You can do all the planning in the world for an overseas adventure but nothing can truly prepare you for the breathtaking views and magnificent architecture. This is the case for Cusco, the heart of the ancient Inca’s and the capital city of Peru.
Historically, Cusco was once the capital of the Inca Empire and is famous for all the archaeological remains such as Machu Picchu. Inca history has been infused into the everyday lives of the Peruvian people and is still alive to this day.
Plaza de Armas is the centre square of the old city with hand carved wooden balconies and Inca wall ruins. Cusco has become a major tourist destination and host close to two million travellers in an annual year.
Being the central point for the city, it is always full of vibrant colours and busy with the hustle and bustle. The area is also home to two iconic buildings the Cusco Cathedral and the Church la Compañía de Jesús, you can't miss them! The space is used for the city’s most important events, festivals and gatherings. This includes Inti Raymi which is the Inca festival of the sun.
There are also several archaeological heritage sites that remain throughout the stoned pathways of Plaza de Armas. One of the most picturesque sites in the city is Barrio de San Blas with narrow and steep streets and old houses built by the Spanish. It has a smaller square to Plaza de Armas but does possess the oldest parish church in Cusco, built in 1563. The original Quecha name for this neighbourhood is Tuq'ukachi, this means the opening of the salt.
Probably the most visited street in the city is Hatun Rumiyuqd (The one with the big stone”) which runs from the Plaza de Armas to the Barrio de San Blas. This street is special because you can see the Stone of Twelve Angles and is amazing ancient stonework, symbolic of the city’s history.
Plaza de Armas has an altitude of 2750 meters above sea level. In comparison, the highest point in Australia is Mt. Kosciuszko in NSW at 2228 meters. We have had volunteers arrive in Cusco a few days earlier than the program dates which allows them to adjust to the change in altitude before embarking on your international experience.
But the city really lights up and comes to life even more for Christmas. Take a stroll around the Plaza de Armas square to view the Christmas nativity scenes which have animals and lights appear from the 10th of December onwards. But Christmas Eve is a key date in the city’s annual festivities and again the square is a centre point for holding the well-known Santurantikuy markets. This is a traditional market where hundreds of people come from their Andean communities to buy pieces for their nativity scenes. Christmas day is quieter and families are normally celebrating at home with their loved ones.
Cusco is a magnificent beauty, with its central point full of history and fun. From Challenges Abroad we wish you a wonderful and magical Christmas and you and your loved ones are keeping safe and enjoying the festivities where ever you may be!