|We'd been warned that Cusco is expensive and very touristy, so we didn't really expect to like it - but how could you not?! It's a very, very beautiful city with a lovely romantic atmosphere - maybe because it has so much history and myth behind it! Getting into the majority of the sites was too expensive for us (we'd come to see Machu Picchu and knew that that would wipe out several days' budget all by itself!), but we were lucky enough to meet up with fellow couch-surfer, Marco, who lives here and showed us around the beautiful Qorikancha and told us about Saqsaywamán from our free view-point of it beside Cusco's white Christo (HUGE thank you's Marco!).
Qorikancha was the Inca Empire's richest temple, and used to be literally covered with gold. The Spanish looted all of that, and then the Dominicans built a church on the site, so that now it's a fascinating mixture of incredible Inka walls with their hard stright lines and very impressive stonemasonry, alongside the beautiful curves and arches of the Inglesia de Santo Domingo, and topped off with a modern protective roof of glass (which looks a bit odd!). We loved learning a bit about the Incas' astronomy (they saw animals in the dark patches of the milky way rather than in the stars!), and the beautiful gardens.
Saqsaywamán (which means 'satisfied falcon', but is almost impossible to say without sounding like you're saying 'sexy woman') is a steep, and for us, breathless climb up from Cusco (apparently we got unacclimatised to altitude much quicker than we acclimatized!!). Its zig-zag walls are beautiful even from the outside, and apparently formed the teeth of the Inca Pachachutec's vision of Cusco as a Puma. In 1536 it was the site of a bitter battle between the Spanish and Manco Inca, who used the site to lay seige to the conquistadors. Thousands of dead littered the site after the Incas were defeated, attracting swarms of condors - now memorialised by the inclusion of 8 condors in Cusco's coat of arms.
We were in Cusco only for a couple of days, but it's definitely a place to come back to!