First things first. This post needs a major disclaimer. You might have stumbled across my blog post because you’re googling for one day itineraries in Cusco. Why would you do a thing like that? If you can, don’t limit your time in Cusco to one day like I did. There’s so much to see and do in and around this city. The atmosphere of the city alone will be enough to enthrall you for one day. One thing is certain, I will definitely return to this city because we have a entered into a relationship that’s far from finished.
I would’ve had two full days in the city, but my time was shortened by two events. The first is something I decided I wanted to spend time on. I wanted to see Peru play during the World Cup in a local pub. This was such a fun cultural event – even though Peru lost – I didn’t want to miss it. The second event was the Inti Raymi festival which will receive its own post.
Plaza de Armas
As you might have learned from my posts about Peru, every town in this country has a Plaza de Armas.
This is the place where the city comes most to life. This is where part of the Inti Raymi festival took place, and where football supporters riled themselves up for the game. Arequipa’s plaza was incredibly impressive, especially since you could see the two volcanoes as a backdrop. However, the even more relaxed atmosphere in Cusco made this one superior for me. The churches that tower along the plaza and the statue make this plaza gorgeously daunting.
It’s worth visiting the plaza both during the day, and at night because you’ll find a completely different scene here when it’s dark. The plaza and its surrounding hills are lit up brightly with tiny lights.
This is the main place to go when you need to reorient yourself. The city of Cusco itself is a sprawling city, but the areas that are interesting to tourists are mostly walking distance from the main plaza.
There are three or four churches around Cusco’s Plaza de Armas, I decided to visit only one. La Catedral is built on the site of Viracocha Inca’s palace. It’s built from blocks that were taken from the nearby Inca site of Sacsaywamán, and its construction took almost a century.
Inside the Cathedral, you’ll find odd-looking colonial art. In my opinion the figurines from Peruvian churches look a bit scary, I don’t know how there isn’t a horror movie yet with figurines like these.
My main mission inside the cathedral was to find the Last Supper painted by the Quechua artist Marcos Zapata. It depicts a well known image of Jesus and his disciples, but it has a singular trait. The food on the table is all from the Andes and it includes a roasted cuy (guinea pig).
Opening times (2018): 10am – 5:45pm
Admission (2018): 25 Peruvian Sol
According to the Lonely Planet: “If you visit only one site in Cuzco, make it these Inca ruins, which form the base of the colonial church and convent of Santo Domingo” (page 209).
So, I did and I added Qoricancha to my one day itinerary. Unfortunately, the building itself is only stonework nowadays. Back in the days it was literally covered in gold and it was once the richest temple in the Inca empire.
There are a lot of mysteries revolving around what happened at this sight. Quite a few stories are known about religious rites that took place here, such as the mummified bodies of the kings that were brought out each day into the sunlight to be offered food and drink.
Not much of that can be seen here, but the building itself is a prime example of Inca architecture. You can see the way blocks are stacked on top of each other to create perfect – almost airtight – structures, which is quite a sight in itself.
If you’re interested in religious art, you can find colonial paintings depicting the life of St. Dominic all around the courtyard. If you’re a dog lover like me, you’ll like these paintings because St. Dominic always has dogs in them with torches in their jaws.
Opening times (2018): 08:30am – 05:30pm Monday to Saturday
02:00pm – 05:00pm Sunday
Admission (2018): 15 Peruvian Sol
San Pedro Market
These sites take up quite a few hours already. I think you’re all cultured out by this point, I certainly was. So as a last sight of the day I would suggest you to visit the San Pedro Market. I’m not a fan of markets when they’re busy, smelly, and hot. The one in Cusco is none of the above. It’s covered, but when I visited during the day it wasn’t busy at all. It’s a nice place to hang around when you’re in need of a snack or last minute gifts. There’s a lot of fine shopping in Cusco’s side streets as well, but in San Pedro Market you’ll have everything in one place.
Conclusion & What Remains
This post is very short, much shorter than a post about Cusco should be. I will never tell you more than I have seen on my blog, so this is all I can tell you about the city. I don’t regret visiting any of the sights, and I hope they inspired you a bit as well. Even if you’re short on time, Cusco is a great place to visit. It has a rich history, the people are incredibly friendly and the buildings are gorgeous. What I loved most about this city is how visible the Inca heritage still is here. This became even more apparent during the Inti Raymi festival which will be the subject of my next post.
These sights are on my to-do list for my next visit, so I’ll definitely be back:
- Sacsaywaman – ruins in Cusco
- Salinas – salt pans
- A trek through the Sacred Valley