Guide to Peru: Cusco and Machu Picchu
Visiting Machu Picchu is the highlight of most holidays to Peru. You can't get there without going through the lovely city of Cusco so here we deal with both together.
Cusco is a lively, town/city set close to the edge of the Andes at an altitude of 3,600m.
Cusco forms the start point of any holiday to Machu Picchu and it is here that you will generally spend a couple of days acclimatising before attempting to walk the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu.
The center of Cusco is quite small and possible to explore on foot.
Everywhere you turn, you will see evidence of the fact that Cusco was, and still is, the home of the Inca people.
Spanish colonial buildings are set atop the distinctive hand worked stones of the Inca, still solid after more than 500 years.
As well as historically and culturally significant sites, both Incan and colonial, Cusco has a lively modern feel to it.
You will find an abundance of good artisan markets, internet cafes, bars, restaurants & nightclubs.
The Plaza de Armas is the main square with Avenida El Sol the main street, Triunfo to the right of the Cathedral is the most interesting street leading up towards the San Blas Plaza.
The Cathedral in the Plaza de Armas with impressive silver altar. Sacsayhuaman are impressive Inca ruins on the hill high above the town, half hour walk up hill from the plaza or take a taxi (3-4 soles).
Surrounding Cusco are the archaeological sites of Qenqo, Tambomachay (Inca fountains) Puca-Pucara (the Red Fortress) further on from Sacsayhuaman which can be hiked/ridden to or take a taxi (remember to arrange your return).
Just outside Cusco you have the fortresses, villages and landscapes of the Sacred Valley which leads towards the Vilcabamba mountains, home of the citadel of Machu Picchu.
Machu Picchu is spectacularly perched on a ridge between two mountains 500m above a dramatic curve in the Urubamba River valley.
Seeing it for the first time, it isn't surprising that so much has been written about Machu Picchu, it is a truly inspiring place.