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Peru Travel: How to make the most of your Machu Picchu vacation

Spend a week in Cusco, the Sacred Valley, and Machu Picchu. There is plenty to see and do on your Peru vacation to Machu Picchu.

A typical Machu Picchu vacation consists of 1 or 2 nights in Cusco and the Sacred Valley and a 1 day visit to the hidden city of the Incas followed by a quick return to Lima and home or onto a different Peru destination. For travelers seeking to go beyond the typical, and with the time and budget to do so, a one-week stay in Cusco, the Sacred Valley, and Machu Picchu is enough time to truly enjoy the astounding scenery and setting of this part of the world.

Most people arrive to Cusco from Lima and, fearing the effects of high altitude, immediately wish to flee to lower elevations. Indeed, this is a smart strategy. The difference in elevation between Cusco and most points in the Sacred Valley, such as Pisac, Urubamba, and Ollantaytambo, is around 3,200 feet (1,000 meters). Upon arrival in Cusco, it is a good idea to spend 3 full days in the Sacred Valley in order to do visit all the important archaeological sites in the area. These include Pisac, which has a typical market in the central square as well as a set of ruins and agricultural terraces high atop a hill overlooking the town. Ollantaytambo is an original Inca city with a ceremonial center with fountains and terraces.

An extended stay in the Sacred Valley will also allow you to visit Chinchero, a former royal estate for one of the Inca emperors, which now hosts some of the best textile workshops in the region. There are also the sites of Maras and Moray. At Moras, the Inca built circular terraces that served as an agricultural experimental center. Moray is the site of the pre-Inca salt ponds which are still active in the present-day.

After the Sacred Valley, the next 2 days are spent at Machu Picchu. Trains depart on a regular schedule from Ollantaytambo. On the first day, take a guided tour of the ruins to get a deep context for the Inca citadel. Additional time can be spent taking wandering through the main part of the Inca city. On the second day, visit the ruins again and climb Huayna Picchu or Machu Picchu Mountain or, if these first two are too difficult, hike to the Sun Gate (Inti Punku) which is the entrance for trekkers finishing the Inca Trail.

By this time, you should be somewhat acclimated to the elevation, which will make your last 2 days in Cusco a bit more comfortable. There is much to see and do in Cusco, including a visit to the Cathedral, Santo Domingo Church/Qoricancha (Temple of the Sun), and the ruins around Cusco, including Sacsayhuaman and Tambomachay. Additional activities include horseback riding through the surrounding countryside, visits to museums, and in the evening, folkloric music and dance shows. Don’t forget to visit the neighborhood of San Blas.

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This article was written by a Peru travel expert at Peru For Less who specializes in helping you plan your Machu Picchu vacation. Peru For Less is part of the Latin America For Less family, a company is unique in its ability to offer a price match guarantee as well as the highest standards in quality and customer service. Fully customized itineraries coupled with personal and friendly service are the hallmarks of a Latin America For Less vacation.

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