Cusco is often called the “Navel of the World”; at least it was to the Inca’s, who made it their capital from where the four regions of their empire stretched for 1000 of miles. Richard Nisbet, an expat, author and Cusco connoisseur also calls it his home. Ever since he first visited Cusco back in 1975 he has been in an ongoing love affair with this extraordinary city. Nowadays, he only returns to the United States to visit family and friends from time to time.
Recently he wrote a book, ‘Cusco Tales’, which narrates his life story and adventures in this magical city that never seems to stop surprising you. You can purchase his book online on Amazon.com or over the counter at Paddy’s Pub, Jack’s Café, the Santa Catalina bookshop or the South American Explorers’ Club, all located in Cusco.
I started the interview by asking Richard about his Cusco favorites, and he didn’t hesitate enthusiastically share his recommendations. His new favorite restaurant is Limo, with some outstanding if unusual Peruvian – Japanese fusion meals overlooking the main Plaza de Armas. His favorite bar is Paddy’s Pub (good chance you will find him there if you like to have a chat). As for pizzerias, his pick is Mayupata in the Sacred Valley town of Ollantaytambo, which is also his favorite nearby city escape. Another destination he likes is Tipon, home to an archeological site where the Inca’s worshipped the water abundant in this National Park.
“Cusco now attracts tourists from all over the world, with the main draw being Machu Picchu”.In his eyes a mesmerizing Inca settlement and a Natural Wonder of the World, but besides this key attraction there is a plethora of other Inca sites and ‘lost cities’ to explore. Richard, an archaeology fanatic, has become an expert of the Inca culture, myths and legends.
For starters, he highly recommends visiting the ruins of Pisac, only an hour’s drive into the gorgeous countryside of the Sacred Valley. Together with Ollantaytambo, the last remaining Inca city before the Spanish conquest, definitely worth the visit. Dos Manos travel agency offers great day tours of the Sacred Valley also taking in traditional towns with busy markets, such as Chinchero, superb for shopping local handicrafts. An insider suggestion is to visit the site of Puma Punku, about an hour walking distance from Ollantaytambo. This visit is for those who really want to get off the beaten track. If you are only a short while in town, you rather want to check out the Temple of the Moon and Qengo Chico (little Qenqo), where you can observe what remains of an ancient Inca sundial. These sites are all easy to visit from Cusco and offer you a wider perspective of Inca archaeology beyond what you see at Machu Picchu!
For anyone interested in learning more about the history, architecture, culture, and people of Peru, good books to read are ‘The Conquest of the Incas’, and ‘The Peru Reader’. According to Richard: “Both books are great to read before, during, and after any trip to Peru!”