Cusco is a beautiful city shaped by a mix of Inca and Catholic beliefs. It is close to the Sacred Valley & Machu Picchu.
Until the arrival of the Spanish in 1532, Cusco was the centre of the Inca Empire and is the oldest continuously inhabited city on the continent, whose legacy as the hub of the empire is readily apparent. Many of the city streets are lined with Inca-built stone walls and crowded with the Quechua-speaking descendants of the Incas. Throughout the city, the blend of Inca and Catholic traditions and beliefs is seen in the ornate colonial cathedrals and churches, built atop ancient Inca foundations, whilst the mighty remains of Sacsayhuaman stand watch over the city, waiting to be explored.
Cusco is also the gateway to the surrounding Inca heartland, the nearby Sacred Valley is a short drive away, whilst the lost Inca citadel of Machu Picchu can be reached via the luxury Hiram Bingham train. From April 2017 you can now travel between Cusco and the 'White City' of Arequipa, via Lake Titicaca and the Colca Canyon, on the Belmond Andean Explorer, Latin America's first luxury sleeper train.
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Today visitors can appreciate the ingenuity of the design, thanks to the imposing zig-zagging walls which remain intact. Put together like a puzzle, the stones of all shapes and sizes form structures so perfect in their design that is mind-boggling to contemplate anyone being capable of such a feat of engineering, especially without the tools and equipment on hand today (its baffling even how some of the stones got there).
On June 24th and a few days either side, the huge Inca "Sun Festival" is held to celebrate the winter solstice. Local people, in brightly-coloured garb, perform dances & rituals, whilst visitors & locals alike view the celebration from massive ruins of Sacsayhuaman. A festive atmosphere depicting a bygone era.
Insights - Hiram Bingham Train to Machu Picchu
The Hiram Bingham train is modelled on the Pullman cars of the 1920s and is the most luxurious train journey in Peru.
It will leave from Poroy station at 09.00. Brunch, wine and refreshments are served on board whilst you enjoy the spectacular scenery of the Urubamba Valley, unfolding before you through the large windows. Following arrival at Machu Picchu at 12.30, you check-in to your hotel Sanctuary Lodge. In the afternoon you have a guided tour of the archaeological site, at a time when most visitors are having lunch or starting to leave. In the afternoon tea and cakes are served at your hotel. Sanctuary Lodge is the only hotel in close proximity to the ruins, and offering twenty-nine well appointed rooms and two suites. The service is impeccable and the food excellent.
On day two you have time to explore Machu Picchu on your own and absorb the atmosphere. Board the train at 18.00 for the return journey to Cusco, where you will be served a gourmet three course dinner along with wine and pisco sour cocktails, while Peruvian musicians perform traditional songs in the bar
Insights - Andean Explorer Train
Travel in ultimate style on board the Belmond Andean Explorer, South America's first sleeper train. Journey between the former Inca capital of Cusco to the beautiful 'white city' of Arequipa, via the majestic islands of Lake Titicaca. Enjoy sweeping views of the high plains of the Peruvian altiplano from the open-air observation deck, pisco sour in hand and new friends by your side. Gather round the grand piano in the lounge bar and dine in the sumptuous surrounds of the two dining cars, enjoying dishes created by skilled chefs and made with fresh and locally sourced ingredients. At night, sleep in luxurious cabins inspired by Peruvian fabrics and with your own en-suite shower.
Trips between Cusco and Arequipa are two night itineraries, offering the perfect mix of exploration and relaxation. These stop en-route at Lake Titicaca to visit the Uros floating reed islands and traditional Taquille Island, with its fabulous views of the lake. It is also possible to see the rock art of the first human inhabitants of Peru and explore the Colca Canyon, twice as deep as the Grand Canyon and the best place in South America to see the powerful condor.
A one night service takes visitors between the famous lake and Cusco.