At 4441m above sea level, Yamdrok Lake is one of the three sacred lakes in Tibet. This was where Tibetans came to search for the reincarnated soul of the Dalai Lama through chatting, praying, and throwing holy items into the water to get a reflecting hint on the location of Dalai Lama’s soul. Devoted Tibetans come to do the kora around the lake to pray for good luck and happiness in the following year. For tourists, Yamdrok is famous for its stunning scenery with its coiling scorpion shape, pristine turquoise water and surrounding snow-capped mountains. Located in Shannan along Road S307, between Lhasa and Shigatse, Yamdrok Lake is pretty much on everyone’s travel itinerary who ventures beyond Lhasa.
We knew this would be a long day on the road. We needed to travel for about 380km from Samye Town to Shigatse via Yamdrok and Gyantse.
We left Samye at about 9am and reached Yamdrok Lake slightly after noontime. We first stopped by a lookout along Road S307 to enjoy the overview of Yamdrok Lake from a high level.
Some travelers would just stop by the road to take in the scenery.
If the sky was clear, we would see the distant snow-capped mountains.
Along the balustrade visitors crowded at the best spots to photograph the turquoise lake.
Eateries and souvenir vendors surrounded the parking lot.
Dozens unfortunate Tibetan mastiffs dressed in funny outfits or had their hair dyed in vivid colours stood by the balustrade for everyone who was willing to spend 10 yuan for a souvenir photo.
Partly due to the strong and chilly wind at the 4441m altitude, and partly due to the noisy and overly energetic tourist crowds, we didn’t stay for long at the upper lookout.
Next Sangzhu drove us down to another lookout by the water, where we final got a close encounter with the sacred turquoise water of Yamdrok. Souvenir vendors set up their stalls along the steps down to the shore. By the waterfront, Tibetan mastiffs were replaced with Tibetan yaks posing for souvenir photos.
By the time we reached the water, the sky seemed to a little clearer than when we were on the upper lookout.
Local tourists gathered at the signage that said “Yamdrok, Three Great Sacred Lakes, 4441m.”
After Yamdrok, our journey continued to head west. The blue sky was well hidden.
Soon we saw an open area along the highway with a lookout to the Korola Glacier (卡若拉冰川). The sky was grey and we were a little behind schedule, so we chose to stay in the car and take photos of the glacier from the road.
Every visitor who comes to Nikko would be impressed by the century-old cedar forests surrounding the shrines and temples. What looks like a natural forest is in fact partially orchestrated by people 400 years ago, creating what we now called the Cedar Avenue of Nikko (日光杉並木), a 35.41km tree-lined path with 13,000 Japanese Red Cedar. The Cryptomeria tree (Sugi), also known as Japanese Red Cedar, is the national tree of Japan. We didn’t walk the Cedar Avenue of Nikko, the world’s longest tree lined avenue in Nikko, but instead, had our own close encounter with the magnificent cedar trees in a along the Takino’o Path. We came across the Takino’o Path from online research. For about an hour, the trail led us through its tranquil cedar forest and peaceful Shinto shrines. We began our journey from the Futarasan Shrine, passed by the Takino Shrine (瀧尾神社) and ended at the Sacred Bridge of Nikko, the Shinkyo (神橋).
The trail head of Takino Path was right beside the forecourt of Futarasan Shrine.
The trail passed by the the Taiyuin and Futarasan Shrine.
A few minutes later, we arrived at a small shrine by the path. It reminded us of Kumano Kodo, where we enjoyed a few days of hiking on the Kii Mountains of Kansai.
For a very long day hike, some visitors would climb the Mount Nyoho (女峰山, 2,465m).
The cedar forest soon got denser.
Along the trail, we could closely the centuries old Japanese Cedar.
Along the way, many old cedar trees were very photogenic.
After the crowded and relatively noisy experience at the Toshogu Shrine, only five minutes into the trail brought us to a completely opposite world of tranquility and lush green.
After about half an hour of leisure walking, we were soon approaching the Takino’o Shrine (瀧尾神社) in the forest.
After walking up the hill of Takino’o Shrine (瀧尾神社), we passed by a number of atmospheric small shrines.
Kaji Sadayoshi, a supporter of Tokugawa Iemitsu, built the Undameshi No Tori (運試しの鳥居). Like many visitors, we tested our luck by throwing a pebble through the hole between the two horizontal members of the tori gate.
Certain parts of the trail were covered with historical paving stones.
The Kodane Stone (子種石) behind an old tori gate near the Takino’o Shrine is believed to have the power of child birth.
On our way back out of the forest towards Shinkyo (神橋), we passed by Kannon Do Shrine, the Shrine of Safe and Easy Delivery of Child or Kyosha-do (香車堂).
After a little over half an hour, we returned to the main entrance of the World Heritage Shrine and Temple Park.
Across the street from the UNESCO World Heritage plaque, we finally reached the Shinkyo (神橋), the Sacred Bridge of Nikko.
We didn’t pay the admission fee to walk onto the Shinkyo (神橋). We walked over to the nearby bus stop for a ride to Lake Chuzenji (中禅寺湖). Beside the bus stop there was an interesting telephone booth made of a recycled gondola.
Soon we were back to the Central Cusco, the historical capital of the Inca Empire and the major heartland of tourism in Peru. Declared a UNESCO World Heritage since 1983, both the splendid remnants of the Incas and the dazzling architecture of Colonial Spain captured our imagination ever since we entered the city. Five centuries ago in 1533, Francisco Pizarro arrived in Cusco and sacked the city, converting the marvelous Inca capital into a colonial city with Roman Catholic churches and convents, many of which still remain standing today. With the Sacred Valley and the lost world of Machu Picchu within close proximity to the city, at about 3,400m above sea level Cusco serves as a crucial base for all tourists to acclimatize before trekking the Inca Trail.
Back in Cusco, we decided to try out a glass of fresh juice at Mercado San Pedro. Cusco’s central market was just a short walk from Plaza de Armas. The covered market was quite large, with all kinds of produces, food products, dry goods, cafeteria, and juice stalls. From a juice vendor, we ordered a lucuma drink with milk. Lucuma is a subtropical fruit native to Peru with high level of nutrients. We made one order but the woman ended up giving us three glasses because at San Pedro juice is ordered by jar, not glass. On our way out of the market we also bought a few tangerines.
After San Pedro, we returned to Ninos Hotel for a short break, then we headed over to the Australian owned Los Perros restaurant for lunch. The restaurant was only a stone throw away from the city’s main square, Plaza de Armas. We walked around the square, stopping at some of the most iconic colonial architecture in Cusco, including Iglesia de la Compania de Jesus and Cusco Cathedral and admired the historical fountain at centre and stone arcades around the plaza perimeter.
In mid afternoon, we hopped on a taxi for the hilltop Inca citadel of Saksaywaman.
On our way to Mercado San Pedro on Calle Santa Clara.
Iglesia de San Pedro just outside of Mercado San Pedro.
Fruit vendors at Mercado San Pedro selling all kinds of local fruits.
The vendor preparing our lucuma milkshake.
Tranquil back streets near Hotel Ninos.
Wooden balconies were common sights in Cusco and other Peruvian cities.
Cobble stone street in Cusco.
The Cathedral of Cusco.
Sagrada Familia Church beside the cathedral.
Fountain at the centre of Plaza de Armas.
Fountain at the centre of Plaza de Armas with mountains in the backdrop.
Plaza de Armas of Cusco.
Arcades were common around Plaza de Armas.
Iglesia de la Compañía de Jesús by Plaza de Armas.
* * *
Read other posts on Peru Trip 2010
1. Peru Trip 2010
2. Bumpy Arrival, Lima & Arequipa, Peru
AREQUIPA & COLCA CANYON
3. Monasterio de Santa Catalina, Arequipa, Peru
4. Plaza de Armas, Arequipa, Peru
5. Volcanoes and Vicuna, Pampa Canahuas Natural Reserve, Patahuasi, and Patapampa, Peru
6. Yanque, Colca Canyon, Peru
7. Cruz del Condor, Colca Canyon, Peru
8. Farming Terraces, Colca Canyon, Peru
PUNO & TITICACA
9. Road to Titicaca, Colca Canyon to Puno, Peru
10. Afternoon on Taquile Island, Titicaca, Peru
11. Morning on Taquile, Titicaca, Peru
12. Inka Express, Puno to Cusco, Peru
CUSCO & SACRED VALLEY
13. Pisac & Ollantaytambo, Sacred Valley, Peru
14. Salinas de Maras, & Moray, Sacred Valley, Peru
15. Lucuma Milkshake & Plaza de Armas, Cusco, Peru
16. Saksaywaman, Cusco, Peru
17. KM 82 to Wayllabamba, Inca Trail, Peru
18. Wayllabamba to Pacamayo, Inca Trail, Peru
19. Pacasmayo to Winay Wayna, Inca Trail, Peru
20. Winay Wayna to Machu Picchu, Inca Trail, Peru
21. Machu Piccu, Inca Trail, Peru
22. Machu Picchu in Black and White, Inca Trail, Peru
23. Afterthought, Inca Trail, Peru
LAST DAY IN CUSCO & LIMA
24. Farewell to the Incas, Cusco, Peru
25. Last Day in Peru, Lima, Peru
In the morning, we took a collective van from Cusco to the village of Chinchero (3,782m). We went specifically for its renowned Sunday Market. Despite touristy, the Chinchero Sunday Market is also famous for its community market where locals from villages around the area come to shop and barter. We entered the market through a white-wash archway. Immediately we arrived at a long aisle of vendors selling souvenirs and artisan textiles. We wandered in the tourist section of the market for a while, then walked over to the semi-covered section of the market where locals gathered for grocery and other daily merchandises.
After exploring the Chinchero Market, we encountered a group of election campaigners dressed in traditional clothing and masks parading right outside the market. It was only days before regional election would take place for all districts in Peru. Before Chinchero, we had bumped into election campaigns at many other villages, towns and cities throughout our trip.
On the upper part of Chinchero behind the market, we found ourselves visiting a weaving cooperative organized by the Center for Traditional Textiles of Cusco. Dozens of local women displayed their textile works for sale. We lingered in the centre for a while. At the end, we came out with a piece of handmade textile as souvenir. Although we found the small cobble stone streets interesting, we didn’t stay long at the old quarter of Chinchero before heading back down to the market square for our return journey. On our way down, we saw half a dozen of local women dressed in traditional costumes watching the election campaign parade. Loud music and chatting continued to fill the streets of Chinchero as we found our way back to the spot where we hopped on the van for Cusco.
The archway marks the entrance of the Chinchero Sunday Market.
A woman wearing traditional dress and a red felt hat, montera.
In the Chinchero Sunday market, we saw many women wearing red sweater and red-felt flat hat. The crimson of the their clothing was really eye-catching, and so as their pleasant smiles.
Hat is an important in the Andean culture. Peruvian women wear hat of different styles and decorations, representing their tribes and heritage.
Vendors selling all kinds of tourist souvenirs, including chess and flutes.
At the touristy half of the market, there were many textile vendors displaying their colour fabrics.
The other half of the market, semi-covered with thatch canopies, served as a community market.
[Left] Gourd carving is a traditional Peruvian art with artisans using gourds to tell stories, both personal and communal. [Right] An artisan proudly presenting his handmade jewellery.
A girl, holding fresh flower in hands, was taking a nap against a mount of colorful yarns.
Walking through the aisle between rows of semi covered stalls in the Sunday Market and watching the locals barter and shopped for grocery was an interesting experience.
The semi-covered section of the Sunday market was like a grocery market where locals could find a variety of fruits and vegetable.
Children were everywhere in the market, helping out the mothers at vendor stalls or grocery shopping.
The loud speaker from the election campaign parade caught people’s attention.
We stepped aside as the election campaigners with masks marching on the street.
From the market, we found our way to the old quarter of Chinchero.
A weaving cooperative organized by the Center for Traditional Textiles of Cusco.
The stepped lane with a drainage channel in the middle near the weaving cooperative.
View of the campaign parade from the upper part of Chinchero.
Local women watching the parade from a distance.