Up to the time of the Spanish Conquest, the people of Cusco venerated mallquis, the mummies of former leaders, adorning them with care and carrying them through the streets atop heavy litters on sacred days. Although the appalled Spanish banned this custom, it was retained through a simple solution: rather than abandoning the practice completely, the mummies were replaced with statues of saints and the Virgin Mary, giving birth of the modern Corpus Christi festival in Cusco. Thus, the colorful Corpus Christi celebrations of Cusco are as Andean as they are Catholic.
Throughout the month, the city will be decorated with the rainbow flag of Cusco and folkloric dance parades will take place daily between the 10th and 20th of June. We’ll be publishing the day-to-day program next week, but did want to share the highlights right away. From the Inti Raymi Festival to the Night of Light & Sound, these are the biggest events for Cusco’s Jubilee month, celebrated this year from May 29th through July 03rd:
Guinea pigs have been popular pets ever since European traders introduced them to the West in the 16th century, due to their docile responsiveness and ease of care, meaning many of us have sentimental feelings for these cuddly creatures. For those of us who’ve grown up considering these cuddly creatures as pets, it can come as a surprise to know that guinea pigs originated in the Andes, where they were domesticated as early as 5000BC for their meat and are known as cuy. Originally reserved for ceremonial meals, it’s become a very common dish year-round, especially for birthdays, holidays and other special occasions. Many urban and country households of the Andean highlands raise cuy, feeding them table scraps. They’re considered a good investment because they require little room and reproduce quickly.
Most visitors to Cusco’s adjoining Sacred Valley to the Incas head towards the major towns of Ollantaytambo and Pisac, generally with a stop at the small town of Chincheros. The less-traveled southern half of the Sacred Valley is often overlooked due to a lack of time and a dearth in information provided to travelers. Whilst the ruins of Ollantaytambo and the market of Pisac are overrun by eager tourists, consider investing a day to explore the waterworks of the Tipón ruins, an ornate colonial church often referred to as ‘the Sistine Chapel of the Americas’, the Maras Salt Pans, the circular terraces of Moray, and the Wari ruins of Pikillacta.
Although one can get to the famed Lost City of the Incas in a myriad number of ways, including by bus, train, and a variety of hikes, none has more cache than the storied Inca Trail. Its allure is an immersion not just in the legendary history of the Capac Ñan, Royal Road, but also the astounding scenery of various climactic zones as the cold gives way to the cloud forest and then the high-altitude jungle brow, along a path dotted with small sets of ruins amidst overgrown foliage. There is a romance to traversing the same path the Incas used centuries ago, with Machu Picchu coming into view as one reaches the Sun Gate. In modern movie parlance, it’s “Machu Picchu, as Machu Picchu was meant to be seen…”