Cusco was supposed to be the gateway to Machu Picchu. It was supposed to be somewhere we stopped on the way somewhere else. Instead, it quickly became one of our favourite places from our trip to South America. We spent nearly a week here, both before and after our 5-day trek to Salkantay and Machu Picchu. Cusco became a second home and we spent more time here than anywhere else during our 6-week trip.
Cusco has a magical charm that gets under your skin and stays with you long after you’ve left. This is of course after you acclimatize to all the hills. We spent a lot of time walking up and down all the hills. The high altitude makes it hard to do anything here. After a few days of walking around, we quickly came to respect our surroundings. This punishment was important, as we were about to undertake a 5-day trek into the Andes, so we needed to get used to the hills. We eventually acclimatized to the altitude, and the hills no longer became a burden but instead a lesson to be learned.
Cusco is built into a massive valley, so on multiple occasions, we found some great rewards. There are many great reminders of the great Inca Civilization that once called this place home. There were a lot of great views with the sprawling city below, so we took a lot of great pictures from above.
What makes Cusco & the Sacred Valley so amazing?
Cusco is the gateway to Machu Picchu and the birthplace of the Incas. There are many ruins in the surrounding areas that can be visited in a single day.
The highlight of this list of ruins is Sacsayhuaman, which is just on top of the hills overlooking the city. It was the capital city of the Inca, and what remains of this city is actually quite spectacular. There are some very fine examples of the Inca craftsmanship found here, including many massive rocks that seem impossibly fit together like a jig-saw puzzle.
There are many other great ruins nearby, in what is known as the Sacred Valley. From our base in Cusco, we explored a few nearby like Puca Pucara and Tambomachay. It’s a great way to get yourself ready for the hike tp Machu Picchu. We did the 5-Day Salkantay Trek and we were glad we got ourselves in shape ahead of time.
Where is Cusco and how do you get there?
Cuzco is located high in the Andes at an elevation just under 3400 m above sea level. There are some incredible restaurants in the city and some wonderful colonial architecture.
If you’re on your way to Machu Picchu, make sure to spend some time here on the way. The combination of Inca and Spanish history, with the modern-day twist that Peru does so well, leaves you wanting more. Cusco is a great place to spend a couple days and we would definitely go back.
Central Cusco. 2017.
The Sacred Valley of the Inca
Cusco & The Sacred Valley:
Cusco is the gateway to Machu Picchu; most visitors to Peru will end up in Cusco at some point during their trip. It is a worthwhile stopover, there are so many things to do here while you get used to being 3000-meters above sea level. We enjoyed the city itself, finding many great things to occupy our time. It’s a good place to learn about the history of the Inca, including a visit to the Sacred Valley and Saskaywaman, the former capital of the Inca Empire.