Saturday, August 20, 2011

A Visit To Cusco: Capital of the Incas

Just the name Cusco conjures up images of mysticism and unknown wonders. Cusco was the capital of the Incan Empire when the Spanish arrived in the 1500s. You can see buildings which were constructed by the Incan Empire and the built upon by the Spanish. Very often in Latin America the Spanish conquerors would merely take a local building or site and make it their own. That is why you can literally see colonial buildings on top of indigenous construction.

From Lima to Cusco roundtrip airfaire costs about $200. You can travel slightly cheaper on a bus but it takes about 24 hours each way. Cusco is known as an expensive city in Peru. Tourism brings higher prices.
According to Cusco’s elevation is at 3,400 meters (11, 200 feet). Let me tell you from personal experience…I felt every bit of the altitude. That is why locals will offer you coca leaves to chew or in a tea to drink. This is a local remedy to help with altitude sickness.

I was dizzy for a couple of days but then my body rebounded. There is so much to see in Cusco and the surrounding Sacred Valley. You will find most tourists and tourist-oriented business in the Plaza de Armas and central part of Cusco.

This is a great city for walking but it is steep and many of the streets are made of stones. So, walking can be a little difficult. Many local residents will pose for photos but you will be expected to tip them. 

Tourism is the driving force behind the economy here and Cusco will not let you forget it. I mean this in both positive and negative aspects. For better or for worse you will also feel like a tourist and often in prepackaged experiences manufactured for you.

Cusco is also the starting point for a trek (3 days on foot or 3 hours on a train/bus combo) to Machu Picchu. Cusco lived up to its storybook images. It is difficult and expensive but worth the visit.

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