Time for another detour back to Peru from our recent honeymoon trip. I can’t believe it’s already been a month since we flew home! Our final stop in Peru was the town of Cusco. We planned to stop here last since it’s the highest altitude- surprisingly even more high than Machu Picchu, which I think many people assume to be the highest. Most people suggest you ease yourself into the altitude, so we did that by starting lower and slowing moving up. For comparison, Denver is at an altitude of about 1,600 meters and many feel affects of the altitude there if they aren’t used to it. Cusco is more than double that at 3,500 meters. As I talked about in my post about Machu Picchu, the altitidue does different things to everyone. Some people aren’t bothered at all while others really suffer. By the time we got to Cusco, we were fairly accumulated, but we still felt some of the affects.
Cusco is a city in southeastern Peru, part of the Sacred Valley which a shared a few posts ago. The city was the historic capital of the Inca Empire from the 13th until the 16th century Spanish conquest. Because of its rich history, the town is full of culture, beautiful architecture, and a thriving town for tourists and locals alike. It is easy to get to many of the famous historical sites in the Sacred Valley from Cusco, which is why it’s a popular place for tourists to stop off. With its cobblestone streets, old wooden balconies, and markets, all nestled between the mountains, it’s a must-see in Peru.
On our second day we were out just randomly walking – one of my favorite pass-times in cities I don’t know, and we came to an overlook where we could see a good section of the old city. We noticed there was quite a commotion happening (see above photo, top right). We heard music and cheering and somehow navigated through the maze of small streets to get ourselves there.
Turns out we’d happened into Cusco during a time of festival. While we never were able to get a fully definitive answer on what exactly the festival was, we got the impression is was a festival FOR Cusco- possibly in honor for their independence. There was music and row after row of dancing and celebrating. The entire procession led to one of their large cathedrals and must have been miles long because we watched it for about an hour and it wasn’t anywhere near ending.
After sitting in the sun for awhile watching the celebrations, we wandered about a block down to a chocolate museum. Although we were too late to take a chocolate-making class, the people kindly gave us a tour and taught us all about how chocolate is made from the beans – a much more involved process than I ever knew! After the tour is completed, you can sit out on their balcony and order off their menu – comprised of all chocolaty things (heaven on earth). We got a Chocolate Amaretto and a Chocolate Macchiato. You can ist on the balcony overlooking the square and enjoy the drink. It was a great little gem nestled right into downtown Cusco.
Scattered among the streets you’d often see women, sometimes with their children, in traditional Peruvian attire. They carried baby goats adorned in tassels and the alpaca famous from the region. If you don’t move fast enough, the women will come up to you and plop a baby goat into your hand encouraging you to “take a picture.” But, don’t be fooled, the women will expect you to give them a Sol or two for snuggling the babies.
Cusco was a vibrant and beautiful city, it’s easy to see why it’s one of the most popular in all of Peru. In case you missed it, you can see our trip to Machu Picchu, or my love affair with the Alpacas. I also shared our quick visit to Lima, Peru.