Visit to Señor de Huanca

Perhaps the most important religious shrine in the Cusco area today is the church of Señor de Huanca, in the Sacred Valley of the Inca, about an hour outside the city of Cusco. Many Cusquenians go here to worship and ask for the blessings of Señor de Huanca.

Patricia with the baby outside Señor de Huanca

Patricia with the baby outside Señor de Huanca

Inside the shrine, believers light candles and pray for blessings of Señor de Huanca. It is believed that if one enters the shrine with a pure heart, Señor de Huanca will grant you any blessings you wish, but if you go inside with less than a pure heart, you will not receive any blessings and may even find harm.

In front of Señor de Huanca's church

In front of Señor de Huanca's church

Family visit to Señor de Huanca

Family visit to Señor de Huanca

It is believed that here is where God made his home among men. There are actually 2 different stories as to the origin of Señor de Huanca, of miracles that are believed to have happened there.

Today, many Cusquenians bring their new cars here to be blessed, because it is believed Señor de Huanca will protect them from harm. In fact, when we were there an entire fleet of at least 15-20 delivery trucks for Coca-Cola / Inka Cola were there.

Overlooking the Sacred Valley of the Inka

Overlooking the Sacred Valley of the Inka

Mommy with baby Brianna by Señor de Huanca

Mommy with baby Brianna by Señor de Huanca

During the month of September, the month of Señor de Huanca, thousands of believers make a pilgrimage to Señor de Huanca. From outside Cusco, I believe the pilgrimage is about a 4-6 hour walk. I haven’t done it, but I’d like to some day.

To visit Señor de Huanca, you can take a taxi from Cusco (by the hospital EsSalud) for 6 Soles (~$2) per person, or you can take a bus to the nearby town of Pisaq and get a taxi from there.

If you’re visiting Cusco, a day-trip to Señor de Huanca is definitely worth it. The shrine of Señor de Huanca is in a beautiful area overlooking the Sacred Valley of the Inca. It is a very quiet place where you will find few tourists but typically several dozen locals who have come to worship. After visiting the church of Señor de Huanca you can enjoy typical Andean food in the nearby town of Pisac or in any of the towns in the “Valley of the South” on the way back to Cusco.

Tipon: Like Machu Picchu without the tourists

We took my parents to Tipon the other day. Tipon is a beautiful Inca-era archeological site just outside of Cusco. It rivals Machu Picchu in architecture, water engineering, and stunning location on the side of a mountain.

Being touristy at Tipon

Being touristy at Tipon

Tipon

Tipon

Relaxing in the Andean sun

Relaxing in the Andean sun

Unlike Machu Picchu, Tipon is a quiet site, visited by few foreign tourists. It’s a perfect place to relax and enjoy the Andean sun or chat with the local visitors. You will usually find as many locals as foreign visitors at Tipon.

Why are there so few gringos at Tipon? Perhaps because they’re all at Machu Picchu, where the tour operators take them… I mean, why take S/.18 (transportation included) from the gringo to see Tipon if we can take $150 to see Machu Picchu?

If you’d like to see Tipon, the directions are on my travel blog.

A few tourists at Tipon

A few tourists at Tipon

Where are the gringos?

Where are the gringos?

How not to visit Cusco

A friend of mine, alias “C”, was in town for a visit last week. Check out his story, a must read. While your visit will (should) likely be much more uneventful, his account gives you a good idea what to expect in Cusco from the viewpoint of a young, single guy.

My comments:

  • “C” is absolutely right that visiting the tourist areas of Cusco and Machupicchu does not constitute knowing Peru.
  • Service in the tourism industry here can be mixed, to say the least. Sounds like “C” got the typical treatment on the city tour: because you’re a gringo we’ll nickel-and-dime you to death.
  • Last I checked (about a year ago) you could buy a “city touristic ticket” for around 25 Nuevos Soles, and it gives entrance to nearly every tourist site around the city (including Sacsayhuaman). Instead of taking a city tour, just take a walk around the city yourself. “C” posted a pretty good list of places to see in Cusco on his blog.
  • I like Sacsayhuaman, but I agree listening to the tour guides can bore you silly.
  • Around the Plaza de Armas and San Blas you do find a ton of “gringos” in the bars and discos. But the residential areas where you can find bars and discos packed with mostly locals are only a few blocks away. Best to go in a small group though.
  • Sicuani is really not the smallest, poorest town around. It’s actually pretty representative of a provincial Andean town. If you really want to know how people live in the Andes of Peru, just take one of the local busses (like “C” did) and talk to some of the people. The bus “C” took was not for poor people per se, it’s what ordinary Peruvians use to travel in the provinces.

Final thoughts:

  • Your visit should by all means be less eventful than “C’s”.
  • If you do get in trouble, there is a “tourist police” agency on the Plaza Tupac Amaru.
  • Don’t drink like you’re at home. The elevation in Cusco is 3,460 meter (~11,000 feet), or about twice as high as Denver. Being away from home, combined with thin air, alcohol and bricheras makes for some wild scenes at the nightspots in Cusco.