Find the heart of the ancient Incan Empire, where cities sprawl around historic ruins and verdant mountains cloaked in mist drop into lush river gullies.
The ancient and the modern hum in harmony throughout Andean peaks and Amazon lowlands in the southeastern Peruvian region of Cusco. Discover why the Incas called this place the belly button of the world when you explore the vast ancient cities of the Sacred Valley of the Incas and the urban metropolis of the region’s capital city, Cusco.
The city of Cusco lies within the rugged range of the Southern Sierras. Its layers of history can be seen in its architecture, with Spanish colonial structures built atop the ancient Incan walls. Wander through labyrinthine alleys to spacious plazas, such as Plaza de Armas. Encounter the cultural traditions of the indigenous Quechua when you peruse local galleries and markets, such as San Pedro Market or the Artisan Market. Go on daytrips to the impressive ruins of Sacsayhuaman, Qenko, Puka Pukara and Tambomachay. Book a whitewater-rafting tour around Chuquicahuana and Cusipata and meet some of the local wildlife at Ccochachuasi Animal Sanctuary. As evening falls, follow the crowds to the clubs and bars to experience the city’s nightlife.
Cusco is the gateway to one of Peru’s most famous landmarks: Machu Picchu. The Lost City of the Incas is perched high above the Urubamba River on a misty Andean peak. Explore beautifully preserved 15th-century Incan temples and buildings in this UNESCO World Heritage Site. Veiled for hundreds of years by impassable mountains and cloud forests, Machu Picchu is only accessible on foot or via a series of minibuses. Machu Picchu lies at the endpoint of the popular 26-mile (43-kilometer) Inca Trail, which passes through orchid-laden greenery and fern glades.
Find more archaeological wonders throughout the Sacred Valley, including the city of Písac with its beautiful ruins and busy weekly market. Urubamba is a modern transport hub while Ollantaytambo has a traditional ancient Incan layout. Soothe your muscles after a day of hiking and sightseeing in the hot springs in the Santa Teresa, Calca or Sicuani districts.
Reach Cusco by plane to Alejandro Velasco Astete International Airport. The dry season is between May and September. Visit outside of July and August to avoid the crowds in this popular region.