Cusco Guide #5: How to find your way around in Cusco
- Published on Jun 30, 2016 Experiences
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The welcoming Imperial City of the Tahuantinsuyo is a magical place full of history, culture, traditions and experiences that captivate the most demanding tourists in many ways. To orientate yourself in this millenary place, among amazing buildings and surrounded by traditional towns and impressive mountains won’t be difficult anymore and, conversely, it will make you have one of the best experiences in your life.
Learn with us more about the mystical places around the City of Cusco and Machu Picchu.
- The Historical Center of Cusco
This place with unique mestizo architecture was once the capital of the Tahuantinsuyo (territory of the Inca Empire). It is surrounded by Inca art and culture. The most outstanding spot in this millenary city is the wondrous Cathedral, built on the foundations of the Inca Empire walls, with a colonial style. Its cobblestone streets such as San Blas or the Main Square are proofs of the architectural jewel built in this place that keeps dazzling people around the world.
Here it is the Poroy Station, which is the starting point to Machu Picchu Station by train. This city still preserves all Cusco’s culture and traditions, and is surrounded by a natural landscape, at 3499 m.a.s.l. Its handicraft market amazes and captivates travelers because of countless handicraft works. Furthermore, every December 4th, people in this town pay tribute to Saint Barbara in a colorful festival where locals and tourists participate.
- The Sacred Valley (Valle Sagrado)
As well as the City of Cusco, this was also the center of the Inca Universe. The incredible ecological zones and different elevations in the Sacred Valley turned it into the supply source for Inca people. The Sacred Valley is in the province of Urubamba and links Pisac Town to Ollantaytambo Town. It is surrounded by Andean landscapes, valleys, rivers, and gullies, as well as many indigenous villages that have beautiful cities inside.
Tourists have the chance to have an experiential travel in the area of the Sacred Valley. They can stay in the houses of native people and learn more about their ways, traditions and culture. Furthermore, they will do domestic chores as if they were members of the family.
In the Sacred Valley, you can visit places like Pisac, located at the bottom of the Intihuatana hill; Calca, well known for its healing hot springs in Machacancha and its snowy peaks; Yucay, which was the rest area chosen by the Inca nobility; Moray, which is a circular building made with rounded stones that served as an amphitheater; Urubamba, known for its excellent fertile land and extreme sports; and Ollantaytambo with its extraordinary fortress..
This place is also the habitat of animals like the Andean cock-of-the-rock and the Andean bear. You can practice extreme sports such as mountain biking and canoeing on Vilcanota River.
- The Inca Trail (Camino Inca)
The Inca Trail links Cusco to Machu Picchu and goes through the amazing Sacred Valley. There are two ways to reach the final destination; the first tour starts in Quillabamba and takes four days, and the second one starts at the train station to Machu Picchu and it takes just two days. It is a trail of more than 23 kilometers long in which you can find a variety of ecoregions, elevations, temperature change and unique experiences.
On the first two days of walking, you will see an Andean landscape with mountains, snowy peaks, and streams. On the third day, the climate will change, and you will be surrounded by vegetation in a tropical environment, very similar to a forest. Also, the presence of llamas, lizards, falcons, and deer will make this tour the best choice for the ones who want to do some trekking.
The Inca trail begins at kilometer 83, in the area called Piscacucho. Then, you will arrive at Pulpituyoc complex, and you will stay a night in Wayllabamba Town. On the second day, the traveler will pass by Warmiwañusca. In case you suffer from soroche (Acute Mountain Sickness), it will be better to stay and camp near Pakaymayu River. On the third day, a long journey must be taken for touring Runkurakay. You will go down to Yanacocha and then climb up to Sayacmarca. It is recommended camping near the Phuyupatamarca ruins. On the Fourth day, you must be up very early in the morning, at 5:00 am. You may go shopping in the market Centro Wiñay Wayna. Then, you will walk around 8 km for two hours, and, finally, you will arrive at Machu Picchu.
It is a magical town, located at the heart of the Sacred Valley, in the province of Urubamba, at 2797 m.a.s.l. Here you will find tourist attractions, such as Intihuatana, the Royal House of the Sun, the Bath of the Inca Princess (Baño de la Ñusta), among others. Furthermore, its architectural complex makes it one of the most important buildings in the Inca Empire.
You can start your journey to Machu Picchu from this place, either by taking the train or the Inca Trail. The development of this city, which was a military, administrative, and agricultural site, was ordered by the Inca Pachacutech. It was originally developed during the Inca era, and it is the only city from that period that is still inhabited until today. Its climate is dry from April to December, and rainy from January to March.
From this place, you can also set off for the Imperial City, from the Ollantaytambo Station and get there approximately in one hour thirty minutes.
- Ollantaytambo Sanctuary
It is located in the district of Ollantaytambo and holds a unique nature because of its architecture. From this point, you can view the Sacred Valley to its fullest. Each wall has a perfect finish that supports its solid architecture. Its name comes from the play Ollantay, which described this town.
Its architectural complexes cover 600 hectares and were strategically erected to control the Sacred Valley. The Inca Pachacutec commanded to build this complex in order to dominate the people and conquer their lands. The most outstanding artistic and unique buildings are the Temple of the Sun and the giant monoliths
- Machu Picchu Town (Machu Picchu Pueblo)
Founded in 1901, and formerly known as Aguas Calientes, this town is surrounded by an impressive natural beauty. Here it is the Machu Picchu Station, which is the last train stop to start the tour and meet Peru’s world wonder.
Machu Picchu Town is located at 2.040 m.a.s.l., and has a subtropical climate: warm and wet. You will find a handicraft market nearby, where tourists can buy souvenirs from this mystical city. From here you can set off for Machu Picchu by trekking or bus.
- Hot Springs
Located at 800 meters away from the Machu Picchu Station, these hot springs have healing qualities to treat diseases like rheumatism. They may also help you to cope with stress, remove toxins from your body, and contribute to balance your blood pressure. These hot springs are located within the Valley of Aguas Calientes River. Water in these hot springs is warm because sulfur emerges from rocks and has a temperature around 38° and 46° C.
- The Citadel of Machu Picchu
It is one of the Seven Wonders of the World because of its magnificent architecture. This millenary sanctuary offers tourists a fascinating experience, full of history and adventure. Machu Picchu, which means “Old Mountain” in Quechua, was erected during Inca Pachacutec term in the 15th century and is now acknowledged by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site.
The journey to get to the Inca Citadel is one of the best experiences and there are two ways to make it. One way is buying tickets for touring the villages in a wonderful train trip and the other way is by trekking on the Inca Trail by which you will go around and learn more about the Cusco landscapes. Remember to carry the necessary equipment like sunblock, bag, insect repellent, sunglasses, hiking shoes, among others.
The sanctuary is 25 minutes away from the town by bus. The amazing Inca temples such as the Temple of the Sun and the Moon and the sundial will captivate you from beginning to end.
Discover more about the 10 steps to get to Machu Picchu.
- Huayna Picchu
It is located at 2.667 m.a.s.l. Unlike Machu Picchu, Huayna Picchu means “New Mountain” in Quechua and it is located in the north of the Imperial City. To get to the top requires a lot of physical effort and the trip to get there takes about one hour. It is a steep road but walking is worth because you will have a beautiful view from this point.
Look this video and learn with us how to orientate yourself in Cusco.
Experience, enjoy and learn more about Cusco, a wonderful place full of traditions, nature, art, and gastronomy that are unique in the world!
Sources: Mincetur, Promperú, Cusco Perú.