Cusco Bus Tour & Ccochahuasi Animal Sanctuary

Cusco Bus Tour & Ccochahuasi Animal Sanctuary

On our first full day in Cusco, Peru, we went to the Plaza de Armas and decided to tour the Cathedral of Lima. We had no sooner stepped out into the sunshine than we were approached by a young man who wanted us to take a bus tour. We declined, but he continued to talk to us, mostly about Donald Trump (“Did you vote for him?”) and Rocky Balboa (“He’s the greatest fighter in the world!”).

Before long, he asked us about the bus tour again. He showed me a brochure and pointed out all of the places the bus would go. A few were ones that I wanted to see (Sacsaywaman, Cristo Blanco, Puca Pucara, etc.), and there was also an animal sanctuary. He told me that for most of the places, we would only be able to take a few photos from the open air seating on the top of the bus.  We would not be getting off of the bus and walking around at each site.

I was warming to the idea. Between the altitude and a persistently sore knee, the idea of sitting on a bus to see the sights sounded pretty good. Certainly better than walking around on uneven cobbled streets that went up and down the hills of Cusco.

I booked us on a tour for the next morning and paid roughly $10 per person. Although he didn’t say so, I knew Hubs thought that we had just handed over our money for a tour on a bus that would not actually show up.

Happily, he was wrong.

We boarded the bus the next morning and went up to the rooftop seating.  It took a few minutes for everyone to get settled, but once they did we took off and headed out of the historic section of Cusco. If the young man had neglected to mention that we would not be stopping at the historic/traditional sightseeing locations, I would be writing a much different post. The bus stopped on the side of the road so we could take pictures but that was all.  And since we would be seeing the most magnificent and famous Inca ruins in a couple of days, I didn’t feel a strong need to get out and explore other Inca ruins.

cusco bus tour sacsaywaman
A view of the Inca ruins at Sacsaywaman, as seen from the tour bus.

We traveled through the countryside around Cusco, which both my husband and I found enjoyable, especially after being in the city, which felt so over-crowded to us.  After driving a while, we stopped at the Ccochahuasi Animal Sanctuary and got off the bus for a tour.

The first animals we saw were vicuñas.  Our guide told us that they were probably the meanest animals at the sanctuary.  What a shame; they are so pretty!

peru travel CCOCHAHUASI ANIMAL SANCTUARY cusco vicuna

From there we saw an Andean Mountain Cat.  I thought we would be seeing some puma-like creature.  Imagine my surprise when said mountain cat looked very similar to my own spoiled tabby, and not much larger!

peru travel CCOCHAHUASI ANIMAL SANCTUARY cusco andean mountain cat

Because he reminded me so much of our cat,  I called, “kitty, kitty, kitty.” He responded with a pitiful high pitched sound that I can only describe as half of a meow.

Interestingly, the only evidence of this cat’s existence prior to 1998 was two photographs. In 1998, a man sighted and photographed one of the cats near the Chile-Peru border. The species is considered to be endangered.

From there we moved on to the Condors.  It is important to note that these birds are very special to Peruvians.  In fact, they are one of three animals revered by the Inca as holy.  In ancient times, the Condor represented the heavenly/spiritual realm for the Inca. The Puma represented the earthly/physical realm, and the serpent represented the underworld.

Andean condors are the largest flying bird in the world by combined measurement of weight and wingspan. Their wingspans can reach close to 11 feet across!  However, the condors we saw were just kind of sitting around, minding their business.  Not very impressive.

But then the guides told us to take a seat at the opposite end of the enclosure.  While we watched, they climbed up to where the condors were hanging out and shooed them.  The next thing we knew, the condors were flying straight for us.

peru travel CCOCHAHUASI ANIMAL SANCTUARY cusco condor in flight
One condor flying toward us (center) with three more waiting in the background).

It was amazing to see a condor in flight.  Even more so considering he flew right over our heads and landed on a stone column next to the area where we sat.  We were able to get pretty close to him afterward.

peru travel CCOCHAHUASI ANIMAL SANCTUARY cusco condor
Andean Condor. No zoom lens, no cropping.

The guides referred to the condor as “Number Four,” and said that it would not be much longer before they released him into the wild. There was also a llama, of course, and an alpaca.  The llama was especially interesting because it had blue eyes.

peru travel CCOCHAHUASI ANIMAL SANCTUARY cusco llama

Following this, we saw two monkeys – a spider monkey and a capuchin monkey.  They were having a lot of fun alternating between interacting with us and playing with each other.

From there we moved on to the non-animal part of the sanctuary, where we got to see a native woman weaving in the traditional manner.

peru travel CCOCHAHUASI ANIMAL SANCTUARY cusco traditional weaver

There was also an exhibit about dyes – the natural sources that Peruvians have been using for their textiles for years, and the colors they produce.  Our guide showed us a tiny little parasite that is found on cacti.  It’s a whitish-gray on the outside, but when you smush it, it produces a bright purple-red color used for dye.

The natural dyes used in Peruvian textiles.

After that, we had a few moments to mill around, use the restrooms, or visit the snack bar/gift shop.  There was no pressure to buy anything.  In fact, most of the shopping areas appeared to be unstaffed. We boarded the bus and headed off again, retracing our route until we stopped at Cristo Blanco.

Cristo Blanco is a white larger-than-life statue of Jesus that overlooks the city of Cusco from a nearby mountain top.  You can see it from the Plaza de Armas if you know where to look.

Cristo Blanco was a gift from Arabic Palestinians who sought refuge in Cusco after World War II. At 26 feet high, it is much smaller than the famous statue of Christ the Redeemer in Rio de Janeiro (125 feet).  But that does not make it any less impressive!

Also impressive were the views we had of the city of Cusco from where we stood.

cusco peru travel plaza de armas
Cusco as seen from Cristo Blanco. Can you see the Plaza de Armas?

All in all, I found the bus tour to be very enjoyable.  It gave us a chance to see more than just downtown Cusco, without walking all over creation.  The price, about $10 per person, seemed quite reasonable for a three hour tour.  If you need a break and want to get out of Cusco for a little while, I’d recommend looking into one of these tours.


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