you are at an airport or bus station, they are the ones that pay a fee to enter the area so they will always charge you more. After all, “eres el rico”, you’re the rich one, being that you’re not Peruvian much less Cusquenean. Always exit the premises and walk past the guarded entrance.
Again, we’re in this to win it, so we’re walking, but if you want to take a taxi, this would be the moment. (Pay no more than s./5, as a local you would pay s/.3) Hang a left outside the entrance and pass the street vendors selling fresh juice and treats. (Unless you have a stomach of steel, you’re not ready for this yet; especially after you smell the river behind them.) This road leads out to 28 de Julio where you will see a large statue of Pachacutec to the left and if you’re lucky, llamas grazing in the grass. It should be s./2 if you want to climb the stairs to the top of the tower.
From there follow the more recently finished pedestrian walkway up to the next round-a-bout where you will find a gas/petrol station, grifo. Follow the road to the right of the station which will start you on your journey up Avenida el Sol. (If you arrive to Cusco by bus in the morning, this walk is nothing short of magical as you’ll feel like one the first to breathe this fresh Andean morning air as the sun illuminates your path ascending to the plaza and further, Sacsayhuaman.) Stop off at the fountain for early morning photos and if the artisanal market is open, enjoy your first efforts at bargaining in Cusco. This artisanal market is the largest in the city and is a good first place to stop off to gather ideas of how many suitcases or backpacks you may be purchasing to carry all your “authentic/handmade” llama or alpaca products home. As you progress up Avenida el Sol, it will be hard to resist entering into all of the other smaller markets, and why should you?
The next main attraction will be Qorikancha. Once the Temple of the Moon and Sun, the Dominican priests built their cathedral directly on top of the sturdy Incan base. It’s s./ 10 to enter and s./10 to enter the museum under the field below where you can see Incan mummies. Almost there! (Did you know that you’ve been walking over a river since you made the turn at el grifo? Three main rivers, once used by the great Incan Empire, run beneath three main streets in Cusco.) Continue past the early risers selling alpaca sweaters on the corners and you will dead end at the top of Avenida el Sol. Left will lead you to La Merced monastery but we want to turn right to the Plaza de Armas. After all, this is what you came to see right? Mornings typically fill the plaza with municipal street workers and if you arrive in time and don’t smell like a backpacker you may be able to enter the main cathedral for free between 9-10am for mass, misa. Otherwise, you’ll be shelling out s./25 to enter. The cathedral across the plaza contains the most ornate interior and the famous “Cuy Last Supper”.
So, you’re there. Hang out in the plaza and enjoy your first victory, enjoy one of the many coffee shops around the plaza, and if you want to be shamefully touristy grab some comfort food at the McDonalds next to the cathedral. It’s really not a bad walk if the altitude doesn’t defeat you first. If you feel a shortness of breath, dizziness, headache, or prickly needles in your limbs, stop and drink water. Rest, hydration and coca tea really are the best remedies for altitude sickness, sorocha.
Please be aware, if you ever try to sit at the Plaza, there will be tons of kids selling things , shoe shiners & tours sales person coming for you constantly.
It is always good to talk to local with this opportunity, but at times the local sales people can be forming a line there for you.
If you are not interested in buying anything, may be it is a good idea not to waste their time by saying NO
But if you enjoy the process, there will be tons of locals talking to you constantly while you do people watching ....it is kind of fun though
Have some of your film developed in Cusco. We found a photography shop just off the Plaza de Arms which processes one-hour-photos for only eleven soles (less than $4 US) This is less than half the price of having a roll developed in my hometown. We decided to try it out and had a roll processed They really did a wonderful job and the next day,we had some more rolls developed there.The picture on the left was processed there.
Directions: From the Plaza de Armas, Walk north up the street named Triunfo Hatunrunmiyou a short way. It located on the right and has a one-hour photo sign out front. The name of this store is Nishiyama Laboratorio Fotografico
Fondest memory: Included in the price of the film processing is a very cute mini album to store your photos in with a picture of Machu Picchu on it.
The Plaza de Armas of Cusco is perhaps the prettiest square in all of South America, but one a tourist will have a hard time to simply enjoy. I found the best times to do that without being accosted by touts was very early in the morning or evening hours when the majority of them were taking a break.
Fondest memory: Maybe Cusco is the most beautiful city in Peru and the admitted capital of the former Inca Empire but this has come at a cost with regard it’s being overly touristy. This can be downright irritating at times with wave after wave of touts trying to pry money from your pocket on a daily basis. The best were the shoe shine boys. You couldn’t walk anywhere in the Plaza de Armas without one walking up with his little kit and making his pitch. At first, it seemed cute, that these little kids were so industrious to try and make a buck, but after the twentieth one, it lost all its charm. It was especially tiresome if you were lucky enough to secure a bench in the square to enjoy a view of the illustrious cathedral or lovely fountain. They would descend on you as soon as they saw you. One day, we had the pleasure of three of them at once. One was selling postcards, one a shoeshine boy and the third an accomplice that I pegged as after my camera. They surrounded us and asked where were from. On answering the United States, they went on with a spiel of who was president, the capital, former president, etc. They seemed able to do it for most popular countries. We laughed at their little ploy to put us at ease and become our “amigos,” which was so obviously aimed at alleviating us from our money. I actually needed a shoeshine though I had never paid anyone to do this task for me in my life so I succumbed. That is after asking how much of course. He said one sol, which was about a quarter. We both needed postcards and they were selling them at the going rate in the shops so I figured why not. We picked about twenty-five of them between the two of us while the one boy got to work on my shoes. He told me he was giving me a special shine, which I didn’t pay much attention to, as I was busy with card choices. It actually was funny to me as the kids were real salesmen and I am no easy sell as a rule. I kept my camera under my arm just the same. (conclusion below in My Fondest Memory)
The Cathedral dominates the north-east side of the Plaza de Armas and sits squarely on the foundations of the Inca Viracocha's palace. The Cathedral was begun in 1550 and completed nearly 100 years later, constructed in the shape of a Latin cross, the three-aisled nave is supported by only fourteen massive pillars. It contains nearly 400 colonial paintings including the Last Supper by Marcos Zapata showing Christ and the Apostles about to dine on guinea-pig, washed down with a glass of chicha! In the sacristy there's a painting of the crucifixion attributed to Van Dyke. Ten smaller chapels surround the nave, with the Chapel of the Immaculate Conception, and the Chapel of El Señor de los Temblores (TheLord of Earthquakes) worthy of special attention.
The Cathedrals real magic lies in the mingling of history and legend. It is said that when the Cathedral was built an Inca prince was walled up in one of the towers and that when the tower falls the Inca will emerge to claim his birthright and free his people. After the earthquake of 1950 thousands of believers waited hopefully for the tower to collapse, but despite severe damage they did not, and were later repaired.
Favorite thing: I can't remember the name of thet Church but it's one of the two ones wich are in the Main Square, the other one is the Cathedral
there is plenty of sights in and around Cusco.
Visiting the amusing Plaza de Armas
Fondest memory: after getting used to the height of 3400 metres you can enjoy the nice sights