Cuzco

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Cuzco, Peru


Cuzco (also "Cusco", or "Qosqo" in Quechua), located in the Southern Sierras, was the capital of the Inca Empire. A Unesco World Heritage Site and one of Peru's most visited cities, it is close to Machu Picchu, the Sacred Valley of the Incas, and other Inca sites in the region.

Cuzco is a beautiful city with well preserved colonial architecture. Spanish colonial buildings erected directly atop Inca walls line the square, while the modern tourist nightlife flourishes in their midst.

Alejandro Velasco Astete International Airport is at the edge of the city. There are daily flights to and from Lima, Arequipa and small jungle airstrips in the Amazon basin. The closest major international airport is Lima.

Buses are plentiful from other Peruvian cities

Cuzco is also connected to Machu Picchu and Puno by rail. Rail service was recently discontinued to Arequipa.

Taxis are very common in Cuzco. Using a radio taxi may be the safest choice. Also, be sure to negotiate the fare before you get in.

Combis are aother cheap, reliable form of transportation. These are the Volkswagen vans and small buses. If you are unsure if a certain combi will take you where you want to go, just ask.

Sightseeing:

A boleto turistico is required for access to some of the sights in and around Cuzco. It can be bought at the Oficina Ejecutiva del Comité (OFEC), Av Sol 103, Cuzco, ? +51 84 227 037.

The ticket gives access to the following sites in Cuzco: Santa Cataline Monastery, Museo Municipal de Arte Contemporáneo, Museo Historico Regional, Museo del Sitio del Qoricancha, Museo de Arte Popular, Centro Qosqo de Arte Nativo Danzas Folklórico, and Monumento Pachacuteq. And around Cuzco: Sacsayhuamán, Qénqo, Pukapukara, Tambomachay, Chinchero and the ruins of Pisac, Ollantaytambo, Tipón and Pikillacta.

Museo Municipal de Arte Contemporáneo, located in the Municipal Palace at Plaza Regocijo. Has exhibitions of contemporary art.

Museo Historico Regional, located in the home of the Inca historian Garcilaso de la Vega. Paintings from the 17th and 18th century.

    Museo del Sitio del Qoricancha, Av Sol. With information about the different pre-Columbian cultures and fragments of ceramics and textiles of the Inca culture.

Museo de Arte Popular, located in the basement of the OFEC office. Nice collection of popular art.

Santa Catalina Convent, a collection of religious art.  

Qoricancha, the Sun Temple, was the central site of worship for the Incas. Most of the bottom part of the temple is fairly well preserved. The site is one of the best in Cuzco, containing both Catholic and Inca heritage with stunning views of the surrounding area. Located 4 blocks from Plaza de Armas on Av. El Sol.

Plaza de Armas; the square is a great place to spend an afternoon. Many bars, restaurants, Catholic churches and shops surround the square.

    
Plaza de San Francisco, a few blocks north of the center. Next to the Plaza is the main market which has stalls selling food, clothing and souvenirs.

Take a Salsa class. Salseros Cusco is a good  salsa school offering reasonably priced private and group classes.

Whitewater rafting. Go to the Chuqicahuana or Cusipata sections of the Rio Urubamba/Vilcanota where the water is  cleaner and the rapids are excellent, up to class 5.

Rent a motorcycle. There are several shops on Calle Plateros, just north of Plaza de Armas, that rent motorcycles for the day.


The Cuzco area has some extremely good international food with tasty options for all budgets.
 
If you are looking for traditional Peruvian food, sopa de zapallo, a type of pumpkin soup, lomo saltado (beef tips stir-fried with tomatoes, onions, and spices, over a bed of french fries and rice), aji de gallina(chicken in a very good yellow pepper sauce with olives and hard-boiled eggs), or papa rellena (stuffed potato with beef, olives, hard-boiled egg, vegetables, and spices).

Although Cuzco is, in general, relatively safe, as in any urban area, muggings and petty thefts do occur. Use common sense. Don't wander alone away from the Plaza de Armas late at night. Don't flaunt your valuables around. Be conscious of what is going on around you. Only take taxis that are well marked.

Watch for the feral dogs that hit the streets at night, rummaging through trash. Most of the time the animals are friendly. Just use common sense.

For most travelers, Cusco is the highest point on their trip or any trip for that matter and altitude sickness is a big problem for some tourists. Remember on the first day to drink lots of water, take it slow and stay away from the bars the first night. Most hotels offer coca tea (coca leaves are the traditional native remedy for altitude sickness).

 Should you get sick, there is an excellent private clinic, called Clinica San Josè[36], Av. Los Incas 1408-B. Personnel speaking English is generally available and they are prepared to assist foreigners.

Also available for all travelers is Hotel Doctor Internacional which will dispatch a doctor to your hotel room usually within 10 to 15 minutes. For a very reasonable price the doctor will come equipped with medications and provide the traveler with the proper insurance forms for reimbursement.


For the adventurous, communities in the Sacred Valley often welcome volunteers to teach English or provide other skills to community members.

In the city, there are many opportunities to work with street children. The most notable is called Bruce Peru. There are also opportunities to volunteer at one of the cities' orphanages.
 
The best advice for living, working, and/or traveling in South America is to buy the best travel insurance available.

You can live for as little as $250 a month, or very well for $500 a month or so. There's internet every couple of blocks, so staying in touch is easy and costs about $1 per hour.

Many foreigners teach and do other jobs without. work visas. When your tourist visa runs out, you can just take a trip across the border into Bolivia and get your passport stamped again.

Before you visit Cusco, you may enjoy reading Lost City of the Incas, The Story of Machu Picchu and its Builders by Hiram Bingham. It is a very useful source for information about the famous ancient sites.


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Macchu Picchu
Journeys of the Heart: Cuzco, Peru
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