To write about the beauties of the city of Cusco, Peru and
the magnificence of the Machu Picchu archeological site is
not an easy task. There is so much to tell you about that
I honestly do not know where to start. So let’s do it
from the beginning. Cusco is located at the southeast region
of Peru, at an altitude of 11,203 ft. (3,395 m) above sea
level. The annual average temperature is 52ºF/11ºC
(maximum of 63ºF/17ºC and minimum of 28ºF/-2ºC).
The rainy season is from November to March.
To get to Cusco you will take a flight from Lima that takes
around 55 minutes. The flights usually leave very early in
the morning, so probably your day will start at around 3:30
a.m. If you decide to catch the first flight out of Lima,
the plane will leave around 6:00 a.m. that means you should
be at the Lima Airport at 4:00 a.m.
The Cusco Airport has been recently renovated and is the only
airport in Peru equipped with jet ways between the terminal
and the planes. Accessible public restrooms are located in
the area of the boarding gates on the second floor and at
the area of international arrivals on the first floor. These
restrooms are large and adequate for wheelchair users but
toilets do not have grab bars. Accessible restrooms are not
marked. The airport has wheelchairs available upon request.
Two of the airline companies operating in this airport have
boarding chairs; nevertheless, one must monitor staff assistance
as they are not all well trained. The route from the planes
to the baggage claim area is also accessible but ramps have
steep grades and one must be helped - these routes are not
marked. The exit from the baggage claim area to the parking
lot is accessible and has smooth grade ramps.
There is no accessible public transportation or taxis in the
city of Cusco. The Catholic University together with the British
Council are working on a project to implement such a service
in Peru. They have chosen Cusco to be the first Peruvian city
served by this service taking into consideration it’s
importance for tourism and the fact that a lot of the eyes
of the world are set on what is going on in Cusco.
We advise that, because of the altitude, you restrain your
physical movements and activities at least during the first
six to eight hours. You will probably experience a light head
ache, lack of breath and difficulty breathing if you move
around too much during the first couple of hours you’re
there. We suggest you drink “coca tea”, a local
beverage made with leaves from the “coca” tree.
This tea contains a minimum amount of the alkaloid and it
will help you cope with the possible effects of the high altitude.
There are two five star hotels that have accessible rooms.
The first one is the Hotel Monasterio. This hotel is located
within an ancient monastery. It has 122 rooms, and two of
them have roll in showers. The entrance is not at street level
but there is a movable ramp available and help at hand. There
is a wheelchair available for the guests and movable ramps
in the different areas where there is a step, such as the
restaurant and the main patio that leads to the rooms. Although
there is an elevator, one can reach the second floor rooms
without using it as one enters the Hotel at that level. While
the bathroom has a narrow door (26.3 inches /0.67 m wide)
the transfer shower is manageable, with a fixed seat and a
hand held showerhead. Furthermore, the controls are easy to
reach and lever-type. With regard to common areas, the main
bar has three steps at the entrance and the conference hall
can be accessed from the street; it is really an ancient chapel
whose main door is in front of the small square facing the
Hotel Libertador Cusco is a five-star hotel with 254 rooms,
6 of which are accessible. They are currently building 8 additional
accessible rooms for future use. At the main entrance there
is one step upwards and then four steps down. In the future
these could be improved with movable wooden ramps, although
they will have a steep slope. Notwithstanding, there is always
help available at the door to enter. The house is Historical
Heritage and therefore that zone cannot be renovated. There
is an accessible level entrance at the back door, which can
be used with previous co-ordination. The accessible rooms
have doors 33.4 inches (0.85 m) wide. Knobs are lever-type,
and light and air-conditioning switches are 3.44-ft. (1.05
m) high. Closets are not accessible for people in wheelchairs.
The space between the beds is not big enough (21.6 inches
/ 0.55 m wide), but one can ask to have them moved. Bathrooms
in these rooms are accessible. The entrance door opens outwards
and is 33.4 inches (0.85 m) wide. The sink has enough room
underneath but the mirror is somewhat high. There is no transfer
space next to the toilet and it does not have grab bars. The
tub has a grab bar, lever-type knobs and shower with a hand
held showerhead. There are no shower benches available. The
other non-adapted rooms in the hotel have entrance doors 30.7
inches (0.78 m) wide and the bathrooms are not accessible.
The restaurant, conference halls and one of the bars are accessible
without any help, as well as the gym, Jacuzzi and sauna. The
hotel has accessible public restrooms in the lobby. The souvenir
shop is accessible with help.
the wonderful city
Some of the important places and archeological sites
to visit in and near to the city of Cusco are: The Cathedral
of Cusco which was originally built over the Suntur
Wasi (Quechua for God’s house). The façade
and interior are Renaissance style. Do not feel discouraged
by the stairs leading to the main entrance, as there
is a ramp from Cuesta Almirante Street that allows you
to enter through the left wing. The large wooden door
has a raised threshold but there are movable wooden
ramps. The cathedral has eleven chapels on its side
wings and a small church called El Triunfo, which is
accessible with help (one step). The crypt containing
the ashes of writer Inca Garcilaso de la Vega is not
accessible because it is located in the basement. The
visit to the cathedral is a must. The Koricancha Temple
/ Convent of Saint Dominic is the Quechua word for “gold
zone”; this place is thought to be a religious
building where the Incas worshiped the sun. According
to the chroniclers, its interior walls were covered
by gold plates. It was built during the government of
Inca Pachacútec and on top of the building the
Spanish built the Convent of Saint Dominic. The local
museum located in El Sol Avenue is not accessible, but
the Convent of Saint Dominic built on top of the Temple
of Koricancha is accessible with help. There are six
steps from the street to the entrance door. Between
the ticket counter and the building there is a removable
wooden ramp (one step). Public restrooms are not accessible.
The convent has a collection of colonial paintings that
is exhibited in an area that is accessible with help
(one step). One can enter the Temple of the Stars without
any help. The sacrifice room and the room where the
rainbow was worshipped can be appreciated without entering
them. One can access the terrace with help: from there
you can observe the sacred garden and water fountain.
There is access to these places on El Sol Avenue and
from there you will also be able to appreciate the façade
of the Koricancha Temple in its entire splendor. This
façade is an example of the complex fusion between
the Inca and Spanish architecture.
Saqsayhuamán, which in Quechua means “Satisfied
Hawk”, is an imposing Inca structure which was
built to protect the city of Cusco. It is located 1.2
miles (2 Km.) above Cusco and has three large switch
back terraces, built with enormous rock walls of up
to 984 ft. (300 m) long. The entrance is level but one
must cross a small ditch. A portable ramp can be used.
The easiest way to view the structure is from the large
flat plain at its base. At the far end of this ceremonial
plaza one has a good view of the imposing white statue
of Jesus which overlooks Cusco as well of the city itself
with its terra cotta roofs. Near the entrance there
is an earthen ramp leading to the first level of the
terraces which has a step about every 13 feet (4 m).
It is not necessary to climb in order to have a good
view of the area. Public restrooms are not accessible.
Saqsayhuamán is an important archaeological site
to visit in order to understand better the Inca civilization.
Another nearby attraction is Quenqo, a place of worship
located 1.8 miles (3 Km) away from Cusco and built over
an outcrop of limestone rocks, with underground galleries
and a semicircular amphitheater. People in wheelchairs
can appreciate the archaeological site from the road.
It is a wonderful experience to feel the mystery and
spirituality of the place. The passage between rocks
leading to the sacred place is not accessible for a
wheelchair user because the space is too narrow. It
is located in a type of natural cave and has a structure
of flat stone which is thought to have been used for
sacrifices. Together with Puca Pucara, it forms part
of the archaeological circuit close to the city of Cusco.
Puca Pucara is a Quechua term meaning “Red Fortress”.
It is a military construction with stairs, terraces
and high walls. Located 3.7 miles (6 Km) away from Cusco,
it is thought to have formed part of the defense system
for the city. The access to the first level is easy;
there you will find some of the main rooms of the archaeological
complex. Doors are 36.6 inches (0.93 m) wide. From these
rooms, the visitors can feel they are in a fortress,
appreciating the valley’s panoramic views and
the archaeological site of Tambomachay. If desired,
one can view the fortress from the road and realize
perfectly the function and location of this Inca structure.
Tambomachay, located at 4.3 miles (7 Km) away from Cusco
is also known as the Inca Baths. It is considered a
place to worship the water because there is a group
of aqueducts, channels and small cascades on the rocks
that carry water from a nearby spring. There is no need
to climb the archaeological site to appreciate the place,
as there is a good perspective at the base of the fountains.
Tradition says that if one drinks the water, the visitor
guarantees his/her return to Cusco.
If you decide to visit the Valley of Urubamba or the
“Sacred Valley” you must stop in Pisac.
This is a picturesque town located 19.8 miles (32 Km)
northeast of Cusco (1 hour away by car). It is the entrance
gate to the Valley of Urubamba and famous for its colonial
Church where masses in Quechua are held every Sunday.
Its colorful fairs also take place on Tuesdays and Thursdays.
The market where the fair takes place is accessible
but there are no public restrooms. The surface of the
market’s main area, where the fair takes place,
is made of flat stone that makes rolling easy for wheelchair
users, except in some zones (such as the lower part
of the market away from the Church and the street in
front of it) that have small stones on the surface.
The space between stands is wide, they are at the right
height to see the products and the area is shaded. The
Church is an important tourist attraction that has to
be visited. Although it has some stairs at the main
entrance, the access is possible with help.
If you would like to spend the night in the “Sacred
Valley” you can ask your tour operator to book
you a night’s stay at the Posada del Inca in Yucay,
this picturesque three-star hotel, set in a former monastery,
has 69 rooms, two of which are adapted. The entrance
is accessible. One can enter through the side entrance
where there are ramps in the street or through the main
door using removable wooden ramps to go up and down
one step. Accessible rooms, located on the ground floor,
also are accessed via removable wooden ramps, as are
the bar, restaurant and reception. The hotel has no
internal halls on the first level. Rooms have direct
doors to go outside, very useful in case of a quick
fire evacuation. The room doors are 35 inches (0.89
m) wide and the bathroom doors are 33 inches (0.84 m.)
wide. Public restrooms at the restaurant and bar are
not accessible. While the gift shop is not ramped, one
can access a small handicrafts market in the courtyard.
Many tourists stop here for the excellent buffet lunch
served in the restaurant's patio. The hotel is planning
to do some renovations in the public restrooms.
Dining in Cusco can also be a very gratifying experience.
for: Jaime Isola and PromPeru.
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