Blog | Sumaq Hotel Machu Picchu (English)

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A few meters away from the Plaza de Armas of Cuzco, this neighborhood is one of the most pictures in the city. Known by its narrow and steep streets, full of artists, artisans and all sorts of shops where you can buy popular art. The beautiful  is also in the area.

 San Blas origins.

During the Inca times, this area was one of the most privileged. Despite of being distant to the center of the city it was inhabited mainly by nobles Incas. Today it is a central neighborhood due to the urban growth of Cuzco.

Art and handicraft

San Blas neighborhood is also known as “the craftsman neighborhood” or “the artists’ district” because it holds a large number of little workshops and stores where you can find from little souvenirs of Cuzco to fine art exhibitions and sales.

Many celebrated artists have their workshops in the ancient houses in San Blas neighborhood: the Mendéliv family (famous because of their long neck archangel’s figures), and the families Olave, Mérida, Aguilar and Segovia among others who form the artisan tradition in Cuzco. 

San Blas Church

The San Blas Church dates from the middle of the 16th century and is believed to have been raised over an ancient Inca shrine. It was originally built with clay walls, which had to be restored with stone after the earthquakes in 1650 and 1950.

Apart from its remarkable beauty, it has a pulpit that constitutes a marvelous work of art: a one-piece wooden pulpit carved by hand by an anonymous artist who, according to the historians, took four years to complete it. The wood is thought to be taken from a centenary cedar tree located at the time in the “Regocijo” square.

San Blas Square

This charming square is located in the upper part of the neighborhood of San Blas. It has two fountains: an old circular one in the middle and a modern waterfall lighten from behind. Sometimes this is used as a scenario for different kinds of shows.

Every Saturday a fair takes place in the San Blas square where local artisans show and sell their work.

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In the beginning of the Colonial period in Cuzco, the conquerors and those who represented the king of Spain in Peru started to settle in this city. They built opulent and luxurious residences many of which were constructed over the old Inca palaces. This produced and eclectic architecture that fused both Spanish and Inca styles together.

The Inca Garcilaso de la Vega’s house

This refined colonial-styled chateau is considered one of the most beautiful in Cuzco. The historian and most important chronicler of the ancient history of Peru, Garcilaso de la Vega, used to live here.

It is located in front of the splendid “Regocijo” Square, in the city of Cuzco, just at the crossroads of Garcilaso and Heladeros Streets. An old Inca wall serves as its base, while the rest of the construction follows a colonial style.

Many recognized Peruvian artists restored the house in several occasions. Today it is the house for the Regional Historical Museum where there is a permanent collection of local artists.

  Admiral’s Mansion (Casona o Palacio del Almirante)

Francisco Alderete Maldonado was its first owner, a Spanish admiral who ordered the construction in the beginnings of the 17th Century. This palace-shaped house is a valuable sample of the architecture after the Spanish conquest. Its facade is basically an Inca wall with Corinthian pillars that hold the coats of arms of the Alderete and Maldonado families.

The Casona del Almirante house, was first the seat of the Archdiocese, then Government House and finally it was bought by the University of San Antonio de Abad. Today the Inca Museum works there, with an amazing collection of archeological pieces, mummies and items that belonged to the Inca and pre-Inca culture. 

Cabrera House (Casa Cabrera)

In its facade you can still observe the remains of an old wall that was once part of an Inca palace. According to the historians it worked as a school or a knowledge center until the arrival of the Spanish. The house belonged to Don Luis Gerónimo de Cabrera, mayor of Cuzco in 1649. Over the entrance lintel there is still the coat of arms of the Cabrera family.

In 2002, the Cabrera House was transformed into the main office of the Museum of Pre Columbian Art (MAP, Museo de Arte Precolombina) which holds a large collection of jewelry, pottery and other objects of the ancient Peruvian cultures.  

 

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The main celebration of the Cuzco Carnival takes place in the Plaza de Armas where every institution presents the very best of the local dances. On Sunday young people prepare themselves to celebrate the Cuzco Carnival with water, streamers, talcum powder and dances while the women buy all the necessary ingredients to cook the “Timpu” and other Peruvian typical dishes. 

Cuzco Carnival

The Inca’s culture survives through the chants and dances during the Carnival, and the European elements serve as a complement for a new form of expression. The Quechuas have a long tradition in Carnivals, it is a way of highlighting their race and worship Earth, fertility and love through a series of joyful and colorful choreographies.  

The party is carried out in the different districts and provinces in the Department of Cuzco, especially in the “Inca Sacred Valley” (Urubamba, Pisaq, Lamay, Yanahuara, Qoya, Calca, etc.) and the “South Valley” (Oropesa, San Jerónimo and Chanchis, where we can still appreciate the famous Ink Carnival)

The “Yunzas” are also a classic in the Cuzco Carnival celebrations, it is a couple dance around a tree where each one of the participants beats it with an axe until it falls down. Some put gifts and surprises inside the tree so as the dancers can take them as an award.

The “Comadres and Compadres” (close friends) festivity.

Two weeks before the traditional party, on Thursdays the “Comadres” and “Compadres are celebrated. The first Thursday the women from Cuzco visits their “Compadres” and give them presents, the second Thursday is the turn for the men to do the same with their “Comadres“. The day before in some of the Cuzco’s neighborhoods people use to make puppets with some of their neighbors features and hang them from a post or sit them in a chair in the middle of the street to make fun of.

The typical Carnival dish shared during this “Compadres” party is called Timpu (or T’impu). The Timpu is delicious classic dish of the Cuzco cuisine prepared for this occasion. It is made of lamb meat broth, cabbage, peaches, potatoes, rice, chickpeas, “chalona” (a sort of salted, dried and smoked lamb meat), onions and chili.  

The typical regional dances and food are two experiences that you cannot miss. Prepare your cameras to take the best pictures of Cuzco during the Carnival!   

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Central Markets (in Spanish: Mercado Central) are one of the best ways of immersing oneself in the Cuzco gastronomical culture. Typical food, handcraft, local inhabitants that buy and sell altogether with the foreign visitors. There are two main markets in the city:  San Pedro Market and San Blas Market.

San Pedro Market

The San Pedro Market is only a few meters from the Plaza de Armas, it is one of the biggest and best supplied markets in this ancient Inca Empire’s Capital City. Located in front of the Train Station and the San Pedro church, it is known because of the variety of products it offers: food, spices, flowers, clothes, souvenirs, etc.

What to do in the San Pedro Market?

The first image the San Pedro Market offers is that of a complete chaos. However once you go into its hallways you start distinguishing the organization of the diverse types of products. The stands respect an order and they form different sections: meat, bread, chocolate, fruits, vegetables, souvenirs, clothes, food to go, and at the back the main dining room.

The traditional canteens inside the San Pedo Market are one of the most important attractions. Here you can taste typical Peruvian dishes at a very low price.

Going across its hallways the visitor might see an important collection of traditional Peruvian clothing, fabrics, “aguayos”, flags, etc. In the stands’ shields or even on the ground you will see shoes, handcrafts and products of all types both for tourists and locals.

San Blas Market

Going up the steep slopes of Cuzco’s streets, close to the gorgeous San Blas Square and the homonymous church there is the San Blas Market. This central market is defined as being a lot more quiet and with less variety of products than the San Pedro market, this is because of its location: a little bit further from the historical center of the city of Cuzco.

Inside you cannot find almost any tourist item, but products such as meat, vegetables and fruits. There use to be more local inhabitants than tourist here, which turns this market even more interesting if you visit Cuzco.

Just like the San Pedro and the San Blas markets, it holds a series of dining rooms inside where you can give a taste to some traditional Peruvian dishes at a very low price. It is the only market in Cusco that counts with a vegetarian food stand.

The popular markets of San Pedro and San Blas are both imperative stops for those who visit Cuzco and for anyone who wishes to learn more about the Peruvian gastronomic culture.

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The use of coca leaves dates back to 8000 years ago. The first evidences in South America were found by the archeologists at the ruins of Nanhoc’s Valley, in Peru. Its name comes from aimará, an ancient language in which “khoka” means “the tree”; or, according to other sources, from quechua language, which in that case will mean “sacred”.

This plant was considered sacred by the Ancient Incans, as well as a gift from the God of Sun. It is related to the legend of Manco Capac, the first Inca and son of the Sun. He taught arts and agriculture to men and introduced coca leaves among the first settlers. The sacred nature of coca leaves has been archeologically shown, as they have been found in funerary tombs.

The coca leaf as a social element

The coca leaf is not only seen as a part of a ritual, but also as a relevant social element. When certain people meet, they exchange coca leaves between them, offering and receiving them, as someone would do with coffee and a friend in case of the occidental culture. Apart from that, the coca leaf is a very important element in the rural work environment. Men and women chew coca constantly, keeping it in their mouths for long periods of time in order to reduce the effects of physical exhaustion and height.

The coca leaf is also important during pregnancy. There is no Andean woman who would face a labor without coca leaves, as they have a ritual value and positive effects for the mother’s body.

The coca leaf: Andean rituals and traditions

Long ago, the coca was considered a sacred plant which had magical powers and could be used to thank the gods. It is a relevant element in the old Andean fortune-telling systems, as any problem can be solved by a shaman through a reading of coca leaves.

The coca plays an essential role in the “Pay to the Earth Ritual”. This Andean ritual, which has been widely extended in Peru, is a ceremony hosted by a shaman in which several offerings to Mother Earth or “Pacha Mama”, as well as to the mountain spirits (“Apus”), are done. The offerings consist on different objects, meals, drinks and a big quantity of coca leaves.

Read more about traditional ceremonies of ancient Peru with Sumaq Machu Picchu: Leisure and Activities

templo de la luna

The so-called Temple of the Moon is a cave complex located on the back side of Mount Huayna Picchu (or Wayna Picchu). Some of the cave walls are embedded with finely carved rocks that follow the contour of the mountain. There are side doors and the famous niches or trapezoidal windows for which Inca architecture is known. Its vaulted ceiling shows the high architectural level attained by this culture.

Although no one knows for sure what its purpose was, it was evidently a special and sacred place of worship or, more likely, a place for funerals. Despite the implication of its name, scholars say that its construction had nothing to do with the moon.

The first thing one notices upon entering this cave is a large rock carved in the shape of an altar or seat that many believe once served as a place for making religious sacrifices. In addition to this structure, there are other rock carvings on the walls and floor.

“Temple of the Moon” or “The Great Cavern” – Origin of the name

According to many scholars and archaeologists, the name “Temple of the Moon” has no real meaning. They believe that the temple has nothing to do with the moon, since the cave faces west and only a small amount of light enters it.

According to Fernando Astete, the manager of the Machu Picchu Archaeological Park, the temple was given its current name by the discoverer of Machu Picchu, researcher Hiram Bingham, who arrived there in 1911. Others say that a local hotel owner gave it its name in order to attract more tourists.

Given the differences of opinion and lack of proof that its correct name is “Temple of the Moon”, experts have begun calling it simply The Great Cavern”.

How to get to the Temple of the Moon

There are two ways to get to the Temple of the Moon. The first requires more effort, but is worth the trouble due to the spectacular landscape. You can climb to the top of Mount Huayna Picchu and on your way down the other side, you will see a sign indicating the way to Machu Picchu in one direction and to “The Great Cavern” in the other.

The other way to get to the Temple of the Moon is to take the detour to the left at the base of the mountain (Huayna Picchu). Here you will find stairs carved in rock, with retention walls similar to terraces hugging the trail along the edge of the drop-off overlooking the jungle.

 

Coming out from Aguas Calientes and next to Machu Picchu we can find a very exciting path that leads to Putukusi Mountain’s peak, a surveillance and control point that covered the Ancient Citadel of Machu Picchu. It is very common to climb this mountain before going to Machu Picchu, as it gives an idea of what will come next. You can enjoy a wonderful overview from the top of Putukusi Mountain.

Its name comes from the quechua language and means “happy mountain”. It is located northeast to Machu Picchu’s Sanctuary, at 2,500 m.a.s.l.

Going up Putukusi Mountain in order to reach its summit and admire the spectacular citadel’s overview is such a challenge! During the climb you will be able to appreciate the contrast between the mountain’s cloud forest and the forest, where there is a great variation in trees, orchids [SP1] and birds.

The path to Putusuki starts out at Aguas Calientes, just in the entrance of the village. The trekking is made of different wooden and

 steel stairs. Some of them even have more than 100 steps!

Itinerary

It’s a challenging ascent but, in the end, it is worth it. The first part of the itinerary goes through a region of humid forests, while the second one leaves the walker exposed to the sun all afternoon. It is recommended to bring a repellent, as the humidity of the region attracts mosquitoes. Other tips include bringing enough water, a couple of snacks to bring your energy back during the long itinerary and a wind stopper coat, as raining may catch us all along the tour.

The trip to the summit lasts around two hours. From there, there is an extraordinary overview over Machu Picchu’s Citadel and the main slopes that surround the mountain! This isn’t a high difficulty trekking, but it requires being in good shape in order to climb the never-ending stairs.

Get to know the Putukusi Mountain trekking, organized by Sumaq Hotel Machu Picchu.

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