Don't miss the Sacsayhuamán site (Tyler Bell)
List 30 April

Top 8 unmissables at Machu Picchu

On your trip to the Lost City of the Incas don't miss these highlights of the Sacred Valley

1. Cuzco

The former imperial capital – its name means ‘Navel of the World’ in Quechua – is the ideal place to start a trip, not least because, perched at 3,400m, it will help you acclimatise. The city has several impressive sites: must-sees include the Museo Inka, the Koricancha Museum (sometime temple to the Sun God and later a convent) and the impressive cathedral.

2. Sacsayhuamán

About 2km outside Cuzco, is a huge Inca military site that some visitors find even more extraordinary than Machu Picchu – not least because of the way huge granite slabs were brought here.

3. On the Sacred Valley Road

Which runs north-west from Cuzco, the towns of Ollantaytambo, Moray and Chinchero have Inca sites; on the road from Cuzco to Pisac – to the north-east of the city – are four smaller Inca ruins that can all be seen in a day by taxi/bus.

4. Make a quick pub stop

En route, stop off at a chichería (pub) to try the local maize-based brew, and try a roasted cuy (guinea pig) in a local restaurant. Indigenous markets – in particular the one at Pisac – are lively, colourful and essential trading hubs for the rural population.

5. Alternative Inca sites

Around the main roads and trails of the Sacred Valley, there are many Inca sites; Peruvian operators Amazonas Explorer and InkaNatura offer two/three day walks along the Lares or Weavers’ Way to the east of the Urubamba range, which takes in hot springs, beautiful fertile valleys and the early-Inca site of Pumamarca.

6. Trek aroung Ausangate

A range of seven- to 11-day treks around 6,384m Ausangate includes high passes, low oxygen and remote camping. As these walks don’t use any of the classic Inca Trail they can be done in February. Contact Exodus, KE Adventure and High Places.

7. Explore on horseback

To explore the Sacred Valley on horseback contact Equine Adventures or Ride Worldwide.  Archaeology lovers should check out Andante’s specialised tours of the Sacred Valley. Birdwatchers may enjoy one of Naturetrek’s specialised Machu Picchu itineraries.

8. Give something back

Those interested in volunteering will find plenty of opportunities, from working with special needs students at Kiya Survivors’ Rainbow Centre to helping out at local schools and on archaeology projects.

More like this

Machu Picchu and the Inca Trail travel guide | Plan a trip... More

Top 7 ways to reach Machu Picchu | inspire me... More

Life isn't predictable on the Royal road of the Incas | Destinations... More

Hiking the Inca Trail, Peru | Destinations... More

The pre-Inca civilisation of Chachapoyas | Destinations... More