There are few sites as majestic and inspiring as Machu Picchu, the great 15th Century Inca citadel buried deep in the Peruvian jungle. Given UNESCO Heritage status in 1983, it sits in the heart of the Urubamba valley, 300 miles south of Lima. It was re-discovered in 1911 by American university lecturer and explorer Hiram Bingham and today receives more visitors that any other site in South America.
At its gateway, the exquisite colonial capital of Cusco sits at 13,000 feet above sea level in the heart of the Andes. One of the continent’s chicest and most striking cities, it is the launch pad for hikes to Machu Picchu and adventures into the Sacred Valley and to the lesser-known Pisac, Sacsayhuamán and Ollantaytambo ruins.
So, how to escape the crowds and do things a little differently? We have lived in Cusco and have our scouts on the ground. We will tell you which museums are really worth their salt, which chefs are causing a sensation in Cusco, the best rooms to nab, the most imaginative guides and where to pick up beautiful Peruvian textiles at local prices.
Spend a few nights in the Sacred Valley just outside Cusco; explore ancient Inca villages, fortresses and lesser visited archaeological sites in the foothills of the Andes. The mountains lend themselves perfectly to outdoor adventures – here we arrange hiking, mountain-bike riding, white-water rafting along the Urubamba River, and riding typical Peruvian Paso horses through the lush valley, meeting with local communities to learn about their traditions.
We have options at both ends of the spectrum, from lakeside lodges with spa treatments and hot tubs to homestays with local Uros families, where guests fish for their supper and learn to hand-loom textiles.