Inca Trail to Machu Picchu#8 in Best Things To Do in Cusco
Winding through Peru's verdant landscape toward Machu Picchu, this famous four-day hike is not for the faint of heart. That said, recent travelers say the laborious trek pays off with gorgeous scenery, interesting wildlife and for many, a life-changing experience.
You'll likely start your journey near KM 82 along the Cusco-Aguas Calientes railway and then follow the trail's zigzagging path toward the "lost city." The three-night journey pays off with the views from the Sun Gate at dawn.
Since interest in the trail and the ruins has skyrocketed in recent decades, trekkers are only allowed to visit with licensed tour operators. The best time to visit is during the dry season (from May to September, with peak season in June, July and August). Since spots fill up quickly, plan to book well in advance with a reputable company that includes camping gear, meals and the Machu Picchu entrance fee. You'll also want to select a company that treats its porters fairly. A few reputable companies include Aventours, PeruTreks, Llama Path and SAS Travel, but there are dozens more. You can find a list here, along with tips for visiting Machu Picchu.
No matter which operator you choose, you'll still be roughing it along the trail. Make sure to pack sturdy hiking shoes, a warm sleeping bag and plenty of layers, as temperatures drop at night throughout the year. You’ll also want to arrive a few days early and check out the other attractions in Cusco, if only because you'll need to acclimate to the altitude before starting your journey.
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#1 Plaza de Armas
The history of the Plaza de Armas stretches back all the way to the Inca Empire when it was called Huacaypata or Aucaypata. The massive square (originally twice its current size) was built as a venue for festivals and ceremonies in ancient times.
According to legend, this plaza once marked the exact center of the Inca Empire, earning Cusco the nickname "the navel of the world." After Spanish conquistadors conquered the city in the early 1500s, they erected two churches on the either sides of the square – Iglesia de La Compañía de Jesús and La Catedral – where the former Incan palace once stood.
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