When you are planning your trip of a lifetime to Machu Picchu, you will probably (like we did) be travelling to the ancient city of Cusco. The former capital of the mighty Incan Empire is situated at the lofty height of 3399m, which means that travellers arriving from closer to sea level may take a little time adjusting to the thinner air, and should build in a period of adjustment during which time you should try to pace yourself and limit your physical activity.
Cusco is the seventh largest city in Peru with a population of around 428,000 people. It was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1983 and now welcomes around two million tourists every year. Aside from being the main gateway for most travellers to Machu Picchu, Cusco offers many other attractions that make it well worth the visit in its own right.
It boasts many fine examples of colonial architecture such as the Cathedral of Santo Domingo and there are numerous plazas and parks in which to sit and while away a pleasant afternoon sipping a Peruvian coffee or a Coca tea, and admiring the columns and arches of the Spanish architecture.
Away from the main streets, Cusco is a maze of narrow cobbled streets barely wide enough for a single vehicle, edged by tiny houses with terracotta roofs. The city sprawls around a hillside and the views from the upper outskirts are quite spectacular. Taxis are cheap and plentiful and there are a plethora of Tuk Tuks as an even cheaper alternative.
The Boleto Turistico
If you were thinking you could just rock up and pay at the door just to visit the Pisac, or the ruins at Ollantaytambo then you are going to be disappointed. Many of Cusco’s major attractions are included on the Boleto Turistico (Tourist Ticket) and you are not going to be able to gain admittance without purchasing one first. Fortunately, they are available for purchase at most of these historic sites and also at the main station in Cusco. Remember to have your passport with you for the purchase of your ticket and also for entry at the sites as you may be asked for it.
The sites that are available on the Boleto Tursitico are unfortunately not available for individual ticket purchases, but there is a Boleto Parcial which can be purchased with 3 options or circuits on the ticket.
Circuit 1- Cusco Ruins;
Saqsayhuamán, Q’enqo, Puka pukara, Tambomachay
Circuit 2 – Cusco Museums and Monuments;
El Museo de Arte Popular, Museo de Sitio del Qoricancha (museum only, not the Qoricancha site), Museo Historico Regional, Museo de Arte Contemporaneo, Monumento a Pachacuteq (Pachacuteq Statue), Centro Qosqo de Arte Nativo (native art and folkloric dance), Pikillacta, and Tipon.
Circuit 3 – The Sacred Valley Ruins;
Pisac, Ollantaytambo, Chinchero, Moray.
The ticket for circuit 1 is valid for one day, circuit 2 and circuit 3 are valid for two days. The full Boleto is valid for ten days which should give the most thorough traveller the opportunity to see everything included.
Be advised that other major attractions including Machu Picchu, Rainbow Mountain, the Maras Salt Mines and Cusco Cathderal are not on the Boleto Turistico and entrance will have to be purchased seperately.