"Cusco and the Sacred Valley" Top 5 Page for this destination Cusco by AKtravelers

Cusco Travel Guide: 1,065 reviews and 2,293 photos

Cusco and the Sacred Valley (the Urubamba River Valley) are two places that we should have spent more time. We say this even though we spent more time here than most vistors to Peru that we know. That's because Cusco and the Sacred Valley probably deserve weeks of attention rather than days. These are two enchanting locations whose unexpected beauty startled us. They are more than just afterthoughts on a visit to Machu Picchu and we will have to return.
In order to avoid problems with altitude sickness, we flew to Cusco and descended soon after visiting the famous Inca temple at Sachsayhuaman. We spent two days in the Sacred Valley (9000ft/2400m), visited Machu Picchu (8000ft/2000m) for three days, then returned to the higher altitudes of Cusco (10500ft/2900m) to visit the vibrant colonial capital. This itinerary gave our bodies a chance to adjust to the heights. Combined with some diamox and the appropriate rest, we warded off the ill affects of a quick trip to high altitude.
We are combining these places to one VT page because there is no "Sacred Valley" category.

The Sacred Valley: A Slice of Traditional Life

Most visitors only see the Sacred Valley from the window of a train, and that is both good and bad. It's good because that means that the beautiful sites on the Urubamba River are not crowded with tourists. It's bad in that those train-bound tourists are missing one of the most beautiful and fascinating places in Peru. However, to tell the truth, we didn't spend enough time here either. We visited Pisac and Urubamba, and took a horseback ride up past the salt terraces (Las Salineras). Maras and Moray. But we missed Oyataytambo, Chinchero and a host of other small towns and Incan ruins that are worthy of a return.
But it is not the sites of the Sacred Valley that impressed us the most. It was the friendly people living traditionally-paced lives in a beautiful place and wearing indigenous clothing that made the biggest impression. They may have been poor by American economic standards, but I wouldn't call them poor in any other way.
Note, most of our SAcred Valley tips (except those of Pisac) will be in the "Off the Beaten Track" category.

Cusco: A Beautiful Historic City

Whether you arrive by train or plane, your first view of Cusco will almost always be from above. Therefore, your first impression will be of the uniformly rose-colored roofs. After that, everything about Cusco will also come up roses. The architecture is a curious mix of Spanish Colonial built upon Inca ruins and everything else is a unique melange of Spanish and indigenous influences. This makes Cusco a city that is hard to leave.
Given Cusco's designation as a UNESCO world heritage site and it's undeniable aesthetic and historic appeal, this is one place where you will see a lot of tourists. Therefore, you can expect that Cusco will have lots of tourist infrastructure (hotels, internet cafes, places to download your digital camera, etc.). But it will also have pestering kids and enough petty crime to worry about. But if you're careful, Cusco will be an unforgettable city.

  • Last visit to Cusco: Feb 2005
  • Intro Updated Apr 30, 2005
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Reviews (41)

Comments (12)

  • Jan 13, 2010 at 5:11 AM

    Are "Dollar Store" items & inexpensive American party favors the kinds of things to bring to barter? I have found some small Disney character figurines.

  • plannersis's Profile Photo
    Aug 3, 2009 at 4:58 AM

    The horseback ride sounds terrific - great info as we research a trip ourselves!

  • ddbleu's Profile Photo
    Sep 5, 2008 at 12:16 PM

    Great info. I'm planning to go in June 2009. I was going to try and get to Lake Titicaca but am thinking I should just stay and enjoy the Sacred Valley. I loved your write-up about the horseback ride. Thanks!

  • rsilva's Profile Photo
    Jan 22, 2008 at 4:14 AM

    Hi Kevin, very good page on Cusco, it actually has useful information, which most other seem to lack. Bye, Ricardo

  • Jul 16, 2007 at 6:48 PM

    Strange, when I went to Cusco we flew in and spent several days before going to the sacred valley and machu pichu and had no problem with altitude sickness -- just drink the coca tea faithfully

  • roamer61's Profile Photo
    Sep 27, 2006 at 12:40 PM

    Great page on Cuzco. If I ever overcome my fear of altitude sickness, I will include it when I eventually get to Peru.

  • Paul2001's Profile Photo
    Sep 14, 2006 at 2:55 PM

    A fantastic page. Never did get up the nerve to try cuy. I thought your warning and dangers tips very insightful.

  • nygaston's Profile Photo
    Aug 12, 2006 at 1:04 AM

    Beautiful pages! You make me wanting to come back in Peru ! See you in US or Europe !

  • chancay's Profile Photo
    Apr 25, 2006 at 7:26 AM

    I really like your phrasing. Your page is full of good information and excelent descriptions of the inca culture and much more!!

  • Oct 24, 2005 at 8:08 AM

    What a delightful story . I've had a mirror experience in Egypt and Morrocco. While the children and other vendors may be irritating, they do tug at the heart strings.

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