Cusco Escapade: A Weekend Retreat through the Heart of the Inca Empire

We arrived in this city upon returning from our visit to Machu Picchu, from the city of Ollantaytambo. Throughout this guide we will be telling you everything you can do in Cusco in two days.

Cusco City

We know it as the ancient economic and political capital of the Inca Empire, which comes from the Quechua translation of “oblige of the world.” Today classified since 1983 as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO, thanks to its historical and cultural wealth.

As we already know, Cusco was the administrative capital of the Inca Empire before the invasion of the Spanish, so you will be able to discover, throughout its history, the different types of architecture that make this city striking. From pre-Inca architecture, arch. Colonial from the arrival of the Spanish until the revolution. There are historical sites in every corner of the city, ruins and truly unmissable landscapes.

From our experience, we wanted to travel with a free walking tour which we didn’t like, so we started on our own.

In addition, there are 3 partial one-day tickets of limited duration to certain places on the circuit you choose. The price for foreigners is 130 Soles and for residents or students 70 Soles.

The San Blas neighborhood

We stayed in this neighborhood located five blocks from the main square, very central, comfortable and nice to explore on foot. At that stage, the area was called in Quechua “T’oqokachi” which means salt cave.After the arrival of the Spanish, T’oqokachi was renamed San Blas in homage to the Christian bishop Blas de Sebaste.

The 12 angle stone

This stone became recognized for being part of the wall of what was the Palace of Inca Roca, since the more angles a stone had and the better its final finish, meant that this construction was for High Society. Today it is used as a museum of the Archbishop’s Palace. All their constructions also contain stones of many angles, because this was used as a method of support against the repeated earthquakes that occur in the area. This is how so many historical sites in Peru are managed to be preserved, thanks to the intelligence of its Inca engineering.

Located on Rumiyoh Street, recognized as Cultural Heritage of Peru. Being located on the street, you can visit it for free and freely without the need for a guide. If you book a tour to explore the streets of Cusco, you can do so with the Comprehensive Ticket that we talked about at the beginning.

7 Borreguitos Street.

As we have been telling you, all the little streets in Cusco are beautiful and picturesque. But there is a curiosity, and it is that they have 7 streets called with different names of 7 things. One of them is 7 Borreguitos, which we thought was the most beautiful to take photos from inside the city. The rest of the seven streets are perhaps not as picturesque as this one.

The streets are:

  1. Seven snakes. It gets its name from the 14 snakes that are carved into the cobblestone, 7 on each side.
  1. Seven little angels. This is in the name of a roof with an old painting on a mansion on this street, at the request of one of its residents.
  1. Seven little devils. In the next block of the seven little angels, it is said that it is where the couples hid from the sight of the people of Cusco.
  1. Seven windows. As the name indicates, it was because it was part of a convent that had seven windows facing the street, which unfortunately have been modified today.
  1. Seven little sheep. So called because it was the route that merchants used to transport their packages and pack animals.
  1. Seven quarters. It received its name from the seven squares that lined the bed of the Saphy river that formerly passed through there.
  1. Seven masks. It is the only street located outside the historic center, in the Santiago neighborhood. Its name was given by a former inhabitant, Mr. Mascareñas. He had six children, with whom he worked smelting copper.

Without a doubt, if you like to visit the most picturesque places to take photos, Calle Siete Borreguitos is a must-see if you are going to visit Cusco in two days.

Like this street, there is the Arco de Santa Ana, on the avenue of the same name. More than anything, it is a very nice tourist spot because of the downhill view of the entire city through the arch, and pPerfect for taking photos.

San Cristóbal Church and Viewpoint. Not to be missed when visiting Cusco in two days

About 300 meters from Calle 7 Borreguitos, high up, you will find the church of San Cristóbal, which has an incredible terrace where you can see the city of Cusco perfectly, just meters from the Plaza de Armas. Located on a small square on a prominent mountain that can be seen around the entire city of Cusco.

The church of San Cristóbal is an adobe structure built in the first years of the conquest by the chief Paulo Tupac Yupanqui. Brother of Huáscar and Atahualpa, as a sign of his devotion to Christianity. Inside it is not a very striking church, but we know that it is one of the favorite spots of the people of Cusco both for the view and for the Corpus Christi celebrations. As a curious fact, in 2007 during archaeological work the remains of Paullo Inca were found, who is believed to have been the founder of the church.

The viewpoint is a stone terrace with a cross in the middle, it is a beautiful place to sit and rest after an exhausting hike at altitude, and enjoy the incredible view of the city of Cusco.

 

The Historic Center – The Plaza de Armas

According to the writings of Inca Garcilazo De La Vega, it is said that the God Inti, father of Manco Cápac, entrusted him with the mission of starting a learning campaign to begin forming the Inca Empire. The God Inti gave him a golden rod and told him that “he will form the Empire of the Incas wherever the rod sinks.” They traveled many kilometers until the pole sank when they were passing through a swamp. This swamp is now known as the Plaza de Armas of Cusco.

A successor to Manco Cápac was the one who ordered the drying of the swamp to create what was the cultural, religious and administrative center of the Inca Empire. These works were completed by Emperor Pachacutec. This is how we know it today, maintaining the colonial architecture of the time, thanks to the foundations of Inca architecture. Without a doubt, on your visit to Cusco in two days you will not be able to avoid passing through the Plaza de Armas to enjoy the history and culture of Peru.

 

Today it is where you can enjoy the city center in its restaurants, bars, craft shops and much more.  In it, the Inca is in charge of carrying out a ritual to honor the most important divinity of his culture, the sun.

Temple of the Sun – Qorikancha. You cannot miss this visit to Cusco in two days

The Inti Raymi celebration begins in Qorikancha, also called Convent of Santo Domingo. In its translation from Quechua it means “place surrounded by Gold”, which is why it is also known as the Temple of Gold, which was looted by the Spanish and in 1530 the Dominicans built the temple of Santo Domingo on top of the foundations. The entrance to the interior of the temple is included in the Ticket that we talked about at the beginning. You cannot pay entry to this place alone.

 

The Qorikancha was the religious, geographical and political center of Cusco. At the time it was laminated in gold: Its floors and walls, including the garden, had life-size animals and plants, also made of gold. It was their sacred place where they worshiped the God Inti (Sun), they could only enter fasting, barefoot and with a load on their back as a sign of humility.

 

San Pedro Market

The San Pedro market is the oldest supply center in Cusco, which was part of a section of the Inca trail that connected with the Plaza de Armas, five blocks from it. The most interesting thing about this huge market, in a beautiful colonial-style structure, is the quantity and quality of the food, textiles and crafts. The market was built on the old Spanish slaughterhouse and the oldest part of the structure was built by Gustave Eiffel in 1925.

 

It is the cheapest place to eat (from 2 soles) and totally recommended because of how nice and safe we ​​feel it is. One thing to keep in mind is that here the chocolate and coffee, which are of excellent quality, are cheaper than in the Salineras de Maras.who precisely bring them from there to the stores and cafes in Cusco.

In the market there are many curiosities: you will be able to find for sale, for example, animal heads, whose most common use is to make broth. Of course there are herbal drinks that are used as home remedies, just as we know coca leaves and muña teas, which are the best known for pain and discomfort at altitude.

Humantay Lagoon – Another must-see on your visit to Cusco in two days

Definitely if you are going to be visiting Cusco in two days, I totally recommend taking a day to go to the Humantay lagoon.

In the lagoon, offerings are also made to Pachamama, with three coca leaves, a set called Kintu that represents the three worlds of Inca mythology. Both the lagoon and its surroundings, between mountains and roads, were sacred places for the Incas and were passed down to the local communities to this day.

The first thing you should know is that the excursion starts very early, approx. to 4 am and the weather is very cold, you must be equipped for both the weather and the altitude as we already mentioned in our entire experience in Peru. We hired Peru Magic Tours, which was the same one we used in Machu Picchu and the Sacred Valley.

The excursion begins with a first stop for breakfast in Mollepata, on a journey of approximately 2 hours. from Cusco by bus. Follow the 1-hour bus tour to the base in Soraypampa, where the walk to the lagoon begins, which lasts 2 hours. The walk is tiring but it is very worth it, as you can see, it is a dream landscape with incredible colors.

Data to take into account:

Since the weather is cold when the excursion begins, you should be well dressed. We recommend having a backpack to undress as the sun rises and you begin to walk, because you get warm very quickly. As for footwear, the most recommended are trekking shoes because the entire path is gravel.

It is also good to have a backpack to carry water and coca leaves, in case you need it, since the height can be felt more. (from 3,600m to 4,200m approx.) You may need to be in good physical condition to do the hike, although obviously, it is not exclusive for doing the excursion, but it is a plus because it is a fairly demanding climb.

As for the bathrooms, There is at the base from where they start walking and it costs 1 Sol. There is also wifi, with a cost of 2 Soles, and a stand to eat and drink something.

A different way to go up is on horseback, which goes up to a certain point where they continue walking. They have a cost of 80 Soles, and they are only used for the outward journey, not the return journey.

The tour that we contracted with Perú Magic has a cost of 30 U$S per person. It includes breakfast and lunch, and is to come as a group in a van. Another option is to go up by car, which has a cost of 200 U$S for 4 people. It is a good option because although it would cost US$50 per person, they leave Cusco earlier and would arrive at the lagoon at a time where there will be almost no tourists. This option does not include the meals mentioned.

Lastly there is two alternative options included in excursions. The one that is included in the 5-day Inca Trail, the “Salkantay Trek.” In this they take an exclusive day to go through the lagoon at a time where there are almost no people. And on the other hand, there is the 2-day visit exclusively on the lake, which consists of spending the night in some domes and coming early to the lagoon and then returning to the domes.

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