Travel experience in Peru, including Cusco’s colorful culture and hiking Rainbow Mountain.
After living and working in Cusco for two weeks, I am completely in love with this amazing city.
Full of modest architecture, a thriving tourism industry and vibrant nightlife, Cusco somehow manages to be thrilling yet humble at the same time. But it’s the never-ending bursts of color that make this Peruvian city truly unique.
The most widespread, consistent colors in Cusco are brown and white. Yes, I realize that these are two very plain and uninteresting colors, but they manage to create a comforting, peaceful atmosphere in both the quiet streets and the busy public squares.
The massive Plaza del Armas is home to two gorgeous, ornate cathedrals, while the rest of the square is lined with buildings sporting regal brown archways and balconies.
Branching off of this main plaza are endless alleyways, where the bright white walls illuminate the dusty darkness of the stone streets. Even looking down over the city from above, the clusters of rustic tiled roofs create a wide sea of warm brown hues.
While the architecture is mainly colored in plain earth tones, the occasional brightly painted door or small pot of flowers adds life to the simple antiquity of the streets.
But the most captivating source of color in Cusco is the presence of art and textiles. The constant flood of tourists to the city means that souvenir shops reside every few feet, where locals hope to sell some of their arts and crafts to foreigners.
This persistent desire to sell things can be a bit overwhelming, with different people approaching you in the street every two minutes and pushing their massages or shoe-shines or jewelry upon you. But in reality, most of the goods that the locals try and sell are beautiful.
A shop selling traditional Peruvian handicrafts lies around every corner, and every store shelf succumbs to overflowing mountains of alpaca wool clothing or chaotic clusters of small trinkets.
All the textiles contain layer after layer of stunningly bright colors, and sometimes the displays of scarves, bags, and sweaters have a hypnotizing effect due to the intricately patterned fabrics.
While many of these souvenir stores sell similar products, I never tire of browsing through all of them. I could gaze at the gorgeous paintings or admire the delicate ceramic dishware for hours. Everything contains so much detail and color that it’s hard to look away from the visually pleasing appearance of the shops.
Another colorful experience I had in Peru was climbing Rainbow Mountain. Though this place is outside of Cusco, I simply could not write an article about color and fail to mention this adventure.
After leaving Cusco at 3:30am, hiking for 18km in 5 hours and reaching an altitude of 5,100 m above sea level, this day trip resulted in aching legs, sunburnt faces, and tired lungs. But the natural scenery made the struggle absolutely worth it.
For an in-depth account of the hike, read my article, Conquering Rainbow Mountain, Peru.
So my experience in Cusco thus far has been undeniably colorful and enjoyable in so many ways.
Milhouse Hostel, where I live and work, is full of amazing people and an intoxicating energy. So many guests I’ve met here keep saying they are staying here longer than they planned, and I can see why.
Cusco has such a captivating charm that no one wants to leave. Many people use this city as a stopover to get to the infamous Machu Picchu, but no one ever talks about how wonderful Cusco itself is.
Well this is me saying that Cusco is absolutely incredible, and while I am obviously going to visit Machu Picchu eventually, I am perfectly content to be living in this welcoming city for the time being.
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Check out my other travel articles about Peru here: