Cusco: Inca Ruins and Altitude Sickness

Altitude sickness aside (read all about how to prevent altitude sickness at Machu Picchu here!), Cusco is one of my favorite Latin American cities that I have visited. This past year, I started my South American journey in Peru with three main objectives in mind:

Take a charter plane over the Nazca lines, have my picture taken next to at least one cute llama and trek the impressive mountain of Huayna Picchu. Luckily, I was able to fulfill all of them and more.

The fondest memories that I have of my Peruvian adventure took place in Cusco and its surroundings, in this entry of A Journey of Wonders, I shall offer a brief introduction to the marvels that one can experience in this wonderful city, the Capital of the Incas.

The Inca ruins of Machu Picchu

The Inca ruins of Machu Picchu

How to get from Lima to Cusco

I started my Peru trip, as 99% of other fellow international travelers that are Backpacking in South America, in Lima, capital of Peru.

There are basically two ways of reaching Cusco (and therefore, Machu Picchu) from Lima. One is the easy way, involving an airplane, and the other is the backpacker way, involving a long and yet rewarding adventure by road. You can probably already guess which one I took.

My itinerary included a-not-so-long bus ride from Lima to Nazca and an extremely long and quite dangerous bus ride from Nazca to Cusco. I would definitely recommend staying at least one night in Nazca instead of just seeing the famous lines and leaving since there are a few more attractions in the surroundings of this little town, which I will explore in detail in a future entry.

Cute llamas at Machu Picchu

Cute llamas at Machu Picchu

I must warn you, if you insist on taking a bus to Cusco, you better have a strong stomach since the bus ride involves a lot of sudden turns that might make you feel a little nauseous. Imagine an 8-hour rollercoaster ride and you might understand why I opted to take a plane on the way back.

Which airline is the cheapest? The only one not found in any search sites such as Kayak and the rest: StarPerú. Why is that? Because you need to buy the ticket with a Peruvian card or a bank deposit, so your best option is to go to a local travel agency or hostel and they will help you to buy the ticket. Prices go from 90 to 110 USD one way.

Nevertheless, once you arrive to Cusco, you better be prepared to deal with the high altitude of this place, located more than 3000 meters above sea level. Those Incas sure had strong lungs!!!

Inca ladies at Cusco, Peru

Inca ladies at Cusco, Peru

Gateway to the Inca Civilization

While Cusco is truly amazing by itself, most people designate it as their base of operations to explore the attractions of the surrounding area, the main two being the Sacred Valley of the Incas and Machu Picchu (here’s some of the things few told you about Machu Picchu), one of the new seven wonders of the World.

Inside Cusco City,  you can find an amazing historical center that has been perfectly preserved ever since colonial times, inside of the Cathedral you will experience an unique blend of Incan symbols perfectly mixed with the Catholic ones, the most marvelous example being the paintings of the Virgin Mary, who the Peruvian painters fused with Pachamama, the Earth Goddess of Incan and Andean mythology.

The best attraction of the city, is, without any doubt, the Coricancha Church, a colonial religious site built on top of the most important Incan site, the Temple of the Sun. Ideally, this is your first glimpse at the elaborate skills that the Incas used to polish the edges of the stones in order to make them fit without having to use any sort of material to keep them together.

How did the Incas managed to carry these enormous blocks and carve them in such a complex way? This is only the first mystery of these marvelous trip to the heart of the Inca Empire, be sure to follow any future posts that shall go deeper into this fascinating culture.

The Inca Ruins at Peru

The Inca Ruins at Peru

Where to find Llamas in Peru?

Fun fact: Contrary to popular belief, llamas cannot be found in all Peruvian households as pets, instead, they can only be found in the mountain regions (such as Cusco and Arequipa) and they serve three main functions: carriers of baggage, wool suppliers and of course, as a tourist attraction.

It is not uncommon to see women dressed in traditional Peruvian clothing carrying small baby llamas and charging tourists a small fee to take a picture with them. Trust me, it is really worth it!!!

Have you ever visited this jewel of the Inca Civilization ? Would you like to?

A Peruvian lady and her llama friends

A Peruvian lady and her llama friends

Last but not least, don’t forget to use our Affiliate Link of Wonders for making hotel reservations.

Same price for you and a small pocket money commission for this website of yours.

Sweet deal, uh?

Things to Do and See in Cusco Peru South America Travel

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11 Responses

  1. butz0705

    Thanks for introducing Cusco. I’m not familiar w/ this city but Peru is one of my dream places. Looking forward to your Machu Picchu entry. :)

    • Raphael Alexander Zoren

      Peru is a very amazing place very rich with all sorts of flora and fauna! I spent almost one month there and it wasn’t enough to fully explore all of its corners!

      • butz0705

        I already have a vision of how beautiful Peru is. Then it was intensified by your post & pictures. :D

  2. Angela Anderson (AngelaTravels)

    I actually hired a cab to drive between Cusco and Machu Picchu. We were able to do many stops and the cabbie was basically our tour guide. It was not part of our original plans, but we got to see much more than we thought we would have by taking the bus.