Archive for the ‘pirwa cusco’ Category
There’s no better time to visit Cusco than during Inti Raymi, the Sun Festival, still the year’s most important festival ever since the time of the Inca empire, when Inti Raymi honored the supreme deity, the sun, and celebrated the end of one agricultural year and the beginning of the next. Two weeks of concerts, dancing, and fairs kick off each June 21st during the Andean Winter Solstice, in what has become South America’s 2nd largest festival. During this time Cusco honors its history through elaborate and massive reenactments and colorful celebrations that attract 50,000 spectators.
- If you plan on joining in, it’s best to make plans as far in advance as possible- availability for lodging in Cusco, transport, and Machu Picchu can go quickly, and prices rise in response to the increased demand.
Although the complete schedule for the two weeks of celebrating has not yet been announced, we do have the details for the most important day, June 24th, when reenactments take place at Cusco’s most significant sites. This is also the date of the Day of the Farmer (formerly Day of the Indian) and of Cusco’s Anniversary, which is part of the reason why the city explodes with activity and color during this time, with free concerts, street fairs, and a seemingly endless parade of vibrantly dressed dancers.
Part I: Qorikancha, 9am
It all begins with the Sun Greeting at Qorikancha at 9:00. This temple’s name means Golden Enclosure but it is better known as the Temple of the Sun. It’s importance as the religious center of Cusco before the arrival of the Conquistadores was marked by the golden band which surrounded it. The ceremony lasts 30 minutes and you can watch for free as characters representing the nobility of a bygone age (the royal entourage, the Chosen Women, and the Sapa Inca himself) salute the sun, arriving along flower-strewn steets amidst the sounds of conch shell.
- Remember to be wary of pickpockets in the crowds- keep a close watch on your pockets, bags, and especially small electronics.
Part II: Plaza de Armas, 11am
The second part of the reenactments is also free to watch, lasts about 45 minutes and takes place at 11am in Cusco’s main square, the Plaza de Armas (once known as Auqaypata, Warrior’s Square). Climbing atop a ceremonial platform called an ushnu, the Inka formally addresses the mayor of Cusco in what is known as the Meeting of the Times.
- If you go independently, you must arrive quite early and be willing to deal with intense crowding at times. Otherwise, agency packages normally include a private balcony from which to watch the celebrations.
- Pirwa Posada del Corregidor, our hostel in the Plaza de Armas, has its own restaurant with a balcony from which to watch the proceedings.
- Taxis will not enter the city center during this time, so if you’re staying in a hostel in the city center, your mobility will be compromised from the early morning through late afternoon (at least), and you will do better on foot.
- Despite June being wintertime in Cusco, the weather is very variable. Mornings and evenings are very cold, but from approximately 11am to 3pm it can get very hot in the afternoon sun, so dressing in layers is recommendable.
Part III: Sacsayhuamán, 1:30pm
The central ceremony takes place at Sacsayhuamán, the fortress of massive stones which overlooks the city of Cusco, and lasts an hour and a half. The 4 suyos, or regions of the empire, issue their reports, and the Chicha, Sankhu, and Sacred Fire rituals take place. There’s the Llama Sacrifice (which is simulated) and the divining from its entrails. It all ends with Q’ochurikuy, the explosion of popular exhaltation.
Although tickets have not yet been made available, ticket prices range from US$90 (Green Zone) to US$130 (Orange Zone) and include the official program and explanation in three languages and a commemorative DVD. To buy tickets for the Sacsayhuaman ceremonies from EMUFEC, the managing government agency, one has to pay in advance through bank transfer, although their purchasing system is usually not activated very long before the celebrations.
- Rather than pay the ticket price, locals choose to simply gather in the surrounding area and hope to catch a glimpse of proceedings while picnicking along the hills, although visibility can be elusive in the crowds.
- Sun protection is crucial; medical & safety personnel will be on hand in case of emergency
Pirwa Travel Service offers two packages inspired by the festival. The one-day tour which includes tickets, balcony access overlooking the Plaza de Armas, a packed lunch, and a knowledgeable guide. Meanwhile, the 6-day tour includes the main festival day alongside guided tours of the Sacred Valley of the Incas and Machu Picchu.
The specialists of Pirwa Travel Service have ten years experience providing affordable excursions thorughout Peru and Bolivia. If you need help planning your itinerary, or arranging transportation, excursions, entrances, etc, feel free to contact them at email@example.com and they’ll be glad to help!
We’re currently looking for 4 helpers for Pirwa Colonial Backpackers, in the area of bar / food / events in the evenings (6pm-12am, 7pm-1am…something in that neighborhood). If you can pour drinks and are planning on spending at least a week in Cusco, we hope you’ll come lend a hand! Basically, if you work 7 days, you get lodging for an additional 3 days to accomodate your excursions.
In return, you get a free bed in one of the shared dorms, breakfast, and a little money for lunch. If you’re interested, please send us your info and travel plans to firstname.lastname@example.org. We hope to hear from you!!
in Cusco, has successfully undergone renovations in various rooms, to provide more private ensuite rooms alongside a variety of dormitories.
We’re now fully operational again, and ready to meet new friends and guests from around the world.
The interior patios and the fully stocked TV & movie lounge remain unchanged, and at the moment we’ve only one more portion to complete: the 24hr guest kitchen.
Pirwa Colonial’s Bar continues to boast a fast food stand, 2 for 1 cocktails during our “Happy Hour Every Hour”, and activities from yesterday’s Patriotic Party (where guests donned the colors of their respective countries) to today’s BBQ. Table games and instruments are always available, not to mention a pool table and ping pong table!
Holy Week Like You’ve Never Seen it….
One of Cusco’s most popular events is fast approaching. Holy Week is uniquely celebrated in the Imperial City of the Incas, which honors its patron saint the Lord of Tremors at this time with a fusion of pre-Columbian Andean and Catholic traditions. This exuberant syncretism makes Cusco one of Peru’s most popular destinations during Holy Week- the city’s hostels and hotels generally fill up well in advance thanks to a sudden influx of domestic as well as international travelers.
Palm Sunday, March 24th
Palm Sunday begins with mass in the ornate Basilica Cathedral, followed by religious reenactments and folkloric dancers performing in the main square of Cusco, whilst vendors hawk wares promising good fortune. On this day, Cusco’s center becomes a riot of color- great photo fodder for the amateur photographers out there. Last year, in the plaza of the neighborhood of San Jeronimo, the Festival de Sabor Andino (Festival of Andean Flavor) food fair served up traditional Holy Week fare: roast suckling pig with Peruvian potatoes, tamales, and large rounds of ch’uta bread. Although this year’s official program has not yet been announced, expect food stalls to pop up around the Main Square (usually two blocks away, in Plaza San Francisco) if not in San Jeronimo.
Holy Monday, March 25th
On Holy Monday, the processions with the heavy statue of the Lord of Tremors begin, accompanied by musicians and people strewing red ñucchu petals, once used as an offering to Inca gods but now said to symbolize the blood of Christ, along the path. 60 thousand devotees gather to receive his blessings.
Good Friday, March 29th
On Good Friday, the Hampirantikuy Market springs up to sell medicinal plants and plants of religious or superstitious significance. Meanwhile, hardcore devotees begin at frosty 4am to walk the Stations of the Cross from Plaza San Francisco to the Lord’s Cross in Sacsayhuaman Archeological Complex, the Inca fortress of the giant stones overlooking Cusco. Unlike other places, Cusco does not celebrate this day with fasting, but with feasting. The tradition is to prepare 12 dishes.
Choosing a Hostel….
Holy Week in Cusco fills up fast, but Pirwa Hostels has four different locations in Cusco, so we’ve still got availability- don’t dawdle! For an unbeatable view of the dancing and processions, without jostling for room at street-level in the packed main square, Pirwa Posada del Corregidor is the best choice, because its restaurant, Plus Café, has balconies overlooking the Plaza de Armas of Cusco.
If you prefer to be close, but not completely in the middle of, the action, Pirwa Suecia B&B is located only half a block from the Plaza de Armas.
Travelers looking for cheaper shared dormitories and fun common areas (In-House Bar, Fast Food Stand, TV and Movie Lounge, Game Lounge with billiards, ping-pong, darts and more) just two blocks from the Main Square should check out Pirwa Colonial Backpackers. (The pic on the far left is the previous year’s Easter spread.)
Our final hostel in Cusco, Pirwa San Blas Familiar, is a quieter but cheerful hostel in the bohemian neighborhood of San Blas (4 blocks up from the Plaza de Armas). Besides its picturesque nature, this area also boasts a concentration of artists’ galleries and studios, which during Holy Week will go into overdrive displaying unique and colorful wares during art fairs in little San Blas Plaza.
Who Is the Lord of Tremors?….
Originally known as the Lord of Good Death, the statue lay neglected in one of the Chapels of the Basilica Cathedral, darkening over time by the resinous nature of its construction materials, and the smoke of incense and candles. On Palm Sunday in 1650, an earthquake of devastating magnitude ravaged Cusco, tumbling temples, convents, and estates. The initial quake, believed for a long time afterwards to have been the world’s most severe on record, was followed by an unceasing stream of aftershocks over the following days. As buildings damaged in the initial quake crumbled during the aftershocks, the faithful carried out processions seeking forgiveness, carrying different virgins and saints, with women covering their faces covered in ash as a form of punishment against their own vanity and the men dragging heavy chains which wrapped about their necks as they bargained for salvation, but the aftershocks continued.
It was not until the Christ was taken out in procession and placed in the Plaza de Armas to be adored that the aftershocks ceased, giving birth to the cult of the Lord of Tremors, also known as the Black Christ. Thus, the processions continue to this day each Holy Monday. Aside from viewing him as the protector of Cusco, some believers say that the color of the Christ statue darkens as he realizes miracles, that the weight of the litter which the most devoted bear is the weight of the sins one carries, or that his face will express the nature of the coming year…
Santurantikuy: Then & Now
On December 24th each year, Peru’s largest folkart fair, Santurantikuy, hits the main square of Cusco in a tradition dating back to the colonial period. The name is Quechua for Saints’ Sale, which is what it originally was: an art fair providing wise men, holy family, virgins and saints for home nativities. The fair’s most prevalent product was the Niño Manuelito in many manifestations. (The Niño Manuelito is the Child Christ, and the most traditional incanation is that of a young child seated in a wooden chair with a raised foot showing a wound into which buyers insert a thorn which remains in the wound until a wish is granted.)
In recent years the fair has begun to include a much more varied range of products, from metal sculptures to handmade leather purses. Hundreds of artisans descend upon the Plaza de Armas laden with pieces which some begin preparing up to six months in advance- carving wood and stone, painting decorative ceramics, creating original weavings, jewelry and leatherwork, and more. They set up their stalls or spread their blankets along the archways and throughout the plazas.
Food and drink vendors hawking grilled anticucho skewers and hot chocolates and milk ponches add to the festive atmosphere and let you warm up when the weather cools down in the evening.
Some things to keep in mind:
- In the evening you’ll probably have better bargaining luck as vendors from out of town try to lighten their loads.
- Beware of pickpockets taking advantage of the crowds and distraction.
- The plaza will stay full until the night, so take advantage because by Christmas Day they’ll all have disappeared.
- Cusco’s climate is highly variable, and December is rainy season, so bring your rain poncho, but put on the sunblock anyway because the UV rays at this altitude are strong!
While Celebrating the Holidays in Cusco…
What else should you be sure to do on Christmas Eve in Cusco? Definitely go traditional with some hot chocolate and paneton, the Peruvian version of fruitcake. You can pick up the ingredients for the former and a box of the latter in the provisional markets which will pop up all throughout the streets and plazas. Also, we hope that you’ll join us at Pirwa Colonial Backpackers for our traditional Christmas Eve dinner before heading back to the Plaza for the midnight fireworks.