Discovering Peru: Cusco – The Imperial City {GIVEAWAY}

On our return to Cusco, we had the fortune to stop for a short time to see Saksaywaman. We then proceeded to our hotel, arriving late in the evening. Dinner was provided but we were able to take part at our leisure.

groupposeSaksaywaman

Saksaywaman is a citadel located on the northern outskirts of the city of Cusco. Sections were first built around 1100 by the Killke culture who had occupied the area since 900. Beginning in the 13th century, the Inca expanded the complex and added dry stone walls constructed of huge stones.

According to Inca oral history, Tupac Inca “remembered that his father Pachacuti had called city of Cuzco the lion city. He said that the tail was where the two rivers unite which flow through it, that the body was the great square and the houses round it, and that the head was wanting.” The Inca decided the “best head would be to make a fortress on a high plateau to the north of the city.”

saksaywaman

The large plaza area, capable of holding thousands of people, is well designed for ceremonial activities. Because of its location high above Cusco and its immense terrace walls, this area of Saksaywaman is frequently referred to as a fortress.

While clearly ceremonial in nature, the exact function remains unknown. In 1983 Cusco and Saksaywaman together were added to the UNESCO World Heritage List for recognition and protection.

La Ciudad Imperial

After a comfortable night sleep and a wonderful breakfast buffet, we spent the morning touring Cusco, La Ciudad Imperial. The city of Cusco extends throughout the Watanay river valley. It has long been an important center of the indigenous peoples, and served as the capital of the Inca Empire from the 13th century – 1532.

According to Inca legend, the city was rebuilt by Sapa Inca Pachacuti, the man who transformed the Kingdom of Cuzco from a sleepy city-state into the vast empire we have come to know. The city was constructed according to a definite plan, and two rivers were channeled around the city.

plazaPlaza de Armas

The Plaza de Armas has always been the heart of Cusco, from the time of the Inca Empire to modern day. The Cathedral, on the northeast side of the plaza is the main attraction. On one side of the Cathedral is the church of Jesus Maria and on the other is El Triounfo.

The southeastern side of the main square is dominated by the church of La Compania de Jesus, which is easily mistaken for the Cathedral on first glance due to its ornate façade. However, it is obviously smaller and lacking the grand stairs in front.

The center of the square is a nice place to rest on the benches, soak up the gardens, and admire the fountain in the center. The area is also very lively and beautiful at night, with people mulling about and the architecture lit up with spotlights.

cathedralcuscoCathedral of Cusco

Construction began on the Cathedral in 1559 and completed in 1669, in the Renaissance style. It is built on the site where the Inca Wiracochas Palace once stood.

The Cusco Cathedral houses an impressive collection of art work, with over 400 paintings from the Escuela Cusquena. These paintings from the 16th and 17th century are unique in that they are European style with an obvious Andean Indian influence. In The Last Supper by Marcos Zapata, for example, shows the apostles dining on guinea pig.
Also of note in the Cathedral are the 400 kg main altar made from silver, the cedar choir stalls, and other wood carvings. Though we were able to tour the interior of the Cathedral, photographs were not allowed.

companiadejesusCompania de Jesus

Compania de Jesus, or La Compania as it is called, is a Jesuit church built in the 16th century. La Compania was the source of much controversy at the time it was constructed because of its grandeur,  threatening to surpass the Cathedral located in the same square. It looks particularly beautiful at night when it is lit up.
We concluded our walking tour of Cusco with a wonderful meal at a restaurant in the plaza. We spent the afternoon independently of the group – choosing to do a little shopping in the markets before returning to the hotel for a late afternoon siesta before dinner.
Dinner was served buffet style at another restaurant in the plaza and featured live music and traditional dancing. It was a fitting closure to our tour with International Expeditions.
Discovering Peru @WellTraveledFamily.netI hope you have been enjoying this virtual tour of Peru. Be sure to come back to tomorrow when we arrive in Lima.

Arriving in Cusco & the Sacred Valley

Machu Picchu

Ollantaytambo Temple & Peruvian Paso

Lima – The City of the Kings (coming tomorrow)

travelguidesWhen we travel, I always purchase a DK Eyewitness Travel Guide to familiarize myself with the country and the culture. Updated annually, each book provides a detailed description of popular tourist attractions, restaurants, and lodging options.

Each guide divides the country (or city) into color coded regions enabling quick browsing while on the road. The DK Eyewitness Travel Guides are comprehensive guides that provide everything to see at a location. While comprehensive, the books give just the right amount of information to spark interest in the particular sights you want to see. They are organized intelligently for the traveler, and they always provide a map.

As a special expression of gratitude to you, I am giving away one DK Eyewitness Travel Guide of choice to a lucky reader. The contest closes on the 20th of September at 12 a.m.

a Rafflecopter giveaway
 

My post is one of many hopscotch link-ups. Hop over and see what others are sharing. You might also be interested in my post, 5 Misconceptions in Science & How to Dispel Them, on my homeschool blog.

Hopcotch2015

Discovering Peru: Arriving in the Sacred Valley {GIVEAWAY}

We had a connecting flight from Guayaquil, Ecuador to Lima, Perú at the conclusion of our tour of the Galápagos Islands. Only two other couples continued on with us – Gary & Rebecca (from Alaska) and Rick & Karen (from Southern California). As we arrived late in the evening, International Expeditions (IE) set us up in a hotel directly across from the airport for the night.

We were able to literally walk out the door at customs, cross the street, and enter the door of the hotel. What a convenience!

Relatively early, we woke and enjoyed a wonderful breakfast buffet in the hotel lobby. Thereafter, we joined up with our Galápagos groupies and a IE representative to make our way back to the airport for our flight to Cusco.

cuscotracksCusco

A city in southeastern Perú, Cusco is located near the Urubamba Valley of the Andes mountain range (affectionately called the Sacred Valley).

The site was the historic capital of the Inca Empire from the 13th into the 16th century until the Spanish conquest. In 1983 Cusco was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO. It has become a major tourist destination, receiving nearly 2 million visitors a year.

We arrived in Cusco in the late morning and met up with the rest of our party in baggage claim. Our IE tour guide, Harvey, then led us out to bus.

CuscoMate de Coca

While we awaited everyone – some had a little trouble with their baggage – we were given a cup of Coca tea.

Coca tea, also called mate de coca, is an herbal tea (infusion) made using the (typically raw) leaves of the coca plant, which is native to South America. The tea is most commonly consumed in the Andes mountain range.  It is greenish yellow in color and has a mild bitter flavor similar to green tea with a more organic sweetness.

matedecoca

I had looked all over Ecuador for this tea only to discover it is more common in Argentina, Bolivia, Colombia, and Perú.  This surprised me because the elevation of Quito at 9,350 feet (2,850 m) is nearly as high at around 11,200 ft (3,400 m).

At elevations above 9000 ft, people may begin to experience some altitude sickness symptoms.

Many Andean indigenous peoples use coca tea for medicinal purposes. Coca tea is often recommended for travelers in the Andes to prevent altitude sickness. However, its actual effectiveness has never been systematically studied.

incaweavingWeaving Demonstration

When everyone had boarded the bus, we headed out towards our hotel. As we made our way, we enjoyed a few stops along the way to take in the scenery and experience life in the Sacred Valley.

One of the stops we enjoyed most was the weaving demonstration. Granted, this was a typical tourist trap – but it was fascinating to watch the young women weave the intricate patterns into the textiles.

backloomweavingThough both men and women created textiles, it was a skill at which women of all classes were expected to be accomplished. The principal equipment was the backstrap loom for smaller pieces and either the horizontal single-heddle loom or vertical loom with four poles for larger pieces, such as rugs and blankets.

Spinning was done with a drop spindle, typically in ceramic or wood. Inca textiles were made using cotton (especially on the coast and in the eastern lowlands) or llama, alpaca, and vicuña wool (more common in the highlands) which can be exceptionally fine. Goods made using the super-soft vicuña wool were restricted and only the Inca ruler could own vicuña herds.

naturaldyesI also very much enjoyed learning about the natural dyes they use to create the variety of colors. The principal colors used in Inca textiles were black, white, green, blue, yellow, orange, purple, and red.

These colors came from natural dyes which were extracted from plants, minerals, insects, and molluscs. Colors also had specific associations, for example, red was equated with conquest, rulership, and blood. Green represented rainforests, the peoples who inhabited them as well as rain and its consequent agricultural growth, coca, and tobacco (blue was rarely used).

weavingpatternAfter the weaving demonstration, we made our way to the Aranwa Hotel in the Sacred Valley. Considering the length of this post already, I will save my review for another time.

Discovering Peru @WellTraveledFamily.netJoin me later this week as I share our discoveries in:

Machu Picchu (coming Tuesday)

Ollantaytambo Temple & Peruvian Paso (coming Wednesday)

Cusco – The Imperial City (coming Thursday)

Lima – The City of the Kings (coming Friday)

travelguidesWhen we travel, I always purchase a DK Eyewitness Travel Guide to familiarize myself with the country and the culture. Updated annually, each book provides a detailed description of popular tourist attractions, restaurants, and lodging options.

Each guide divides the country (or city) into color coded regions enabling quick browsing while on the road. The DK Eyewitness Travel Guides are comprehensive guides that provide everything to see at a location. While comprehensive, the books give just the right amount of information to spark interest in the particular sights you want to see. They are organized intelligently for the traveler, and they always provide a map.

As a special expression of gratitude to you, I am giving away one DK Eyewitness Travel Guide of choice to a lucky reader. The contest closes on the 20th of September at 12 a.m.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

My post is one of many hopscotch link-ups. Hop over and see what others are sharing. You might also be interested in my post, 5 Misconceptions in Science & How to Dispel Them, on my homeschool blog.

Hopcotch2015