Crazy Cusco - where we spent New Year's Eve
We spent an extensive amount of time in Cusco due to it being New Year's Eve. In total we will have spent 8 nights in Cusco - and I've been before!
So, Cusco itself is a lovely city, it's busy and full of tourists. With tourists come locals selling things especially for tourists; umbrellas, waterproofs, artwork, jewellery, Peruvian jumpers/novelty clothing.
Plaza de Armas is the main square and it's a large, spacious square lined with shops and restaurants. Both local and international, here you'll find KFC, McDonald's and Starbucks!
Just wandering around the city is the best way to see everything, there's Cristo Blanco (a large white Christ figure) which is free to visit and a great viewpoint over the city. Also at the top of the hill are some ruins and a cross - another good viewpoint but manmade ruins which they charge you to enter. It's not cheap and we opted not to visit them.
Back down in the city there's the San Blas area which is full of funky shops, accommodation, cute cafes (many supporting local charities) and fancy restaurants.
The San Francisco Plaza is where you can visit the imposing church along with paying to visit the museum and catacombs which is worth doing in my opinion!
Otherwise Avenue de Sol is the Main Street, once again full of shops and accommodation. Here you'll find the monastery which is a beautiful buildings with gardens - once again it's a paid entrance but a nice place to visit. Continue down the avenue and you'll find local handicraft markets (which are all over Cusco) and a man made waterfall which has become an iconic feature of Cusco.
All around Cusco are various churches and cathedrals, many of them are chargeable which I find annoying but they're beautiful inside. If you can go inside to visit them during the opening hours/prayer times when it's not chargeable then it's worth a quick peek.
Further out of town there's a crazy market which is not for the faint-hearted as you're more than likely to see animal heads/various body parts either ready to be butchered in the food market or simply cut up and being sold (not sure what for!) There's a very graphic butchery part to the market and there's small local restaurants inside. Personally I couldn't stomach the smells from the nearby fish stalls and butchers to take a seat and eat there. There's also lots of tourist sections and gifts - think llama keyrings, pisco, shot glasses and Peruvian bags. If you're lucky enough to be around this market on the outdoor market day then you're in for a crazy, manic treat. The streets are full of market stalls and heaving with people, its crazy - we were there on New Year's Eve when yellow is the theme so people selling yellow goods for miles. Otherwise there's food, wine, clothes ... anything a normal local market would have!!
Finally - New Year's Eve in Cusco. This was mental, everyone heads to Plaza de Armas between 11pm and midnight. It's busy but not too busy, strangely and the time is projected on to the Cathedral. As it nears midnight the countdown starts then fireworks pop over all over the city and all over the square. There's no restrictions so people bring their own. It's all fun and games but the later it gets the more out of hand it gets. Fireworks turning sideways and the nativity set on fire which wasn't too nice to witness!
The next move after midnight is to do laps of the square - this is a slow moving process as everyone gets onto the path and loops around, for good luck. We were back at the hotel by 1am and lots of people were leaving the square just after 12:30. It was crazy and fun; everyone wore yellow but it did get a bit dangerous/scary the later it got - with regards to fireworks!