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Cusco: History, Charm and Fun

Map of Cusco - Click to EnlargeHow to get there: Cusco is one hour by air from Lima's Jorge Chavez International Airport. It is still difficult and time-consuming to reach Cusco by land. Bus from Arequipa takes about 16 hours. The train ride from Puno to Cusco is interesting, but long and uncomfortable; runs three days per week, Tues-Thurs-Sat. Qoyllur Rit'i is reached from Cusco by road (6 hrs.), then 2-3 hrs. on foot or horseback. Paucartambo lies 4 hrs. from Cusco by road.

Location & Climate: Cusco lies in an Andean valley at 3,400 ms. From May through September it is mostly dry and sunny by day, and cold at night. From late October till mid-April the weather becomes rainy, and temperatures less extreme. Qoyllur Riti'i takes place in the Sinakara valley, E. of Cusco at 4600 ms. Very cold at night. Paucartambo is in a valley N.E. of Cusco at around 3,000 ms. Inti Raymi takes place just outside Cusco; Easter Week, Corpus Christi and Santoranticuy happen in the city itself. Qoyllur Rit'i and Paucartambo festivals are best visited by making arrangements with a local agency.

Where to Stay. Cusco: Top End: the Libertador & the Monasterio; slightly lower but good are the Posada del Inca & the Ruinas; for small, inexpensive and intimate: El Balcon, the Cusco Plaza, and the Casa de Campo. Qoyllur Rit'i: camping only, not for traditional tourism. Paucartambo: camping, or crowded village lodgings; day visit from Cusco possible.

Other attractions in Cusco: the Coricancha, the Cathedral, the new Archaeological museum; the Sacred Valley,  Pisac, Ollantaytambo, Chinchero, and of course, Machu Picchu.

Recommendations: For mature travelers we recommend arriving in Cusco and as soon as possible go down to the Sacred Valley , it is easier to acclimatize 700 meters lower than Cusco City. Take precautions (no exercise; plenty of fluids; drink mate de coca; little alcohol) to avoid altitude sickness, soroche, in the first day or two; allow at least three days prior for acclimatization, if planning to visit Qoyllur Rit'i. Younger travelers just take it easy.

Volume III/Issue 11, Page 34
Updated, 2003

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