Cusco & Machupicchu

CUSCO, THE SACRED VALLEY & MACHUPICCHU

CUSCO
As the gateway to the world-famous Inca citadel of Machu Picchu, Cusco is Peru's cultural and tourist hub. But even on a stand-alone basis, it deserves be one of the main attractions in Peru and South America. With some of the finest colonial architecture in the Continent, and the remains of the Inca's expert building techniques, coupled with a most attractive location, Cusco deserves a top ranking as one of South America's foremost cultural attractions.
Cusco offers the visitor a myriad of sightseeing, eating and shopping possibilities. It is a magnet for backpackers, new age tourists, and increasingly well-heeled travelers from all over the world, thus enjoying a very cosmopolitan atmosphere. Its provincial and distinctly Andean atmosphere prevails and enhances the city's charm. Cuisine is getting increasingly better in Cusco: tow of our favorite restaurants are "La Cicciolina" for fabulous tapas and lively atmosphere and " MAP Café" the restaurant of the Pre-Columbian Art Museum, for first-class Andean Nouvelle Cuisine. These are only two, though and there are several more that are worth trying. 
Cusco Main Square
Sacsayhuaman
There are many hotels of different budgets, although quality varies and the "official" ratings are not in our view very reliable. Our recommendations, as well as the icons above, are: Aranwa, Libertador, Casa Cartagen, Marriot & Belmond Monasterio for deluxe accommodation, Rumi Punku, Jose Antonio, Dorado for 4-star standard, Andenes al Cielo for 3 - Star level. For budget accommodation our favorite is Posada Atahualpa and Amaru.
 We recommend you allocate at least two days for a visit of Cusco. A few more days can be spent if you head to the Urubamba Valley or southeast towards Puno, where there are many attractions a stone's- throw away from Cusco. Our recommendation is to devote a full day to a guided visit of the town and its nearby ruins, in one single day or, preferably split it in two. You can walk to most of the sights in town and take cabs or hire a car for the day if you decide to go further afield. A good guide is imperative, and we will provide this and other alternatives to get under the skin of the buildings and the city itself.
MACHUPICCHU
Machupicchu is Peru's main tourist destination and it is magnificent. It is never a disappointment. It is definitely one of the world's great sights. As it will be the climax of your journey around Peru, careful planning is important in order to make the most of your visit, since Machu Picchu is very busy especially in peak tourist season (May, June, July & August).
Here are three important tips: walk if you can, overnight if you can, and stay in the only hotel by the ruins if you can afford it. Oh! And if you don't walk, and you can afford it, take the new Hiram Bingham Luxury Train service.
Machupicchu
To get to Machu Picchu, your starting point is the City of Cusco. There are flights to Cusco from Lima and other cities in Peru. Once in Cusco there are different options: you can either drive for a couple of hours and trek the Inca Trail (4d/3n), take the train part of the way and trek the One-day Inca Trail (5 hour walk) or take the train all the way (4 hours).
You may also want to consider spending a few nights in the Urubamba Valley (also called Sacred Valley), the staggeringly beautiful Valley that lies north of Cusco on the way to Machu Picchu. For more details on what to do and see in the Urubamba Valley, please contact us. From the Urubamba Valley, specifically in Ollantaytambo, you can take the train to Machu Picchu or start your drive to the start-off point of the Inca Trail.
You can go to Machu Picchu for the day, but we don't recommend it. It tends to get very busy during the 4-hour time slot between incoming and outgoing trains in the middle of the day, and the crowds detract from the magic of the experience.
Once in Machu Picchu, if you can afford it, you should stay right at the only hotel by the ruins: the Machu Picchu Sanctuary Lodge, and it is expensive!!! There is more affordable accommodation in Aguas Calientes (where the train station is located) which is at 30 minutes away from the ruins by minibus on a winding road uphill. It is not a very pretty place and there is really nothing to see. For most guests it is merely an overnight spot.
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