The most famous destination in Peru is Machu Picchu, the ‘lost city of the Incas’. As well as being one of the most dramatic archaeological sites in the world, it also offers a fascinating insight into the daily life of one of the most respected peoples of the Americas – the Incas. At the centre of this Inca world is Cuzco which in Quechua means ‘Navel of the earth’ and was the capital of the Inca Empire.
The immediate area around Cuzco is rich in Inca and Pre-Inca ruins. The impressive Inca military architecture of Sacsayhuman, strategically placed on a hill above Cuzco is not to be missed. Quenqo with its limestone formations and carvings depicting mythical beings and Tambomachay, the Inca baths consisting of fine stonework, aqueducts, and waterfalls fed by hot and cold springs are also worth a visit.
The Sacred Valley near Cuzco also contains some impressive Inca ruins. At Ollantaytambo, a town of Inca origin lays one of their most important strategic military, religious and agricultural centres. Whilst at Pisac you will find spectacular Inca terracing, splendid Inca walls, several lookout towers, a sundial, various enclosures and storage areas built of fine stonework.
Peru has a diverse mix of Inca and pre-Inca ruins and you need to travel around the country the right way, to truly understand these ancient civilisations. By going the right way, you will see the pre-Inca world first and end at the highlight which is Machu Picchu
The Choquequirao trek is a spectacular 60 km trek that will lead you to one of the last refuges of the Incas. Choquequirao, located at 3,100 metres is a huge archaeological complex still under excavation today and is located amongst the Salkantay sacred mountain and the Apurimac River canyon. This is a walk where you will find amazing mountain scenery as well as a diverse range of Andean flora and fauna.
Cuzco in Quechua means ‘Navel of the earth’ and was the capital of the Inca Empire. The city has a curious character, its narrow cobbled streets and friendly people are obvious, but it is the huge walls of intricately laid stone that pay testimony to the civilisation that 500 years ago controlled most of the continent and today characterise Cuzco.
For many this is the main reason to make the pilgrimage to Peru. Situated on a single mountain high in the Andes (2450m) this archaeological site was never discovered by the Spanish. Situated 120km northwest of Cuzco it is only accessible by train and foot. The archaeologist Hiram Bingham discovered Machu Picchu in 1911, although archaeologists have been visiting it for years its purpose is still unclear.
The trip to Machu Picchu can be done several different ways. One of the most popular and spectacular is the Inca Trail. You traverse the Andes, passing archaeological ruins, rivers, terraced valleys, snow-capped peaks, cloud forest, and a wide array of flora (including numerous varieties of orchid) and bird life. Not only is this a good walk, but it also allows you to get a better understanding of the Inca world en-route to Machu Picchu.
The Sacred Valley is a short drive from Cuzco and good place to help acclimatise to the altitude as it is lower than the Inca Capital. The Sacred Valley contains fertile valleys, White Water Rivers, colourful markets and hiking trails, making it a superb destination for both cultural and active interests.
The Salkantay Trek has been named among the 25 best Treks in the World and unlike the Inca Trail it is open to everybody, with no limitation on spaces or permits. You will trek from 3,900m/12,800ft to 2,100m/6,900ft, traversing across magnificent mountain passes, enjoying enormous and mystical snow-capped peaks, seeing nature in its purest form and exploring more than 15 different ecosystems from beginning to end.
Belmont House, 23 New Street, Henley on Thames, Oxfordshire, RG9 2BP