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Peru Travel: Cusco and the Sacred Valley

February 28, 2012 | Comments: 0 | Views: 205

Compared to the majesty of Machu Picchu, Cusco and the Sacred Valley may seem like mere way stations along the route to the real destination. However, this surface impression is usually due to lack of information about the real treasures presented by the imperial Inca city and the valley. Both Cusco and the Sacred Valley were important ceremonial, agricultural, and religious centers in the Inca empire, and although many temple and sites were dismantled by the Spaniards, there remain archaeological sites through the Andes that are worth a visit.

Arriving to Cusco Daily flights arrive to Cusco from Lima and other points in Peru. It is best to arrive in Cusco and have a full day to relax. Cusco is at 11,150 feet (3,400 meters) and it is impossible to predict how your body will react to the altitude. The vast majority of people experience mild symptoms such as fatigue, shortness of breath when walking uphill, or insomnia. Coca tea, staying hydrating, and plenty of rest usually alleviate these symptoms and they tend to disappear within a day or two. It is also a good idea to avoid very heavy meals and excessive consumption of alcohol within the first 24 hours.

Cusco Visitors to Cusco are almost inevitably surprised to find that this Inca imperial city has much to see and do. The historic center is littered with museums, art galleries, gorgeous plazas, and plenty of options for local hikes. At night, Cusco has first-class dining options that feature the best of Peruvian cuisine.

An organized city tour of Cusco is the best way to see the most important sites and having a guide that can explain their significance is invaluable. Private tours can start at any time and are best for travelers wishing to avoid crowds. Group tours usually depart in the afternoon. Whether in group or private, a city tour does not include much of the city itself - another good reason to schedule free time in Cusco. The city tour, usually conducted by car, does include stops at the Cusco Cathedral (filled with excellent example of local Cusco religious art), Qoricancha (which is Quechua for Temple of the Sun; Santo Domingo church was built on the ruins of this historically important Inca temple), and the ruins above and around Cusco, including the imposing Sacsayhuaman, Tambomachy, and Qenko. If booked through a tour agency, all entrance tickets will be provided for you; if not, you will need to purchase a general tourist ticket (130 soles) which includes all the main sites in Cusco and the Sacred Valley. Cathedral (25 soles) and Qoricancha (10 soles) tickets are purchased separately.

Sacred Valley It is a good idea to plan to spend a night in the Sacred Valley in order to catch the earlier, shorter train ride to Machu Picchu on the following day. A Sacred Valley tour traverses the most important sites between Cusco and Machu Picchu. The first stop is at Pisac, which hosts a traditional market on Tuesday, Thursday, and Sunday. Most tours stop at the market, but there are also the Pisac ruins on the hill above the town, and if these are of interest, you should clarify to your tour guide that you want to go here. The tour also stops in Ollantaytambo, an original Inca city and that has been continually inhabited since before the Conquest.

Ollantaytambo has some nice restaurants and a few lodging options, including a hotel adjacent to the train station, convenient for an early morning start to Machu Picchu. There are also 5-star quality resort spots further into the Sacred Valley and transport to the train station can be arranged easily.

From Ollantaytambo, the train ride to Aguas Calientes is 1 hour and 30 minutes in duration. You will witness the scenery getting greener and increasing in lushness as you approach the village that hosts travelers to the Inca citadel.

This article was written by a travel expert at Peru For Less who specializes in helping you organize best value Machu Picchu vacation packages as part of your fully customizable Peru travel.

Source: EzineArticles
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