The gateway to Machu Picchu – the “Lost City of the Incas” – and storied former capital of the Inca Empire, Cusco is a South American destination to behold. Blending the reigning periods of the Incas and the Spanish, the UNESCO World Heritage Site is like a history lesson come to life.
Juxtapositions are foremost here, with Spanish homes built on top of Inca stone walls; wild festivals kicking off alongside ancient Catholic pageants; and Quechua traditions fused with contemporary mestizo culture. Cusco is also loaded with a seductive range of world-class restaurants, food markets and lively bars to keep your bellies and hearts full.
After you’ve soaked up as much as you can of the Andean capital, you’d want to set your sights on the mountain villages of the Sacred Valley, through the Inca Trail and onward to Machu Picchu. The one-day route is the same ancient path laid by the Incas and takes you over three high passes, beyond the Wiñaywayna ruins. Other less-frequented treks include the Salkantay and Lares Valley trails.
There’s also the Choquequirao Trail, which will take you to one of the greatest draws in the region, Choquequirao – a remote complex of temples, huacas and bath systems that few people, including archaeologists, have explored. And the most colourful trek of all? The Ausungate Trail, which traverses the Cordillera Vilcanota and brings you to a Permian formation known as “Rainbow Mountain”. With a landscape striped in turquoise, rust red and golden-yellow waves, this glorious patch of earth looks as if it were painted by the gods.
Key Activities: Cultural Sights, Trekking, Camping, Hiking, Farm Stays, Local Immersion and Cuisine