Historic Ollantaytambo, Cusco, Peru

Ollantaytambo is a popular tourist destination in the Sacred Valley of the Incas between Cusco and Machu Picchu. Despite crowds of tourists, Ollantaytambo’s impressive Incan ruins are worth exploring.

From Pisac, in August 2016, Xindi, Lina and myself followed the French traveller in and out multiple buses before eventually arriving to Ollantaytambo. Like Pisac, entrance to Ollantaytambo’s ruins is included in the main Boleto Turistica del Cusco (Cusco Tourist Ticket).

Ollantaytambo Street Drain

Ollantaytambo town’s Incan streets still have drains running through them

Ollantaytambo Crowds and Ruins

Tourist crowds in the archaeological site above Ollantaytambo town Continue reading

Pisac, Sacred Valley of the Incas, Cusco

Pisac, located in the Sacred Valley of the Incas close to Cusco, makes for a wonderful half- or full-day trip. It is also a great place to relax on a longer visit. Inca Pisac, high above the modern town, contains stunning views and ruins to explore.

Getting from Cusco to Pisac is straightforward, with frequent buses from Avenida Tullumayo and collectivos from Puputi Street travelling there every day. From the modern town to Inca Pisac, one can hike or take a taxi.

Pisac, Sacred Valley of the Inkas, Cusco

Beautiful mountains, valleys and Incan terraces from Inca Pisac Continue reading

Eating and Meeting in Lima – Peru’s Capital and Dominant City

Ugly Water Fountain, Plaza Mayor, Lima

Part of the central water fountain in Lima’s historic Plaza Mayor; the red and white flags fly in anticipation of the 28-29 July Fiestas Patrias (Peruvian national holidays)

Arequipa maybe Peru’s food capital and Cusco the country’s tourism capital but Lima is its transportation, business, dining and official capital. With one-third of Peru’s population, Lima dominates the country.

For many time-limited tourists, Lima is merely a place to transit between planes and buses. However, in a city with almost ten million people, there is much to do. Continue reading

The Silver Mine and Colonial City that Funded an Empire – Potosi, Bolivia

In late March I arrived to Potosi from Sucre. Founded in 1545, Potosi, Bolivia is famous for its world heritage listed colonial city centre and its mine. The silver production from Potosi’s mine was so prolific that it financed a large part of the Spanish empire.

During Spanish colonial times, Potosi’s silver was mined by a combination of paid and slave labour. Local indigenous and imported African slaves performed much of the most dangerous work. One estimate has 8,000,000 people dying from mining or related work over the centuries.

The Potosi Mint was first established in 1572. Although the current mint museum is based in a later building, it tells a very impressive and depressing story.

Potosi, Bolivia

A display in the Potosi Mint Museum showing indigenous and African labour working in dangerous conditions to process silver ore Continue reading

Sao Francisco Church and Convent, Salvador, Bahia, Brazil

The Sao Francisco (Saint Francis) Church and Convent is one of Salvador’s most popular tourist attractions. This 18th century complex, located in the town’s historic centre, is a magnificent example of Portuguese colonial wealth and religious power. Apparently the church took 800kg of gold to decorate.

Sao Francisco Church, Salvador, Bahia, Brazil

Woman wearing traditional Salvadoran costume in front of Sao Francisco Church

Sao Francisco Church, Salvador, Bahia, Brazil

Sao Francisco Church is surrounded by old buildings in Salvador’s historic centre

Sao Francisco Church, Salvador, Bahia, Brazil

This inscription outlines the church history in Portuguese and English

Sao Francisco Church, Salvador, Bahia, Brazil

Blue and white tile facades illustrating sayings

Sao Francisco Church, Salvador, Bahia, Brazil

Tiles depicting the saying “the fruit of labour is glory”, Sao Francisco Convent

Cloisters surrounding the convent courtyard are covered in blue and white tile scenes illustrating sayings written in Latin at the top. Translated into English, the sayings included:

  • Nothing is more useful than silence
  • The virtue is impertubable
  • Money permits everything
  • At first care for the soul
  • In every situation of life it is possible to philosophise
  • The times change and we change with them

Sao Francisco Church, Salvador, Bahia, Brazil

For a R$0.50 donation one can light an electric candle in Sao Francisco Church

Sao Francisco Church, Salvador, Bahia, Brazil

The church’s wooden panel ceiling is decorated with paintings

Sao Francisco Church, Salvador, Bahia, Brazil

Supporting pillars covered in gold leaf must be hard work, Sao Francisco Church

Sao Francisco Church, Salvador, Bahia, Brazil

The church’s interior is outrageously decorated

Sao Francisco Church, Salvador, Bahia, Brazil

The closest I’ve been to gold for a while, Sao Francisco Church

Sao Francisco Church, Salvador, Bahia, Brazil

Entrance hall wall and ceiling painting, Sao Francisco Church and Convent

For philatelists, the Sao Francisco complex also has a stamp exhibition in an adjoining hall. The exhibition includes stamps from Portuguese colonial times.

Entry to the church and convent is only R$5, including a leaflet, and I highly recommend a visit for anyone visiting Salvador.