Photo Friday: Cusco, Peru

As I was surfing through the archives, reminiscing, I came to December 2008/January 2009 and did a double take. No Cusco pictures? None? Zero? Zip? How could that be? Cusco was beautiful. It was interesting. It was definitely photogenic. I looked again. And then I remembered. Oh yeah, Ispent the first part of our time in Cusco with my head over the toilet, held hostage by a stomach virus. And then there was the fact that my brother Gregory was visiting, and we enjoyed his real live presence so much that we didn’t feel any need to get online. After that, well, we kept traveling and things kept happening and there was so much that we wanted to share that lovely, lovely Cusco was neglected.

I’m here now to make up for that. To beg the forgiveness of this breathtaking (and yes, I do mean that literally) city. For this Photo Friday edition of Lives of Wander, I present Cusco and the surrounding countryside.

An aerial view of Cusco, a sea of red roofs tucked into the valley.

Cusco’s main plaza, Plaza de Armas, as seen from the hills above the city. Lushly landscaped and surrounded by shops, restaurants, and historic buildings, the plaza is always crowded with both locals and visitors.

The Cathedral of Santa Domingo has a place of prominence in the Plaza de Armas. The cathedral sits on a foundation of an Incan temple destroyed by Spanish colonizers. If you look closely, you’ll notice that this is true of many of Cusco’s buildings.

Though I enjoyed the architecture of Cusco in its entirety, I particularly loved the balconies, both those that were intricately carved and the more simple ones lining the streets.

Souvenirs and necessities are sold side by side in the Cusco market.

Intricately decorated gourds are sold by the mound.

Though the traditional dress of the women in this photo is still worn by many Quechua people, many of the people you find in Cusco in such attire are wearing it in the hopes of making a few bucks off tourists who want to take their photos or pose with their llamas.

Just a short bus ride from the city center, life is rural. Farms here are necessarily small as the mountainous terrain makes it hard to find suitable land for growing.

There was something a little bit surreal to me about this bright yellow VW bug parked on a hillside in the Cusco countryside just a few hundred yards from a set of Incan ruins. I love strange juxtapositions and the reminder of the way life marches on.

A large statue of Jesus stands above the city, guarding Cusco.

While down in the city, the baby Jesus is attended to by Mary, Joseph, and a llama. (We were in Cusco the week after Christmas.)

If you’re planning to hike the Inca Trail or one of the alternative trails to Machu Picchu, be sure to pad your schedule so that you’ll have a few days in Cusco. Besides needing those days to get used to the high altitude, you’ll find that your days will be packed simply exploring Cusco and the nearby villages and Incan ruins. Though Cusco is certainly a very touristed city, it didn’t, at least to me, feel touristy.

For more Photo Friday posts, be sure to check out the links from Delicious Baby.

***Photos 1 (Aerial view of Cusco), 3 (Cathedral of Santa Domingo), 4 (Carved Balcony), 5 (Street of Balconies), 6 (Cusco Market), and 7 (Gourds) are courtesy of my brother Gregory Dowell, who traveled with us to Cusco. See more of his excellent photography, including images from Chicago’s recent Thunder Blizzard on his blog.

8 thoughts on “Photo Friday: Cusco, Peru”

  1. Love these photos!!! I’ve heard many great things from friends who have gone to Cusco but I have yet to step foot in South America. One day! I also love the old VW beetle shot 🙂

  2. Hmm. Those photos look familiar.

    What I liked best about Cusco, is even though its the de facto starting point for those hitting up the Inca Trail, its not touristy at all. It was very authentic. I enjoyed taking the bus (or was it a taxi?) to the top of the hill and walking down stopping by all the various Incan ruins.

  3. I know how you feel: Especially last year, I traveled so much non-stop that I simply didn’t have time to recap everything (which is why I’m only now reliving South Africa even though it’s been a year!). But that’s my favorite part of Photo Friday and why I’ve been participating for over two years!

    Beautiful place.

  4. Beautiful pictures, very evocative of local life. My parents have been to Cusco last year and although my mom got sick due to dramatic pressure changes, they have absolutely loved the atmosphere.

  5. I love the photos; they make me very excited to visit South America someday. More and more, I’m sad we neglected South America in our RTW trip, but there’s always the future. I especially love the photo with the Bug – I’m a bit obsessed with spotting Bugs around the world.

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