So here you are in the historical city of Cusco, Peru, the “navel of the world,” for your private Peru vacation. You’ve heard of Cusco mainly as the hub of the ancient Inca Empire. Your private Cusco tour introduces you briefly to the Qoricancha church, the main churches on the Plaza de Armas, (Cusco Cathedral and Iglesia del Triunfo), and perhaps the colorful sights, sounds, and smells of San Pedro Market.
But you mostly see Cusco as a sort of stopping place on your way to Machu Picchu. And it is, but Cusco is also much more than that. It’s an exciting, vibrant, mystical city, and it’s well worth taking an extra day to soak up Cusco’s unique atmosphere. Even walking down a street in Cusco can provide a peek into other worlds and other lives: it is easy to observe ancient stone architecture around the Plaza de Armas, centuries-old ruins that exist on otherwise ordinary-seeming streets, and folks in colorful woven clothing leading their ganados, or herd animals, up the ancient staircases above San Blas.
This ancient city boasts a plethora of museums and galleries that are worth checking out on your private Peru vacation.
Firstly, in the narrow street known as Cuesta de Almirante, beside the Cusco Cathedral, the intriguing Inca Museum is worth a visit. It has an enormous collection of Q’eros (decorated wooden ceremonial vessels), Inca and pre-Inca ceramic objects, weapons, tools, and even mummies! If you missed this museum on your private Cusco tour, stay in Cusco a day longer and peruse its mysterious collection of artifacts as you wonder about the life and times of these ancient cultures.
Museum of Religious Art
Located a short walk away at the Monastery of Santa Catalina, you’ll find the Museum of Religious Art, which houses one of the most extensive collections of art in Cusco, featuring pieces from the famous Cusco School of the 16th and 17th centuries. The collection includes colonial works, religious paintings, and ancient relics, and is housed in an elaborate baroque-style chapel less than a block from the Plaza de Armas. Popularized by the Italian painter Bernardo Bitti, who arrived in Cusco in 1583, the paintings boast a style known as Mannerism, famous for elongated, highlighted human figures. The most famous paintings of the Cusco School reside here, the Corpus Christi series, which are considered true masterpieces for their rich color and fine detail.
The Museum of Pre-Columbian Art
The Museum of Pre-Columbian Art, located on Plaza Nazarenas, only a short walk from the main plaza, is located in a colonial house. The building’s courtyard dates from the mid-fifteenth century. It boasts over 450 fascinating ceramic, jewelry and Inca and pre-Inca treasures, dating as early as the thirteenth century.
Hilario Mendivil Museum
Climb a few steps up to Plaza San Blas and don’t forget to catch your breath every now and again….Coca tea should help…to visit the Mendivil Museum and observe the somewhat fanciful long-necked figurines created by the famous sculptor, Hilario Mendivil. Hilario drew his inspiration from the long-necked llamas whose grace he admired as a child while learning to sculpt in the San Blas neighborhood. In fact, the entire neighborhood is filled with delightful gems worth exploring, including the San Blas Church, various small galleries and artisan shops, and a central plaza with benches and a magnificent fountain with sheets of cascading water.
So, like the song goes, stay just a little bit longer in Cusco during your private Peru vacation, and bask in the ancient yet vibrant aura of this mystical city.