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In Peru, I hiked the Inca Trail and visited a number of archaeological sites, including Machu Picchu and other Inca ruins in the Sacred Valley near Cusco. I also visited the capital city, Lima. Best town: Ollataytambo, which is laid out in the original Inca grid formation, nestled between two mountains containing excellent Inca ruins. Best ruin: Machu Picchu, which is even more spectacular in person than in photographs due to its mind-boggling scale and mountainous environment. Best experience: Kusikancha, a small Inca site in the middle of Cusco, with friendly llamas and vicuñas, and a very playful alpaca. Best food: AlmaZen, an upscale vegetarian restaurant in Lima that achieves perfection in both flavor and presentation.
This city was the center of the Inca Empire until it fell to the Spaniards in 1532. Both Inca and Spanish Colonial architecture are abundant throughout the city. Cusco, a World Heritage Site, is quite lovely itself; it's also a good base from with to explore the Inca sites in the region.
Plaza de Armas and Central Cusco
The Plaza de Armas is the main square in the center of Cusco, surrounded by fine examples of Spanish architecture, including the Cathedral and Compañía de Jesús. Cobblestone streets and restaurants abound in the City Center. The remains of an Inca temple wall can be seen on Hatun Rumiyoc, near the Plaza de Armas. The stonework of this and other Inca temple walls is impressive; the stones were cut so precisely that the walls were held together through friction. A 12-sided stone from the wall at Hatun Rumiyoc can be seen below.
This is a pretty neighborhood on a hill above the city center.
Kusikancha was the highlight of Cusco, for me. Unearthed within the last decade, this cancha, or Inca city block, is in the middle of Cusco, with an entrance on Maruri street. Only the base of the structure remains; there are no towering walls, except for one arch. Within the cancha are a few tame animals, including the delightfully playful Kusi, an alpaca.
This area around Cusco contains hundreds of Inca sites, five of which I visited.
Both the town and the ruins in Ollantaytambo are lovely. I recommend staying here overnight rather than just passing through on a whirlwind Sacred Valley tour. The town is laid out in its original Inca grid configuration. Although the houses are built in a more modern Spanish style, they are organized into canchas (like Kusikancha, above). The cobblestone streets, with flowers peeking out behind stone walls, are very pretty. Impressive Inca ruins are situated in the mountains around Ollantaytambo, including the Ollantaytambo Fortress, which was the only place that the Inca successfully resisted Spanish attacks -- accomplished by flooding the valley via the fortress' aqueducts.
Meaning "red fort", Puca Pucara is an Inca military complex eight kilometers from Cusco, nestled among rolling mountains.
Along the road near Puca Pucara:
Qenko was a place of worship. Unfortunately the most famous part, a zigzagging duct through which liquids (perhaps holy water or llama blood) flowed during ceremonies, is closed to visitors.
This large site is a 30-minute walk uphill from Cusco's Plaza de Armas. Sacsayhuamán was used as an Inca fortress and it may also have had religious significance. Some of the walls, like that at Hatun Rumiyoc, are made with perfectly cut interlocking stones. Views of Cusco from this site are incredible.
Water has flowed naturally and consistently here since Inca times when the site was used for ritual baths.
Machu Picchu is very large, as you can see by looking at photographs of the site. What you don't realize until you get there is the three-dimensionality of the place. This ancient Inca city was hillier than San Francisco! Everywhere you look, including up and down, you see rows of amazing, beautiful Inca buildings, with valleys and mountains in the backdrop. This city was built in the 15th century and only inhabited for about 120 years before the population disappeared -- probably due to smallpox contracted from Spanish conquerors.
This is a steep trail, partly following original Inca routes and paved with stones set by the Inca. The natural setting is stunning, and a few Inca ruins are visible from the trail. If you are passionate about hiking, then I recommend the 4-day trek along the trail.
Lima, the capital of Peru, has outstanding colonial architecture and one of the most interesting color palettes of any city I've visited.
Barranco is a bohemian neighborhood with art galleries, bars, clubs, and a setting overlooking the beach. I saw a flyer advocating vegetarianism here (a rarity in Latin America).
The historic city center has beautiful plazas and colonial buildings. It is also one of the cleanest downtown areas I've seen.
These cliffs above the Pacific Ocean contains paths, parks and excellent views.
More photos: View all photos in the directory /photos/peru/.
Eve Andersson (email@example.com)
Beautiful photos eve!
The rock streets of Ollantaytambo reminded me of Panajachel a little bit. I had never seen such woolly llamas! I also liked the tree with the wind shape.
Thanks for sharing your pictures!
-- Pedro Liska
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