My plan was to tell you all about the Inca Trail. I sat down in front of the tiny heater in our hotel room and started writing. After one hour, my fingers had turned blue from the cold but the satisfaction I got from having finished the post more than made up for it. I pressed ‘Publish’ – and the post got lost somewhere in the depths of the internet. My phone didn’t even manage to save a local version on my SD-card as it usually does. Instead, it saved the empty document I had just uploaded.
Don’t worry, I will tell you all about the Inca Trail. But before I rewrite that post, let me get back some motivation by telling you about Cusco.
Cusco is a pretty cool city located in the Andes. It is bustling with tourists, not just because it’s on the way to Machu Picchu but also because the city itself is interesting. Here are some of the highlights you shouldn’t miss:
1. Qorikancha or the Sun Temple
Cusco has been built on the site of an Inca city. Most of the buildings have been destroyed and the same goes for the Sun temple. But even when destroying the city, the Spanish left parts of the buildings to create their own houses on. The Sun temple was turned into a monastery that is still standing today, although it has now been transformed into a museum.
At first glance, especially when standing in the courtyard, it is impossible to see the Inca remains. But as you walk through, you can see bits and pieces. You will also discover interesting frescos from the period during which it was used as a monastery.
2. Cusco Cathedral
Cusco’s cathedral is amazing! The building is huge, with a main room and two side wings, that loook more like large churches than chapels. I highly recommend you take your passport with you as you need it to get an audioguide. Don’t think this is a regular audioguide. It is a highly modern version, with a screen on which you can see a video while listening to stories about the cathedral. I was first afraid that it would distract from the beauty around us but the images there helped me find what they were talking about.
Make sure to bring a sweater as by the time we left the cathedral, I was shivering from the cold.
3. The Inca Museum
I didn’t manage to take any good pictures of the museum. That doesn’t mean it isn’t worth visiting. I highly recommend this museum if you want to learn more about the Incas. They have a great exhibition on the upper floor. Unfortunately, many of the signs were in Spanish and translations were often short or missing completely. Watch out if you can find a guide near the entrance who you can hire to learn more, especially if your Spanish isn’t perfect.
4. Plaza de Armas
This is Cusco’s main square, right in front of the cathedral. It’s a good place to sit and enjoy the sun or to lean back and indulge in a few minutes of people-watching. Note the beautiful architecture around the square, with white-washed houses and wooden balconies.
5. The Choco Museo
Are you ready for a break? I highly recommend the Choco Museo which is only two blocks away from the Plaza de Armas. They do offer chocolate making workshops which I wish we’d had the time for. But even if you’re short on time, it’s worth stopping by and tasting the amazing chocolate products in their cafe.
6. The Macchu Picchu museum
We were especially interested in this as we had our free day in Cusco after returning from the Inca Trail. While walking through Macchu Picchu, our guide kept telling us about beautiful artifacts from the city that were now located in this museum. If you’ve been to Macchu Picchu, this is a great place because it makes the whole experience more complete.
7. Mercado San Pedro
You want a smoothie? You want to buy food for a long bus trip? Or maybe you’re not hungry at all and just came for the shopping? Whatever your purpose, even if it’s just sightseeing, you should come to Mercado San Pedro.
While this market is aimed at tourists, it is also where the locals come to shop for groceries. You will find many products here, from fresh juice to quinoa or meat. We got nuts for a bus trip, amazingly tasty oranges and I couldn’t stop looking at the woolen hats. If we hadn’t had that chocolate delight you see above at the chocolate museum, we would have gone for lunch here, too.
8. The Planetarium
This might be the last attraction on my list but it is definitely one of my favourites. We came here on our first evening in Cusco and were taught about star constellations in the southern hemisphere and, our favourite of all times, the black llama. A visit to the planetarium involves a presentation of constellations both western and mayan and a look through their telescopes. I can highly recommend visiting the planetarium! For more information, you should check out their website that I found here.