After a few days in Lima, we flew over to Cuzco. The city is situated at an altitude of 3326m and used to be the capital of the Inca empire, which once ranged from Quito in Ecuador to Santiago in Chile. It is also considered as the archaeological capital of the Americas. Due to the high altitude, it is common to chew coca leaves or to drink coca tea, as this is supposed to cure altitude sickness.
You can find remains of Inca walls over the city. These walls consist of stones with a remarkable polygonal shape that integrate with each other perfectly like a jigsaw puzzle without the need for mortar. You can also find Qorikancha in Cuzco, which was once one of the richest temples in the Inca empire. It was once completely covered in gold.
Plaza de Armas is the main square of Cusco, where you can also find the cathedral from 1559. It is a lively open square surrounded by colonial arcades. North of the square you can find an abundance of restaurants with excellent Peruvian food. Typical dishes in Cuzco are for example Cuy, also known as guinea pig, and Andean Ceviche made with trout.
The San Blas quarter is situated in the hills overlooking the city. This is the bohemian part of Cusco and it is full of art galleries, artisan shops and small boutique hotels. It is a very pleasant area for a stroll and it also has a mirador (lookout) where you can see most of Cuzco,
Before leaving the city, we visited the coca museum, which teaches you about the history and the importance of the coca leaves – the sacred leaves of the Incas. Coca leaves also used to be the main ingredient of Coca Cola along with kola nuts and carbonated water. At the Inca museum, you can learn more about the history of the Incas and find a large collection of mummies, pottery, textiles and more from the Inca empire. One very interesting exhibition was about ancient instruments of the Incas. Some of them are filled with water and make sounds similar to birds, jaguars, dogs etc. when they are inclined.
Cuzco is an excellent base for visiting famous attractions in Peru, such as Machu Picchu, the Sacred Valley and the Rainbow Mountain. I will be back shorly with blog posts about some of these attractions, so stay tuned.