One of the world’s most important archaeological sites; A tangible evidence of the urban Inca Empire at the peak of its power and achievement; A citadel of cut stone fit together without mortar so tightly that its cracks still can’t be penetrated even by a credit card!
Ruins lying on a high ridge surrounded on the three sides by the turbulent Urubamba River some 2000 ft below. Well, they are Cusco – the cultural centre of the Incas, and Machu Picchu – one of the Seven Wonders of the World. These are the two gems of Peru in South America, which placed the country high on the tourist map.
If a mix of culture and archaeology is your interest then this is a must-visit! Pack your stuff for a week’s adventure and if you are into trekking then pack along your hiking gear too.
Get yourself a Peruvian visa and once you have landed at Lima, the capital of Peru, you may take an hour flight to Cusco or if interested in seeing the countryside take a bus which drives you down to the town in 24 hours!
Cusco, which lies at an altitude of 3400 meters, is the erstwhile capital of the Incan Empire which was later occupied by the Spanish in the early 16th century. A centre of the Incan civilisation, even today a fusion of the Incan and the Spanish culture is very much evident in art and architecture of the city.
What To Do
Start with the Cusco city tour. The first visit should be to the Plaza de Arma, a beautiful city center with the cathedral and Incan temples.
The Lord of the Temblor’s Cathedral is a must-visit. It will mesmerize you as you see the whole church adorned in gold and silver!
The Koricancha temple which is adjacent to the cathedral is dedicated to the Sun God. You can get a glimpse of the religious beliefs and the engineering acumen of the Incas.
The Pisac traditional market, Tambomachay, Ollantaytambo village, Chinchero plaza, Sacsayhuaman, Puca Pucara are repositories of the Incan traditions and culture which takes the traveller directly to the 16th century.
To witness this spectacle, you have two options. Either you take a train which is three hours of a breathtaking journey through the scenic Andes mountains. Or if time permits, trek for four days! In either case, you must obtain a pass from the Government Culture Department. That’s because only 2500 people are allowed per day.
A huge complex of great magnitude, Machu Picchu, is a great engineering feat of the Incans. Incans survived the constant seismic activities but not the bayonets of the Spaniards. The ruins are the only standing testimonies of the Inca’s greatness.
Where To Stay in Cusco & Machu Picchu
Cusco provides for some good comfortable accommodations which suit any sort of wallet.
On the luxury side, the noteworthy hotels are: Aranwa Cusco Boutique Hotel is an essence of luxury and comfort in the heart of the Inca city. Built, in a colonial mansion of the XVI century, it displays several paintings of the Cuzco school, colonial sculptures and carvings that transport guests to the greatness of the time.
Hotel Monasterio, built as a monastery in 1592, retains the charm and ambience that has existed for centuries whilst boasting a reputation as one of the world’s finest hotels.
Apart from the luxurious and budget hotels, there are a host of backpacking hostels which rent a bed starting from $ 20 a night!
What To Eat in Cusco & Machu Picchu
Visitors to Cusco have a huge array of restaurants and cafes at their disposal; eateries have sprouted up and most are clustered around the main drags leading from Plaza de Armas. Cheap eateries line the narrow length of Calle Procuradores. It leads you to Plaza de Armas across from the Compaea de Jesus church. Many are pizzerias, as Cusco has become known for its wood-fired, crispy-crust pizzas.
This is one trip that’s refreshing in every single way!