There’s a multitude of fantastic things to do around Machu Picchu
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Machu Picchu may well be the primary objective of your upcoming travels to Peru but you’ll be happy to know that the area around the ancient citadel and its springboard town offer a kaleidoscope of attractions to boot. So don’t just plan a quick visit! There’s a multitude of fantastic things to do around Machu Picchu that’ll make your tour of Peru all the more unforgettable.
This spectacular region of Peru is not just historically prominent but also boasts some of the most mesmerizing landscapes in the whole country – why not plan enough time to soak it all up?
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- Cusco Historic Centre
- Pisac Ruins
- Rainbow Mountains
- Humantay Lake
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Cusco Historic City Centre
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Cusco is the major springboard for visits to Machu Picchu with smaller and more remote Aguas Caliente (recently renamed Machu Picchu Town) being merely the end- point of the railway that connects Cusco to the archaeological site. When you fly into Peru for Machu Picchu adventures, Cusco is where you’ll be landing, a wonderful high-altitude town you’ll definitely need a few days to explore. The historic quarter is centred around a spectacular Cathedral and its Plaza de Armas, flanked on all sides by a maze of souvenir stalls, top-end boutiques, awesome cafés and great restaurants, make this the epicentre of the action. But wait, there’s more: plenty of excellent historical museums will ensure your tour of Machu Picchu be all the more rewarding and a host of day-trips and activities offer you the very best of the surrounding region. Whether you’re a foodie, a shopper (don’t miss the San Pedro markets!), a history-lover or an avid hiker, you’ll find an absolute ton of stuff to see and do here.
Sacsayhuaman & The Sacred Valley of the Incas
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There are a lot of very valid reasons so many Peru tours of Machu Picchu include a visit to the Sacred Valley and its star attraction: Sacsayhuaman. This is the most prominent historical site near Cusco and, nearby, you’ll find more important archaeological treasures you’ll want to include on your visit, including Qenko and Puka Pukara. The Sacred Valley – the entire region that encompasses Cusco and Machu Picchu – was the heart and soul of the Inca Empire and, today, it is home to its most priceless legacies. The walled complex of Sacsayhuaman is impressive for sheer size alone yet the ancient farming terraces around it, on the flanks of the Andes, make it a truly arresting sight. The ancient fortress is shaped like the head of the puma (with Cusco representing the body) symbolising an animal that was held sacred by the Incas. Once the site of a formidable battle against the invading Spanish conquistadores, Sacsayhuaman has today been given back its rightful spiritual importance and it is right here that in June, each year, Peruvians re-enact Inti Raymi, the winter solstice Festival of the Sun, one of the most important events in the Inca calendar. Inti Raymi coincides with the height of the tourist season in Machu Picchu so if you’re planning your Peru travels for this period, book ahead and don’t miss out! Spending time exploring the old ancient wonders of the Sacred Valley of the Incas – which stretches for 60km – is more than just a cool side-trip: it really brings home the fact that Machu Picchu, although impressive and world-famous, sits in truly illustrious company.
Indigenous people of Machu Picchu, Peru
Pisac Ruins (& Markets)
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One risks getting lynched for saying that the ruins of Pisac give Machu Picchu a run for its money – but it’s actually true. Not just the ruins themselves (which are epic) but the idyllic setting is nothing short of extraordinary and the fact this site sees merely a fraction of the crowds that Machu Picchu does is enough to award it extra brownie-points. Pisac lacks the size of mighty MP but not the amazing examples of the kind of stonework for which the Incas were so renowned. What’s more, the modern town (which sits below the once-fortified ruins) hosts the largest and most fascinating local market in the region, attracting sellers from all over the valley. Plan your visit on market day and you’ll be in for an amazing treat.
Giant ruins of Pisac, Peru
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Rainbow Mountain boasts plenty of followers in Peru nowadays although it was the region’s hidden secret for many years, certainly before Instagram was ever invented. Despite its recent rise to fame and somewhat disorganised rush to commercialise it, however, Vinicunca still remains blissfully uncrowded for the most part and will hopefully remain this way if visitors choose not to support the day-trip options on offer. These are responsible for adding to an already swelling crowd at the top of the fragile peak and, besides, make for unnecessary (and brutally) long days. For hard-core trekkers looking for a magnificent hiking experience in the Andes, this spot has the potential to even overshadow the Inca Trail, meandering through a region of the central Peru that is home to some of its most traditional and unaffected ethnic villages.
Rainbow colors in the mountains, Peru
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If you’re looking for a day-hike around the Machu Picchu area then set your sights on Humantay instead, one of the most visually-spectacular lakes you’ll ever see. On a crystal-clear day, the emerald waters of the lake reflect the snow-capped peaks that frame it, making for a breath-taking scene. To reach the start of the hiking trail, you’ll need to drive a couple of hours out of Cusco and then enjoy a leisurely trek for about two hours. The hike is short but steep and, at an altitude that kisses 4000m, it can be exceptionally strenuous if you’re not an experienced hiker and haven’t spent enough days in Cusco to acclimatise. Humantay Lake is the starting point of the Salkantay trek to Machu Picchu, the alternative to the classic Inca Trail. If you’re up for a stunning challenge, certainly consider this a worthy alternative. Do note that there are a lot of organised tours from Cusco who head off before sunrise to taxi the big crowds up – with private transport, however, you can plan to start a little later and you could be here, in the early afternoon, having the place all to yourself.
Incredible nature water and mountains, Humantay Lake in Peru
At Viva Expeditions we love to take our guests both on and well off the beaten path: we get that you don’t want to miss out on the big-name attractions on your tour of Peru but also know how many more spectacular experiences there are on offer. So why not tell us what you dream of seeing and doing and we’ll create a tailor-made experience that’ll be just the ticket for your once-in-a-lifetime Machu Picchu experience.l