Time to leave Lima and see the ancient Inca sights, including Machu Picchu. First stop is Cuzco, Peru, about an hour's flight from Lima. When you are booking your plane seats, ask which side you should sit on for the best views of the Andes. Cusco, a Unesco World Heritage Site, is the historic site of the capital of the Inca Empire, and is a major tourist destination in Peru. The rainy season ends in March, and the temperatures will be in the mid 60's. If you can, might be better to visit in April. Since you will be visiting many ancient sites, you will need comfortable clothes, comfortable shoes, and layers. Off the Beaten Path Suggestion- One thing you can do that does not involve visiting Inca ruins in Peru is go to the Pisac Market or the San Pedro Central Market to shop for local wares and unusual souvenirs. Bargaining is a must!
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As for the ruins, in Cuzco, visit the massive Plaza de Armas, a giant piazza built by the Incas. Supposedly, built on the exact center of the Inca Empire, the churches around the square are beautiful. While you are there, visit the Cusco Cathedral built in 1550 and filled with ornate oil paintings. The Cathedral was built with stones stolen from Sacsayhuaman Fortress, another site to see in Cuzco. This ancient fortress has dramatic views and photo opportunities aplenty. It is 2 miles from the city center or a 25 minute walk from the Plaza de Armas. While you are there, check out Tambomachay, a spring that served as baths for the Incan elite. Lastly, take a bus or car about an hour from Cusco to Kenko and the Sacred Valley, with its immense and intricate stone carvings. Three strong recommendations 1. Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate to adjust to the altitude in Peru. 2. Buy a tourist pass for many of the sites called a Boleto Turistico. 3. Watch what you eat to avoid food borne illnesses.
There are several 4 and 5 star hotels in Cuzco, Peru. The Orient Express centrally located property is the Hotel Monasterio del Cusco, and many of the original features of the monastery remain. The Hotel can arrange for hot air ballooning over the Sacred Valley or horseback riding through the ruins. Or, try the recently opened Palacio Nazarenas in a former palace, it boasts the city's first outdoor hotel pool and a fabulous spa. The hotel will arrange for a private guided tour in Ollytatambo and the Sacred Valley.
Time to go by train to Machu Picchu from Ollytatambo (not from Cuzco) and the Sacred Valley to see the 15th century Machu Picchu ruins. Since the Spanish did not discover this site at the time of their conquest, it is a relatively intact historical site, and named one of the Seven Wonders of the World. It was not brought to international attention until 1911. Consider staying at a Relais & Chateaux property, Inkaterra Machu Picchu Suites or at another Orient Express property, The Sanctuary Lodge with a location right at the entrance to Machu Picchu. There is also the Sumaq Hotel, which is lovely. The hotels will arrange to have a person meet your train to collect your luggage, so you can head right to the sites. Both hotels have excellent restaurants. Also, you won't want to miss the sunrise, so plan to be at the ruins at 5:30 a.m.!
Another option in South America for a fabulous adventure from Explorer's Passage, a friend of Wearever. The Explorer's Passage is a boutique luxury adventure travel company that has 3 distinct itineraries set for their "Crossing of the Andes" expeditions in 2015. Check out the amazing photo below from an Explorer's Passages journey!
The Story of the 'Crossing of the Andes' is one of bravery, patriotism, and the quest for freedom. Despite the seemingly insurmountable odds, Jose de San Martin's 'Army of the Andes' put an end to European domination, opening up an era of independence in South America. The 'Crossing of the Andes' takes you back in time as you follow in the footsteps of the Liberation Army enjoying, of course, the spectacular scenery of the rugged Andes, and all the comforts of modern-day travel.
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