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Cusco, the navel of the world

A few weeks ago, we travelled to Peru for a family vacation. We visited Cusco, capital of the Inca empire and the most important city of South America in times of the Spanish colony.

Let me tell you that the first day we arrived I suffered from altitude sickness, Cusco is 3,400 meters above sea level. I had to admit that I underestimated that possibility and didn’t take any precautions. So, in order to avoid yourself this suffering here’s what you should do:

  • Eat smaller meals and avoid red meat.

  • Chew coca leaves and drink coca tea.

  • You can also buy Sorojchi Pills at a drugstore, to avoid altitude sickness.

What to see

The central square, we visited on Sunday and were lucky to witness an Inca ceremony, full of music and color. By this square you will also find Cusco’s cathedral built in 1,560 over the foundation of the Inca Wiracocha Palace. On the flanks of the cathedral you’ll find the Holy Family and the Triumph Temples. What I truly enjoyed about visiting the cathedral was noticing the mixture of Spanish and Inca cultures in the paintings. For example, in the last supper painting, there is a plate with a cui, a typical Peruvian dish.

The 12 angle stone. Talking to a street vendor, he told us that the most important thing about this stone aren’t the 12 angles, but the representation of the 3 Inca worlds. If you look at the top of the stone, you will see 3 steps representing Hanan Pacha (god’s world), Kay Pacha (men’s world) y Uku Pacha (dead’s world). Going round the corner, at the same construction you will see the puma and the snake, the rocks are set in a way so you can clearly see a puma and a snake, it’s truly amazing!

The Museum of pre-Columbian Art. There’s a big collection of pottery, metal and shell objects made by different pre-Columbian cultures that give us a pretty good idea of how they lived before the arrival of the Spanish conquerors. Close to that Museum you can also visit the Inka Museum, we couldn’t do it because it’s closed on Sundays.

Santo Domingo church and Qorikancha. The ruins of this Inca temple are under Santo Domingo church. This was the most important Inca temple, dedicated to the sun, and in the old days had a stone wall covered with pure gold. When you see a church in Cusco, be sure that there’s an Inca holly place in its foundation, the Spanish conquerors built on top of their sacred places to alienate them from their gods.

Saqsaywaman, archeological Inca fort dedicated to the god of the ray. You can get to this site by car or bus, because it’s located 1.2 miles away from Cusco. It is the biggest fortress the Incas built in their golden era.

Where to eat

Chicha. This restaurant, owned by the well-known Peruvian chef Gastón Acurio, it’s located in front of El Regocijo square. The presentation and the flavor of each dish are spectacular. We ordered alpaca carpaccio and the tastiest roasted chicken. The cocktails are delicious too, I recommend the Cusco Mule.

Qespi. This restaurant it’s located inside JW Marriott El Convento Hotel, where we stayed in Cusco. We ordered Tequeños as a starter and a savory chicken soup.

MAP. This is the restaurant of the pre-Columbian Art Museum. It’s located at the MAP court and it seems like a glass container. We ate a three-course menu with different choices to pick from. If you’re into high end cuisine, you should try this restaurant as well as Chicha.

Other dining options:

Incanto. Italian – Peruvian fusion cuisine. For those who wants to eat pasta or pizza with local flavors. Just a few steps from the central square of Cusco.

Cicciolina. This is a restaurant and a tapas bar. We didn’t try it because we didn’t had enough time, but it’s highly recommended. You should make a reservation for the restaurant, but it isn’t needed for the bar.

Belmond Hotel Monasterio. The hotel we stayed at was a convent in the old days, and this hotel was a monastery, recommended to dine or have tea.

Final recommendations:

Get lost in the small and picturesque streets of Cusco, visit the many artisan shops, they are full of color. We bought some alpaca blankets, stuffed animals and musical instruments for the kids. Talk to the people, we were surprised on how gentle they all are and how proud and well informed are about their Inca inheritance. Each corner is history, color and a perfect picture!

Have you been to Cusco yet? Tell us about your experience!