Cusco and the Sacred Valley

Cusco Travel Blog

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View from train of the Rio Urubamba

Cusco and the Sacred Valley (which contains the famous Machu Piccu, although has a lot more besides!) is almost certainly going to be on the circuit that any visitor to Peru would take.  The bus from Puno in the morning was full with other tourists and we sat through the cheesy films that they showed on the 6 hour journey (although at times it felt a lot longer!) across the Altiplano - the area of the Andes which stretches around Lake Titikaka and around to near Arequipa, as far North as near Cusco and as far South as La Paz, Bolivia.   It was an interesting journey to begin with, although was pretty featureless for many miles and we were glad to arrive in Cusco.

Jeremy and Erica at MP

Our first Hostel was "Hostel Los Ninos", which was founded by a Dutch woman in the 1990´s to raise money to help fund projects to help street children in the area.  The building inside was beautiful, a wonderful colonial courtyard and our room was very tastefully decorated (if a little chilly!).  Sadly, we could only stay here for one night and the sister hotel for another night as they were entirely booked-up.

On Jeremy´s last trip, he was very ably looked-after by a tour company and one of their operators - Edith.  We met-up with Edith who very helpfully arrange our train tickets to Machu Picchu, entry and also a sepeate tour to Ollantaytambo and Pisac, other sites important to Inca history.

Machu Picchu

Our impressions of Cusco were that it had a huge focus towards tourism, which is entirely undertandably - there are so many "Gringo´s" wandering around the place, although most seem to be Dutch and German rather than Americans.  It has beautiful Plazas and colonial buildings, although there is still some magnificent original Inca stonework remaining (which was built to withstand earthquakes, although the Spaniards didn´t do this!). 

We had an early start to Machu Picchu, leaving our Hotel at about 5am.  The Peru Rail Vistadome train snaked its way up of the steep hills of Cusco´s suburbs with a series of switchbacks which left the train passing cheek-by-jowl to the houses that sprawled over the hills.  Eventually, the train moved along the Rio Urubamba and between the Occidental and Oriental mounts of the Andes - a hugely spectacular journey and it is easy to see why this is know as one of the most beautiful train trips in the world.

Machu Picchu
  It gave also another interesting insight into how the people of the surrounding area lived - many still survive on subsistence farming in this area on a fairly small scale.  There were many people woring in the fields, and also many children waving at the train.  Eventually we arrived at Aguas Calientes, which is far below Machu Picchu at about 600m lower in altitude.   

We spent a good few hours around Machu Picchu, which by now was very busy with tourists.  The sun beat-down mercilessly and there was very little shade, but it provided a spectacular vista of the site itself and the surrounding mountains and the "Cloud Forests".  The more humid heat and the lush greenery was a reminder as to how close the site was to the Amazon Basin and Villcabamba, which effectively was where the Ina´s made their "last stand" against Spanish Invasion.

View of Sacred Valley from the Train
   Given that there was no written Incan dcumentation, there are many more questions than answers as to why Machu Picchu was abandoned, but it was just a fantastic place to visit and given that there are plans to haver the roofless buildings given new roof structures, it will probably be the last time that we have the opportunity to see the site before it becomes modernised.  We should, however point-out that the buildings are being roofed because the rain soaks onto the site and is causing the site to subside at a rate of about 1cm per month (so it isn´t tourists causing this problem, which was originally thought!).

As we made our way back on the train in the afternoon, we saw the other side of the route that we took in the morning and more spectacular views of the Sacred Valley.  It was a hugely enjoyable day.

The next day we explored around Cusco and went-out with our friend Edith, who Jeremy had met 5 years ago when he last visited Cusco and kindly helped us organise some excurisions whilst we were in Cusco.

Rio Urubamba from the train

On the Sunday, we took a trip along the Sacred Valley to Ollantaytambo, which was a fortified Inca City in the most spactacular scenary.  As we meandered back up alonside the Rio Urubamba, we stopped-off at other places that are of interest and saw some amazing views of the sun setting over the Andes before heading back to the hotel and then onwards on the overnight bus back to Arequipa.

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View from train of the Rio Urubamba
View from train of the Rio Urubamba
Jeremy and Erica at MP
Jeremy and Erica at MP
Machu Picchu
Machu Picchu
Machu Picchu
Machu Picchu
View of Sacred Valley from the Tra…
View of Sacred Valley from the Tr…
Rio Urubamba from the train
Rio Urubamba from the train
Storm coming-in at MP
Storm coming-in at MP
Sunset over Andes on return from S…
Sunset over Andes on return from …
Andes mountains from Sacred valley…
Andes mountains from Sacred valle…
Ollantaytambo, Sacred Valley
Ollantaytambo, Sacred Valley
The Inca Warrior, Ollantay
The Inca Warrior, Ollantay
View of Pisac, Sacred Valley
View of Pisac, Sacred Valley
Hostel Los Niños, Cusco
Hostel Los Niños, Cusco
Cusco Cathedral
Cusco Cathedral
Cusco Plaza de Armas
Cusco Plaza de Armas
Hostel in Cusco
Hostel in Cusco
Cusco
photo by: Vlindeke