Browsing: Cusco


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Perched on top of an imposing plateau in the province of La Convención, lie the remains of a priceless and strategic stone citadel (*).

Choquequirao lies at an altitude of over 3,000 meters, on top of a plateau which looks out at Mount Salcantay. Just getting to this archaeological complex is an adventure in itself which demands physical fitness and the right gear. The diversity of climates throughout the hike and the jagged terrain along the way make it a bruising, although rewarding experience.

As Choquequirao gets few visitors, travelers can experience the feeling of visiting this remote and enigmatic spot where time seems to have stopped.

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Text and Photos by Natasha Scripture

It was an honor I did not expect. I was prepared to head east sola, donning my scruffy, lived-through Patagonia, prepared for the worst, expecting nothing less than an Awakening. I was geared up to be yet another “gringa” fending for herself, lost amidst a sea of charged tourists, all with the unmistakable glint of Machu Picchu in our eyes.

But it was not like that. Fate intervened and fortuitously altered my plans to travel alone to the ancient Inca city for my thirtieth birthday. One month after moving to Lima to work for the World Bank, I was invited to Cuzco, and its fabulous environs, by a few of my wonderful new Peruvian colleagues over Peru’s Fiestas Patrias.

The Sacred Energy of Sacred Valley, Peru This is the honor I am referring to. As humorous as it sounds, I was thrilled that I would be visiting one of the recently acclaimed Seven Wonders of the World with “real Peruanos.” How many times have I visited grand sites and perceived them only through tourists’ eyes? I was being given the experience to travel with natives and absorb every marvel of Machu Pichu through their eyes, to listen to their perspectives, and perhaps be indulged with tasty little insider secrets and myths…

  In our party, there were four Peruvians, one American (me) and the token Brazilian. We landed in the elevated Andean city of Cuzco early Friday morning, with every intention of taking it easy in order to adjust to the altitude – which sits at over 3,000 meters (around 11,000 feet). Cuzco, once the heart of the Inca Empire or Tawantinsuyu, is a colorful city of about 300,000 inhabitants, home to some of Peru’s most formidable archeological sites. It is a multilingual center of art, culture and cuisine, where you can wander through the cobble-stoned streets for hours, pretending to be lost in a colonial fantasy world; where languages from all of the world fuse into a sort of all-encompassing vibrating hum, including Quechua, formerly the official language of the Inca Empire, still spoken by over 8 million people in South America. The crisp, sweet air, and the surrounding Andean peaks, can inspire a sense of wanderlust in anyone.

Cusco 0 faith peaks

Peru has always been a very spiritual place, from all of its previous civilizations right up until today. The Incas, Moche and other civilizations left many constructions used for religious rituals, and many religious practices from jungle tribes are still being performed up until this day. Of course, the most widespread religion in Peru today is Catholicism, which the Spanish conquerors imposed on its inhabitants when they arrived centuries ago.

These ancient and more recently adopted religions join forces and celebrate their beliefs in harmony during the festival of Qoyllur Riti, which takes place in the first 2 weeks of June every year in the Qoyllur Riti Sanctuary, 170 kms from Cusco.

Inhabitants of the Andes have always worshipped certain mountains they considered deities, known as Apus, and the Qolquepunco, the mountain that finds itself guarding over the sanctuary of Qoyllur Riti, is one of those deities. But a few hundred years ago, this place also became sacred for the Catholic faith, when the image of Jesus appeared before a young boy, and then imprinted itself on a stone found in the sanctuary. From then on, each year many thousands of people make the pilgrimage to the sanctuary, paying homage to the Señor of Qoyllur Riti (the Lord of Qoyllur Riti) with a variety of dances, rituals and offerings.

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Text by Guillermo Reaño, photos by Walter Silvera'ente, Peru
"We entered a fascinating region," Hiram Bingham wrote in 1911, "where we were surprised and enchanted by the size of the ancient terracing, for their length and height, and by the presence of many Inca ruins, the beauty of deep, narrow valleys and the majesty of the mountains…"


In the old Inca capital of Cuzco, Q’ente is beginning to cease to be just the pet project of its backers, and is now becoming a reality, an imperious necessity to recover the country’s damaged reserved areas and natural spaces. Cuzco is buzzing with interest over the progress the project is making, and people are starting to appreciate the achievements made after just over a year of work on the venture. Q’ente is a classic example of private initiative making headway when the State lacks the resources.

Back in 1911, as US professor Hiram Bingham was struggling through the undergrowth in search of Vitcos, the lost city of the Inca rebels who fled Spanish rule and hid deep in the Vilcabamba jungle, he came across a stunning landscape, one that neither he nor his young Yale University assistants had ever seen before. In the depths of the Sacred River Valley, where the rushing waters had carved out a deep gorge teeming with exotic greenery, rose a series of extraordinary stone constructions.

Bingham’s notes on Q’ente, meaning hummingbird in the Incas’ Quechua language, made little impact as they were lost in uproar over the spectacular discovery of the Machu Picchu citadel. Thus the centuries-old stone buildings that Bingham had so enthusiastically described were swallowed up once more by the impenetrable forest and eternally swirling mists.

The following years were harsh ones for the region. Civilization finally caught up with these jungles which had been a refuge for rebel ruler Manco Inca and his followers, and within a few decades, the jungle was overrun. The steamy forest retreated to forgotten, inaccessible canyons, and the jungle was cleared to make way for hoards of tourists.

First, tourism…

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Text and photos by Antonio Martinez, Peru
After a three hour hike, the Choquesuysuy archaeological complex comes into view. It is an imposing stone structure.

Cusco still holds marvels and mysteries waiting to be discovered. While the city, its neighborhoods, provinces, people and history are known worldwide, there have been new discoveries in recent years. The Inca path to purification is one of them.

We leave Lima bent on following this trail to discover its mysteries and beautiful landscape for ourselves. We had heard wonderful things about the trail and were eager for adventure. Neither weather nor harsh landscape could deter us.

In the town of Machu Picchu, we began our three-kilometer hike, following the river upstream. Provisioned only with the excitement of possible discoveries, a bit of food and our cameras, we made our way to the Choquesuysuy ruins, which until then had only been seen from afar by locals or curious train passengers.

At the Machu Picchu Pueblo Hotel the day before, we had persuaded Jose Koechlin, who discovered the ancient Inca trail that links the Choquesuysuy ruins with those of Winaywayna, to be our guide.

Toward purification

We left the town of Machu Picchu (Aguas Calientes), and at kilometer 100 crossed to the left bank of the Vilcanota or Urubamba River. We hiked three kilometers along paths cut through the cloud forest and over Inca terraces, crossing to the right bank of the river on a metal bridge. Another 300 meters, and we crossed the river once more, this time on a hanging bridge.

Here we began the ascent to Choquesuysuy. After leaving behind the archaeological complex, we headed toward Winaywayna and, from there, via the traditional Inca Trail, continue at full speed to the sacred city of Machu Picchu.

From the hanging bridge over the Urubamba River, the trail rises some 80 meters toward Choquesuysuy. Continuing along the so-called Purification Trail, we followed the sound of rushing water toward the Quetzal Falls. About 100 meters higher up, supporting ourselves on the ancient, sturdy retaining walls, in the midst of an amazing cloud forest, we found that the falls plummet more than 60 meters.

When we were just short of the mouth of the falls, a golden-headed quetzal swooped down only to peel off an instant later, tearing at the air in the narrow gorge. We tried to imagine why the ancients chose this spot to build their Purification Trail. Some holes in the rocks serve as granite steps that take the breath away as they lead along the very edge of the water: it is the continuation of the Winaywayna trail, which is behind the falls.

Excitement encouraged us to continue climbing, but the trail became a challenge because of the steep incline and the dense vegetation.

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Text by Stephen Light, photos by Walter H. Wust/Mylene D’Auriol/Lorena Tord, Peru
The elegant Contradanza recall the French dances once popular among Lima’s francophile elite.

(LIP-jl) — For 362 days of the year nothing really happens in Paucartambo, a quiet colonial backwater set amidst imposing scenery at the confluence of the Mapacho and Qenqo Mayo rivers, some three hours by dusty, narrow road from Cuzco.

Then, for three days each year, from the 15th to the 17th of July, the town fills to overflowing with the thousands of visitors who come to watch it play host to one of South America’s most vibrant and fascinating fiestas.

The Spanish introduced the custom of paying homage to the Virgin of Carmen in all their colonies, and festivals were held in her honor throughout the Americas.

But in the Andes, where all religious celebrations reflect the centuries-old struggle between Christianity and pre-Columbian pantheism, the Virgin is no longer just the mother of God, she is also Mother Earth, or Pachamama, and the sixteen groups of beautifully costumed dancers who participate in the festivities at Paucartambo interpret a tangle of historical events, folktales and legends, each group contributing to what is essentially a three-day narrative.

The fiesta begins on the 15th July with the entrance of all the dance groups, or comparsas, all magnificently masked and costumed in accordance with their respective customs and traditions. They approach the church dancing, while the Capaq Qolla and Capaq Negro dancers enter the temple singing to briefly salute the Virgin., Peru
 Night emerges, but the party continues.

Meanwhile, behind the comparsas, the entire population of the town gathers quietly, forming itself into a pious mass that processes along the main street bearing candles, flowers and other offerings.

Later that evening a riotous firework display is held in the main square, during which the Capaq Qolla, the Chunchos and the Saqras dance wildly, leaping through the flames of the many bonfires set around the plaza, their masks lit like some medieval vision of hell. At around midnight, in an emotional gathering, all the comparsas meet again – this time without their elaborate costumes – to solemnly serenade the Virgin in front of the closed doors of the church.

Very early on the morning of the 16th, the central day of the festivities, the townspeople return to the plaza after attending mass to receive the gifts of fruit, handicrafts and toys rained down upon them by the majordomos of each comparsa.

That afternoon, amid an air of excited expectation that runs through the waiting crowd in whispered conjecture, the Virgin, beautifully adorned and escorted by the Capaq Chuncho, is finally taken from her resting place beside the main altar of the church to be carried through the teeming streets and squares of Paucartambo at the head of all the dance groups in their multi-colored costumes, while each band plays the distinctive music exclusive to its comparsa, creating a riot of sound that reverberates against the surrounding mountains.

Meanwhile, high above the procession, the devilish Saqras seem to defy gravity as they harangue the Virgin by jumping from balcony to balcony, even scaling the rooftops in their efforts to seduce her and crying out all the while as if in pain as they try to avoid her impassive, glassy stare.

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Text by Guillermo Reaño Vargas
Photos by Franco Goyenechea

(LIP-jl) — The Rumbos team went deep into the Amazon forest of the department of Cusco to meet in situ the indigenous Machiguenga people, and pay homage to the important organization developed by them in recent years.
For a city-dweller the Amazon is almost indecipherable. The photo shows an imposing waterfall which feeds the magical Urubamba. Pongo de Mainique, Cusco, Perú.

These native people constitute the only viable alternative in the desperate fight to save our forests and wildernesses from destruction.

The Machiguengas of Cusco and of Madre de Dios believe that men do not die, they simply change their essence, or covering. Their souls ride the waters of the Mesarini river on their way to Tonkini, a mysterious gateway said to be located at the Pongo de Mainique, where they ascend to blessed heaven, or Inkiti.

From there they return to the forests as deer – if they have led a good life – or even tapir, if their time on earth was less than exemplary.

In the magical universe of the Machiguengas, birds, insects, plants, stars, the fish of the rivers, even the tiniest of creatures, all of them carry spirits within them which were once human forest dwellers.

For a city-dweller, the world of the Amazon is a virtual chimera, an indecipherable universe. The closest they have been to it are the images of naked or scantily-clad Indians found on postcards.

For those who don’t know it, the forest is just a synonym for biodiversity, the exotic, and people in conflict. That is to say, a senseless place, even an obstacle to development. Or, perhaps, a mystery waiting to be unveiled.

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for map of the area - click here -Courtesy of

Text: Luis Nieto Degregorio

San Blas Church

enlargeThe San Blas Church, built after the earthquake of 1650.

(LIP-jl) — The one-time capital of Tawantinsuyo, Cusco today it reflects both an urban and rural face where modernity coexists with tradition. An example of this is the colorful neighborhood of San Blas, home to artisans and ancient secrets.

During the Inca Empire, Cusco was a sacred city of temples and palaces laid out in the shape of a sleeping puma. The feline’s head was the Sacsayhuaman fortress and the body was the city, which extended between two rivers — Saphy and Tullumayo — and ran along streets of the same name.

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for map of the area - click here -Courtesy of

Text and Photos: Walter H. Wust

Fantasy landscape near Cusco, Peru

enlargeFantasy landscape near Cusco, Peru.
(LIP-wb) — Emerald lakes, perfect snow-capped peaks, villages that seem to have sprung from a fairy tale, and fantasy landscapes… all this is part of the Cusco that is swamped with tourists, but which few really get to know.

Dare to go beyond the limits of the traditional tours and discover four of the most spectacular circuits of the other side of Cusco, one which is just as impressive but only a few have visited.

The four lakes

This is a circuit as rarely-visited as it is spectacular, featuring breath-taking scenery and picturesque villages which have inherited an age-old cultural and historic tradition. The circuit runs for around 58 km (36 mi.), and it takes three to four hours to cover, along partly-paved roads.

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