While doing handstands by a twenty-foot tall massive Incan wall we caught the attention of two Peruvians walking towards Cusco’s ancient ruins. The two men asked to get a picture with us – not a normal occurrence, but sure, why not? We pulled out our phones – they pulled out theirs. One of the Peruvians seemed a little embarrassed as his friend asked for multiple poses with us with three different cameras.
It was my favorite day in Cusco: An unplanned urban walk from the center of town up to the Incan ruins of Sacsayhuaman. We stumbled on hidden views of Cusco, authentic living, and met interesting Peruvians along the way. Here are ten of my favorite photos from the Sacsayhuaman walk in this post.
Cusco View #1: Jaw-Dropping Architecture, Old People Impressively Upside Down
Our new acquaintances asked, ¿De dónde son Uds? (Where are you all from?) ¿Por qué están en Perú? (What brings you to Peru?) We shared our story, and in kind, discovered a bit of theirs. They were co-workers from Peru’s capital, Lima, and they had a day off after a business trip. (One of them also had a black eye, however, we didn’t get the full story on that.) Another Peruvian family came along, laughing – probably at how many pictures were being taken. We put arms around each other for the photos, said, Amigos de Seattle!, and pretended like we all knew each other. Though just a few minutes in total, the connection still stands out for me today.
Cusco View #2: Making New Friends …or… The Viewers Become the View
We started the morning from, El Balcón, a hidden gem of a hotel that’s close to the main plaza, yet still has views. Like most lodgings in Peru, breakfast was included and we loaded up on great coffee, eggs cooked to order, and fresh fruit including maracuyá (passion fruit) – our new favorite.
Our mission for the day? A we-can-do-this-despite-the-altitude walk to the Incan ruins of Sacsayhuaman and back.
Cusco View #3: La Plaza de Armas from el Balcon of El Balcon
Sacsayhuaman (pronounced like sexy woman in English – a coincidence that cusquenos just loooove to point out) is a must-see if visiting Cusco. The ruins sit atop the city with massive sandstone walls alongside open spaces with errant alpacas. The stone work is larger than Machu Picchu and so precise. The ruins represent a dramatic history where the last Incan king held out against the Spanish and shed light on a still tender history between the Spanish and indigenous cultures.
And while we loved the ruins, its views, and imagined the fascinating stories described to us by our hired-on-the-spot guide José – much of the magic we found that day included getting there and back on foot.
Cusco View #4: José Has Been a Sacsayhuaman Guide for Three Decades
Just north of Cusco’s main square, La Plaza de Armas, various steep pedestrian stairs will take you up to towards the ruins. Altitude happens, so take it slow (Hint: Sometimes taking a photo of a wall, poster, or city view can also be a moment of catching your breath.)
Cusco View #5: Thousands of Stairs …or… Kymber Beats Me in a Race (Again)
Perhaps my favorite image from our two weeks in Peru this next one. We were coming along a rising path and peered over to see a man reading a book titled Instrucciones Bíblicas (Bible Instructions – I discovered after zooming in on the photo later) on a bench outside La Plaza San Cristobal.
Cusco View #6: God is Alive in the Hearts of Peruvians
Winding our way down back to the city after visiting the ruins, we stumbled on vistas and fun billboards.
Cusco View #7: Beer Sounds Great After All Those Stairs, But Will My Nose Grow?
While we were on vacation, Peruvian students were still in session. There’s a magnificent view of the city and the students during a recess. We watched them for a while trailing back and forth from a stall where they were getting snacks.
Cusco View #8: School is in Session
Instead of going straight back to the Plaza de Armas, we went through the San Blas neighborhood. A bit more up-scale than other parts of Cusco, we checked out a variety of shops and watched the locals going about their business.
Cusco View #9: Headed to Work With Furry Friends
Walking the streets, even the walls reveal details about a place, its culture, and the people who live there.
Cusco View #10: Public Notices on Every Available Surface
My biggest takeaway? The day was a reminder that sometimes not having a fixed plan can result in simple wonders that would otherwise be missed.