Cusco, Machu Picchu and The Sacred Valley

Nestled between spectacular snow-capped mountains and decorated with quaint contrasting Andean villages and towering Inca ruins, the Sacred Valley and the Cusco area tempt visitors with their cultural allure and natural wonders. Because it offers such a variety of activities and attractions, this area is great for adventurers and world travelers alike. Even the shortest excursions through the Sacred Valley area will produce unforgettable images of rugged mountains, lush green terraces, and ancient Inca ruins.

Once you’ve acclimatized to an average altitude of 3,500 meters, altitude sickness is a severe issue in this area; there are several attractive destinations in the Sacred Valley. Aside from acclimatizing to the altitude, perhaps the most challenging aspect of any trip to this area is figuring out how to see and do all it offers.

The two biggest attractions that draw travelers from all over the world to this section of Peru are the Inca Trail and Machu Picchu. Although both promises an unforgettable

travel experience, no single attraction represents the full scope and scale of the natural beauty and cultural richness that you are sure to find beyond your reach. For those in search of ruins, the Inca capital of Cusco is well worth a visit. Among the must-see activities in Cusco are the nearby ruins of Sacsayhuaman, Qenqo, Puca Pucara, and Tambo Machay. Also, be sure to schedule a stop in the attractive Andean towns of Pisac and Ollantaytambo. Here you can visit the Ollantaytambo Temple Ruins and the Pisac Fortress, two notable examples of Inca masonry.

If adventure is your goal, the Cusco and Sacred Valley area also offers various trekking opportunities, ranging from leisurely day hikes to grueling week-long excursions into the most remote nooks and crannies of the Andes. The trails wind up the steep slopes of Salcantay, Vilcabamba, Ausangate, and the Cordillera Vilcanota and boast some of the most enchanting views of both the Inca ruins and the Andean landscape. The ruins of Choquequirao, believed by some to be as remarkable as Machu Picchu, are also worth the challenging climb.

When to Go

The best time to visit Cusco is from April to October when the days are hot and dry. However, temperatures drop drastically at night and can freeze even in the dry season. November to April sees some rainfall and lower temperatures during the wet season. From September to May, during the rainy season. The number of tourists falls, as do prices. Cusco fills up with Peruvians and foreigners during the main festivities, so book early. What should also warn travelers is that the Inca Trail closes for maintenance throughout February. Cusco is the center of much festive activity, so check the festival calendar before planning your route.

CUSCO

In addition to serving as a gateway to nearby attractions like Machu Picchu and the Inca Trail, Cusco offers travelers a wealth of culturally appealing museums, cathedrals, and markets. This city is an excellent addition to any itinerary. For outdoor enthusiasts, the Cusco area presents several spectacular hiking opportunities. And for those who want to stretch their legs a bit but aren’t ready for a week-long adventure. Cusco is a visitor-friendly city, with tour agencies and well-off locals on every block. Most of the essential activities in Cusco are within walking distance of each other. They can be covered in about half a day, though you may want to spend a little more time exploring the various shops and markets along the way. Some highlights of Cusco include the Cusco Cathedral, San Blas Church, San Blas, Qoricancha Temple of the Sun and Santo Domingo, Regional Historical Museum, Art Museum, and Santa Catalina Monastery.

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