If you’ve read my recent posts, you’ll know that I had an incredible visit to Peru with Yampu Tours. We explored the cities of Lima and Cusco, as well as ancient archeological sites like the famous Machu Picchu and so much more.
Thankfully, Yampu always provides local guides so we really got to know this beautiful country through a natives eyes. Although we only had 24 hours to explore Cusco, thanks to their guidance and expertise, we experienced the best of the city’s history and cuisine.
Santo Domingo Convent – Coricancha Temple:
Our private, guided tour of charming Cusco began with a visit to Santo Domingo Church and Convent. Here we learned that this city used to be the capital of the Inca Empire. The construction of the church began in the mid 1500s, and I loved admiring the Renaissance-baroque architecture throughout the complex.
Santo Domingo is built over the Coricancha Temple, one of the most sacred and important buildings in the entire Inca Empire. The name translates to Temple of the Sun so it is no surprise that they were dedicated to worshipping the sun here. Our guide told us that ancient chronicles say that the temple was once covered in gold leaf and filled with golden representations of nature.
Plaza de Armas:
Plaza de Armas is the lively main square in Cusco. Here we took photos and explored the wide stone pathways, colonial arcades, beautiful gardens, and central fountain. This certainly marks the colonial center of the city.
We learned that Plaza de Armas is actually built on the remains of an important Inca gathering spot. Our local guide shared with us that the current square currently keeps the spirit of a fallen empire alive. The old Inca Square was twice the size of the modern day plaza, and regular meditation ceremonies were performed here by Inca nobles. While most of the original square has been lost, there are still some carved Inca walls that remain as foundations.
One of the iconic buildings in Plaza de Armas is the Cusco Cathedral. This imposing monument is certainly a must-see while you’re in the city. Cusco Cathedral, otherwise known as the Cathedral Basilica of the Assumption of the Virgin, was opened in 1654 after about 100 years of construction. The architectural styles are a combination of Gothic, Baroque, and Renaissance.
You can admire the architecture even more from inside, where you’ll also find fascinating archeological relics and artifacts. In 1983, the cathedral was recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Yampu Tours organizes all of our accommodation, and they definitely didn’t disappoint with Novotel Cusco. Even though we only explored Cusco for a day, we stayed here for a few nights to explore the surrounding areas as well. You get the best of both worlds here with its colonial style architecture and contemporary guest rooms with all the modern amenities you could want like hardwood floors, cable TV, panoramic windows and more.
You’re in a perfect location at Novotel Cusco, only less than a 10 minutes walk from Plaza de Armas. Upon arrival, we were given coca leaves to help with altitude sickness. You can either chew on them or enjoy with tea. This is crucial as Cusco’s elevation is about 11,200 feet (3,400 meters) above sea level so it is very easy to get altitude sickness if you’re not careful. Along with the coca leaves, our Yampu guide also suggested we rest for at least a couple hours after our arrival to avoid feeling sick which certainly helped.
To make things easy on our first night, we enjoyed dinner at Novotel in their restaurant – La Cave 365. They serve both international and Peruvian cuisine here. Also, some fun activities they have at the hotel include demonstrations at the bar about how to make your own Pisco Sour cocktails or Andean Herbal Tea.
Speaking of food, we enjoyed a variety of Peruvian dishes in Cusco thanks to the excellent suggestions of our Yampu guide.
Calle del Medio Cocina Peruana:
You can expect delicious Peruvian signature cuisine at Calle del Medio Cocina Peruana. I started with a fresh quinoa salad and Andean Roots Soup. This hearty homemade soup is made with Peruvian chilis, seasonal roots, broad beans, milk, and a poached egg. While my husband ordered a marinated alpaca tenderloin with mushroom sauce, I loved the Chicken Pachamanquero. This was a seared chicken leg fillet with Peruvian potato puree and sautéed vegetables with pachamanca herbs.
Another great dinner spot is Tunupa Restaurant, located in the heart of Cusco. Here we enjoyed an evening view of Plaza de Armas and its beautiful surroundings. They offered us a buffet with an exotic fusion of flavors. We also enjoyed live music here with our meal.
I’d also recommend dining at Pachapapa for lunch. Here we feasted on a 3-course meal outside, while listening to live music as well!
Thanks to Yampu Tours, I really made the most of my time in beautiful Cusco. I loved how centrally located we stayed, and enjoyed eating the local Peruvian cuisine. If you love history and architecture, this is definitely a city not to be missed when you’re visiting Peru!