Taking a trip to Peru is incomplete without a trip to the Sacred Valley. Flying into Cuzco and staying in the city can be tough, the altitude can even ruin the entire stay in such a magnificent place.
Staying in the Sacred Valley however, is a much easier place to acclimatise, and holds the majesty of some incredible Inca sites such as the Moray Terraces, and the Ollantaytambo fortress and is home to indigenous communities that retain the traditions of artisan craftsmanship that have been passed down from generation to generation, preserving an ancient part of the world, for its modern counterpart to see.
Hike or bike, jump on a horse, or take a quadbike up to ancient ruins, through striking mountains, and over Andean plateaus.
Descend in altitude from the towering sierra of the high Andes to the nested cloud forests, where straddled atop a peak between two mighty mountains, Machu Picchu and Wayna Picchu, lies the ancient Inca citadel that sheltered their civilisation until even today.
By the time you’ve returned from the misty mysticism of Machu Picchu you will be sufficiently acclimatised to fully enjoy the wonders of Cuzco.
From the very foundations of this city, built from original Inca stone, with Colonial additions added on top, it is the meeting point of ancient worlds, between the Spanish and the Inca and the world we bring to it as we pace its streets.
The role of Cuzco as a fabulous melting pot of histories, peoples, and cultures is perhaps most humorously shown in the main cathedral, in which hangs a painting of the last supper in which Jesus sits down with his 12 best mates for a last supper of…Guinea Pig.
With Peru cementing itself as the culinary capital of Latin America it is the perfect place to learn how to cook. In Cuzco, a fantastic day excursion is to learn how to make chocolate as I did, from bean to bar, at the Chocolate Museum.
Happy as I look in this photo, the chocolate I made was, unfortunately, disgusting.
Indigenous woman with unidentified furry horse.
A tough but rewarding excursion from Cuzco is to climb to the rainbow mountain, which can either be done on a long day trip from Cuzco itself, or as part of the Ausangate trek.
The vibrant colours are the effect of the high altitude atmosphere on local sediments and can be found at a whopping 5200 meters above sea level, roughly half the cruising height of a 747 airliner.
A tough hike it is true, but worth it for the dazzling isolated plains of the high Andes.
Another gem of the high Andes is Lago Humantay. A steep and short scrabble up the hill side to this magical oasis of crystalline waters painted clear blues and greens in the shadow of the towering Salkantay mountain is a beautiful getaway from the bustle of Cuzco.
This is another trip that, if you don’t mind rising before the crack of dawn, can be done in a day from Cuzco. Or if you are even more adventurous, take on the Salkantay Trek, a beautiful but lesser known and far less busy alternative to the Inka Trail.
If you have the time, a trip to Lake Titicaca can be the icing on the cake on a trip to Peru.
An Andean lake that, according to some legends, fostered all life in the Incan realm when the Sun God Inti raised Manco Capac from its depths to found the great empire that stretched over two-thousand miles without even inventing the wheel. So vast is Lake Titicaca, that despite not having access to the ocean, Bolivia’s navy is based here.
Explore the Uros and Taquile Islands from the Peruvian side, or venture in Bolivia to walk the Sun and Moon Islands.
And try not to laugh at its name…