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Viewing: Cusco

Our Peru Adventure: Visiting the Sacred Valley Again

Guest Blog Post by Lili Mahlab

Ollantaytambo ruins

Armando and our driver, Lucho, met us at Pakaritampu at 7:30 and took us to the Ollantaytambo ruins right in the town. Ollantay means warrior in Quechua and Tambo means rest. So, the name of the ruins, Ollantaytambo means “resting place of the warrior.”

This section was built over a period of 600 years commencing with the pre-Inca period in the 800s and culminating with what we saw here by the time of the arrival of the Conquistadores. Built into the mountains facing west , the way the wind blows, were structures designed to keep food cool. On the opposite side of the mountain, we climbed stairs that led to the top and to the primary temples where they worshipped the sun. (more…)

Posted in Cusco, Guest Post, Peru, Sacred Valley, Travel Stories | By

Our Peru Adventure: Touring the Ancient Sights in Cusco

Sacsayhuaman Cusco Peru

Guest Blog Post by Lili Mahlab

Armando picked us up at 9:00 from our hotel. Our first stop was at Sacsayhuaman – an archeological site that means “head of the Puma” – a site where the Incas undoubtedly worshipped the sun. This strategic location, perched high atop the hills overlooking Cusco, was significant from a military and religious standpoint. The high ground certainly had to benefit the Incas during conflicts, even prior to arrival of the Spanish Conquistadors.

Contained within the site was also a large plateau where large ceremonies could take place. In fact, during Incan times, young men of 18 to 20 years old would participate in Olympic style games. (more…)

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Our Peru Adventure: Lima to Cusco


Llama Expeditions

Guest Blog Post by Lili Mahlab

Gustavo picked us up at our hotel at 7:15 to take us to the airport. As usual, traffic getting to the airport was awful. It took us an hour and by the time we got there, Jean and Joe were bumped from the flight since it was overbooked. Fortunately, there were 4 more flights to Cusco that morning so they were only a half hour behind us. We met Diane Valenti, our tour organizer, at the airport in Cusco with our guide, Armando. They took us directly to our hotel, the Monasterio. (more…)

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Should You Stay in the Sacred Valley or in Cusco?

sacred valley or cusco

Located at nearly 11,000 feet, a visit to the city of Cusco is likely to induce a physical response to the altitude in almost everyone. Those affected might feel a range of symptoms from shortness of breath to a pounding headache to serious altitude sickness. In the case of serious altitude sickness, the only recourse is to descend immediately. The good news is that most people are able to weather a visit to Cusco just fine.

That said, wouldn’t it be better to just bypass Cusco altogether and stay at a lower altitude in the Sacred Valley? The problem with this strategy is that confining your visit to the narrow floor of the Sacred Valley means that you’ll miss out on some of the most interesting sights this part of Peru offers. (more…)

Posted in Cusco, Peru, Sacred Valley | By

6 Secrets of the Colonial Cathedral in Cusco

colonial cathedral cusco

Although I am more of a spiritual person than a religious one, I keep finding myself visiting the colonial cathedral of Cusco. In fact, during one visit I spent four fascinating hours in the cathedral. I wasn’t attending Mass, praying, or counting rosary beads. Instead, I was exploring secrets hidden in plain sight with a local art expert.

Designed by a Spanish conquistador and architect, the cathedral of Santo Domingo is built on the foundation of Inca ruler Viracocha’s palace. Most of the stones for Cusco’s cathedral come from the sacred and military site of nearby Sacsayhuaman. And, when the Spanish learned that the sand in Cusco’s main square was considered sacred, they used it to make the mortar that holds the cathedral together. During the nearly 100 years that Cusco’s cathedral was under construction, Spanish priests and architects supervised mostly forced Inca labor. (more…)

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What is the Inti Raymi Festival in Cusco Peru?

inti raymi cusco

During the Inca Empire, the Inti Raymi festival was one of the most important ceremonies celebrated in Cusco and one of the unhappiest for llamas. Llamas were sacrificed to ensure a good crop. According to legend, priests could predict the number of good harvests by the number of times a llama’s heart beat after it was removed from its body.

Thankfully, this festival that honors the sun god (Inti) is no longer so gory. Llamas can breathe a sigh of relief as their sacrifice is now simulated.

This year Inti Raymi takes place on June 24, 2014 in time to celebrate the winter solstice. Actors clad in traditional Inca ceremonial robes and costumes re-enact traditions that date back 500 years. (more…)

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What to Do Your First Day in Cusco

What to Do Your First Day in Cusco

Ahhh…Cusco, the city that can literally take your breath away! At 10,560 feet above sea level, most people notice the effects of the altitude when they arrive at this gateway to Machu Picchu.

As a result, most tours plan the first day as a day of rest. They pick you up at the airport and drop you off at the hotel. You are then on your own to wander about town or hang out at your hotel and sip the ubiquitous coca tea.

But, what if you are one of those lucky people who are not affected by the altitude? Surprisingly, if you are over 50, you are more likely to be in this group. Or, what if you prepared for the altitude by taking Diamox and you feel just fine?

There are a number of things you can see and do in Cusco while your fellow tour participants down aspirin to deal with that altitude-induced headache. (more…)

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Enjoy Your First Day in Cusco – Gateway to Machu Picchu

Enjoy Your First Day in Cusco – Gateway to Machu Picchu

The city of Cusco is the gateway to Machu Picchu. Tourists travel through Cusco to access the mysterious Inca citadel.

The first time I flew into Cusco, I immediately felt the effects of the altitude (10,560 feet) as I disembarked from the plane. Later that afternoon, I nearly fainted from altitude sickness in the middle of the ancient Inca ruins of Sacsayhuaman just outside the city. (more…)

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Perfect Sunset in Cusco, Peru

cusco sunset

A couple of summers ago, I accidentally stumbled upon the best place to enjoy a sunset in Cusco, Peru. I had just arrived in the city with my friend Malia. After checking in to our hotel, we grabbed a cup of coca tea from the lobby and made our way to the Plaza de Armas, Cusco’s main square. We perched on the steps in front of the famous Cathedral of Santo Domingo to sip our tea. (more…)

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Llamas in the Andes of Peru



One of the coolest things to do near Cusco, Peru is to visit the llama farm. About 30 minutes outside of the city of Cusco, the llama farm showcases all four members of the Andean camelid family: llamas, alpacas, guanacos, and vicuñas. For a small donation, you can feed the animals. The llama farm provides grasses for this purpose. (more…)

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