Cusco and Sacred Valley
For the Incas, Cusco was the center of the world. Cusco remains a city that blends colonial Spanish charm with older, more austere remains of pre-Columbian glory—one can still see the foundations of Inca structures on many of its city streets today. Cusco’s most important landmarks include sites from both Inca and colonial times, such as the Inca street of Loreto with its 12-cornered stones, the Korikancha (the ancient Temple of the Sun), the cathedral, the Museum of Colonial Art, the archaeological park of Saqsaywaman (the fortress-temple), the nearby funerary shrines of Kenqo, and the water-worship site of Tambomachay. While there is much culture to take in on your visit here, be sure to include some leisure time to wander the old city plaza, stop for a coffee to people watch, and explore the cobbled streets of this charming town.
Beyond Cusco is the Sacred Valley. Also known as Urabamba Valley, the Sacred Valley of the Incas is located in the Peruvian Andes, beneath the world famous site of Machu Picchu. This fertile valley is fed by a network of waterways and encompasses a wealth of archaeological sites, including Ollantaytambo, renowned for its extensive Inca ruins; Tipon, which features ancient agricultural terracing and a working irrigation system; and Pisac, with its ancient vestiges and colorful weekly market. The valley is dotted with villages, high-altitude hamlets and ruins linked by trail and railway tracks to the continent’s biggest draw–Machu Picchu.