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The Ultimate Cusco Itinerary for Three to Ten Days

As the one-time capital of an empire which stretched across much of the continent, Cusco has long been on travellers’ radar. But while Cusco itself offers tons to do, the region surrounding the city possesses a plethora of can’t-miss attractions as well.

Cusco's Iglesia de la Companía de Jesús on the Plaza de Armas
The Iglesia De La Compañia De Jesús towers over the Plaza de Armas in the historic core of Cusco.

With so many things to do and a limited time in which to do them, the planning process may seem quite the headache. However, with our three- to ten-day Cusco itineraries, setting up your Andean getaway is as stress-free and fun as it’s ever been.

Recommendations for traveling in Cusco and how to use this itinerary:

  • Peru is a big country. There’s so much to see and many travellers try to pack in as much as is humanly possible. While a whirlwind few days between destinations is quite an adventure, it’s usually best to slow it down to really get to know each place you visit.
  • Transport in Peru is excellent value. To cover long distances, for example, Lima to Cusco, flying is a better alternative to a long bus journey (and won’t cost much more, either). To get between destinations within the Cusco region, your best options are local colectivo (shared van), taxi, or private transfer through a tour. Colectivos are great value and generally comfortable for covering the winding mountain roads (although you’ll want to bring travel sickness tablets if you’re not a good passenger!).
  • Although we don’t focus on budget traveling, Peru is a good-value destination that allows travelers to save money by eating locally and using local transport. Set lunches (menú del día) are a great way to eat well and save your soles.
  • If you plan on visiting more than one archaeological site, you should definitely purchase the boleto turístico, which costs S/130 ($40 USD) and lasts ten days from first use. It allows you to visit nearly all archaeological sites in the region (but not Machu Picchu). Alternatively, there are two day passes for S/70 ($18 USD) which cover different sites.
  • Renting a car is advisable only for people comfortable driving on winding, two-lane mountain roads. It can be an amazing experience to unlock the countryside, but generally speaking, you’re better off leaving the driving to the locals as the roads – and the experience – can prove harrowing for many.
  • Uber is legal in Peru and works well within Cusco. However, it’s often cheaper to go with a local taxi which are usually unmetered but fair value. Always agree on the destination and price before getting in.

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Cusco itinerary for three days of travel

Day One: Cusco

Arriving in Alejandro Velasco Astete Cusco International Airport (CUZ), take a taxi to your accommodation. Because of the Cusco altitude, take the day to walk around, hydrate and acclimate. The best local way of avoiding altitude sickness is to put coca leaves (hojas de coca) in your cheek. You can find them at local markets across the city.

To get a feel for the historic city centre, start at the Plaza de Armas, the heart of the old city. Surrounding the plaza are the stunning Catedral de Cusco and Iglesia de la Companía de Jesús. both built shortly after the conquest in the 16th century.

Cusco's Plaza de Armas and the rooftops of the historic city centre
Cusco’s photogenic Plaza de Armas is always busy, day or night.

Next, pop into one of the many excellent museums to better understand the history, culture and archaeological past of this region. Among the best are the Museo de Arte Precolombino, Museo Inka and Qorikancha. Each offers insight into the way of life before the Spanish conquest.

Among the best things to do in Cusco is to stroll through Mercado San Pedro on the southwest end of the historical centre to stock up on souvenirs, quality woollen textiles, and fresh produce.

For hungry travellers, Cusco boasts a great selection of restaurants offering exceptional local food:

  • On the north side of town, Quinta Eulalia serves up family-style platters with local favourites including grilled lamb, lechón (slow-roasted pork), chicharrón (deep-fried pork skin), and fried cuy (guinea pig).
  • Another great local option is La Chomba Ajha Wasi, which offers generous portions of good-value, traditional dishes in a large room with communal seating and live music.
  • For an outstanding upscale meal, try Piedra & Sal, cooking up refined versions of local favourites, including slow-roasted lamb, local trout with quinoa, or grilled alpaca steak.
  • For those seeking an alternative to the predominately meat-heavy local fare, head to GreenPoint, which serves beautifully-presented vegan takes on typically Andean dishes.

Where to stay in Cusco: The neighbourhoods of San Blas and San Cristóbal, east and north of the centre, respectively, offer a great range of options for those willing to climb the hill from the centre. Among the best are the tastefully-appointed Palacio Manco Capac ($140 USD double), and the lovely Antigua Casona San Blas ($165 USD double). If you’d rather avoid the climb out of the centre, we recommend El Mercado just east of the Plaza de Armas.

Where to stay in Cusco on a budget: Few places offer the degree of comfort and affordability as MOAF Boutique Hotel ($80 USD double). The rooms are bright thanks to plenty of natural light and have modern furnishings and pleasant neutral decoration. This helps to enhance the rooftop views available in some bedrooms, as well as in various communal areas.

When looking for a place to stay, check out our guide to where to stay in Cusco, which offers a full range of options catering to all travelers.

Day Two: Ollantaytambo and the Sacred Valley

Get an early morning start by catching a colectivo (shared van) to Urubamba, and then onward to Ollantaytambo. Colectivos leave from Cusco to Urubamba from the corner of Puputi Street and Juan Carlos Street, take an hour and a half to arrive and cost S/8-12 ($2-3 USD) depending on the van. From the Urubamba terminal, another colectivo to Ollantaytambo takes half an hour and costs S/2 ($0.5 USD).

Ollantaytambo, or Ollanta (o-YAN-tah), as the locals call it, is itself a living museum piece and is the closest to what a traditional Incan town was centuries ago.

Inca buildings at the archeological site Ollantaytambo in the sacred Valley
Ollantaytambo is home to one of the largest and most impressive Inca sites in the Sacred Valley.

Perfectly situated between two steep mountain ridges, the town sits between archaeological sites: the primary complex in the west with the Temple of the Sun at its top, and the mountainside storehouses facing the town from the east.

Ollanta can be quite crowded when Machu Picchu-bound tourist groups come through on the train, but the rest of the time it has a relaxed vibe. For a snack or something more substantial, check out Apu Ausangate on the main plaza, which offers a full range of beverages and Peruvian comfort food like quinoa soup, trout ceviche, and house-made chicha morada, a sweet, slightly fermented purple corn beverage.

From here, hop on the afternoon train to Aguas Calientes, the town directly under Machu Picchu. The train from Ollantaytambo to Aguas Calientes takes two hours and must be booked in advance through Peru Rail. It’s advised to book a good few weeks in advance to ensure you get a seat as the train is the only means of getting there.

Arriving in Aguas Calientes, check in to your hotel and arrange for an early wake-up call if necessary, because in the morning you’re going to Machu Picchu! You may choose to arrange a guide for the next day (required for Machu Picchu), or you can wait until you arrive at the gate in the morning.

Where to stay in Aguas Calientes: You can stay at the well-appointed, boutique hotel, Casa del Sol Machu Picchu ($263 USD double) or the ultra-plush Sumaq Machu Picchu Hotel ($510 USD double). 

Where to stay in Aguas Calientes on a budget: Travelers seeking a more social atmosphere can stay at the lively Supertramp Hostel ($43 USD double), which has a bar, restaurant and a youthful vibe – just don’t stay up too late as it’s an early start tomorrow!

Day Three: Machu Picchu and return to Cusco

Your three-day tour of the Incan heartland concludes with Peru’s coup de grâce: the Andean citadel of Machu Picchu. Entrance tickets must be purchased in advance, either online or at the Ministerio de Cultura on Garcilaso Street in Cusco. It is possible to buy tickets in Aguas Calientes but because the number of daily visitors is limited it’s best to book online to avoid disappointment.

Machu Picchu as seen at dawn as mist clings to Huayna Picchu
Machu Picchu, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of the New Seven Wonders of the World.

Wake up early to beat the crowds up the mountain. The first bus leaves at 5:30am, and tickets can be bought in advance online with Consettur, or with cash in person with your passport.

The gates open at 6am, and now would be the time to settle on a guide if you haven’t already. Tour guides are all state-certified, knowledgeable and totally worth the cost. Make sure you and your guide can communicate effectively, as language skills can vary between guides. The going rate is S/75 ($20 USD) per person, with a discount for larger groups. The tours run two to three hours and tips are always appreciated.

Hopping back on the bus, get lunch at Chullos before making your way back to the train station. Trains run all the way to Cusco, and take around four hours to arrive at San Pedro Station.

For your final night, enjoy an evening out in Cusco. Treat yourself to a refined cocktail at the Museo del Pisco, which specialises in the grape liquor pisco, Peru’s premier distillation.

Cusco itinerary for five days of travel

Days One and Two: Cusco

Arriving at the airport, take a taxi to your accommodation. Take a day or two to simply walk around, hydrate and acclimate. Starting at the Plaza de Armas, visit the Catedral de Cusco and Iglesia de la Companía de Jesús, the most impressive Spanish architectural feats.

Dotting the old centre are numerous examples of the Incan architecture which predates the Spanish arrival. Take in the unparalleled Incan masonry along the narrow alleys, contrasting with the newer Spanish baroque architecture.

A pretty street sign on the corner of the Plaza de Armas in Cusco, Peru
Cusco’s Plaza de Armas contains a wealth of Spanish baroque architecture.

Next, pop into one of the many excellent museums to better understand the history, culture and archaeological past of this region. Among the best are the Museo de Arte Precolombino, Museo Inka and Qorikancha. Each offers insight into the way of life before the Spanish conquest.

For Day Two, visit the Centro de Textiles Tradicionales del Cusco to see how the local handmade textile industry continues to thrive as it has for centuries. You’ll have the opportunity to join in a workshop and sample their exquisite wares.

Alternatively, join in a local Peruvian cooking class. They’ll teach you Incan culinary history while walking you through local recipes, such as sarsa (Peruvian-style salad), trout soup and a pisco sour.

Finally, a visit to Cusco is incomplete without a trip to Mercado San Pedro. This is the perfect place to pick up handicrafts, fresh produce, locally-made chocolate or maté, and of course llama and alpaca textiles such as scarves, hats and jumpers.

For superb dining and accommodation options, scroll up to the three-day guide.

Where to stay in Cusco: The neighbourhoods of San Blas and San Cristóbal, east and north of the centre, respectively, offer a great range of options for those willing to climb the hill from the centre. Among the best are the tastefully-appointed Palacio Manco Capac ($140 USD double), and the lovely Antigua Casona San Blas ($165 USD double). If you’d rather avoid the climb out of the centre, we recommend El Mercado, just east of the Plaza de Armas.

Where to stay in Cusco on a budget: Few places offer the degree of comfort and affordability as MOAF Boutique Hotel ($80 USD). The rooms are bright thanks to plenty of natural light and have modern furnishings and pleasant neutral decoration. This helps to enhance the rooftop views available in some bedrooms, as well as in various communal areas.

Day Three: Pisac

Just north of Cusco lies the exquisite Sacred Valley, which runs along the length of the Urubamba River. This stunning verdant valley runs east to west and offers a perfect change of pace from busier Cusco.

On Day 3, head just north out of town to Pisac. The valley can be accessed by local colectivo shared vans, taxi or private tours. Colectivos leave from the corner of Puputi and Juan Santos Streets, and leave for Pisac (a 45-minute drive) and cost between S/4-10 ($1-2.5 USD).

The town of Pisac is set in a lovely point in the upper portion of the valley, and offers a more laid-back experience compared with Cusco. It’s also significantly lower in elevation than Cusco and offers some respite for those suffering from altitude sickness.

Inca terraces and buildings at the Sacred Valley Inca site, Pisac
Inca terraces line the valley sides at Pisac, deep in the Sacred Valley.

The highlights are the local artisan market and the outstanding ruin complex of the same name high above town. Half the fun of visiting the ruins is the hike up, which affords stunning views and begins from the north end of town. The hike is three to four hours up, but taxis are available for those who would prefer to only walk downhill back to town.

For food, Mullu has an eclectic menu of both local and international crowd-pleasers, and Antica Osteria Pisac has some of the best pizza and pasta you’re likely to find in this corner of the world.

An alternative for day three would be to spend the night at the luxurious retreat Aranwa Sacred Valley Hotel & Wellness ($170 USD double)  just outside of Urubamba or to push on to Ollantaytambo, from where you can catch the train the following day to Aguas Calientes.

Where to stay in Pisac: For those choosing to spend the night in town, we recommend the homey Pisac Inn ($93 USD double), opposite the central plaza. It engages those looking for more luxurious surroundings. From its charming rooms to the on-site spa facilities, this hotel is a place to be spoiled. 

Where to stay in Pisac on a budget: A good budget alternative would be El Parche Hostel ($19 USD double), just west of town along the river, with plenty of communal space and a rooftop terrace.

Day Four: Ollantaytambo and train to Aguas Calientes

From Pisac or Urubamba, take a colectivo or taxi downriver to Ollanta, where you can explore the well-preserved ruins rising above the cobble-stoned streets.

Catch the afternoon train to Aguas Calientes, sort out your accommodation and final Machu Picchu preparations before turning in for an early start the following morning.

Where to stay in Aguas Calientes: You can stay at the well-appointed, boutique hotel, Casa del Sol Machu Picchu ($263 USD double) or the ultra-plush Sumaq Machu Picchu Hotel ($510 USD double). 

Where to stay in Aguas Calientes on a budget: Travelers seeking a more social atmosphere can stay at the lively Supertramp Hostel ($43 USD double), which has a bar, restaurant and a youthful vibe – just don’t stay up too late as it’s an early start tomorrow!

Day Five: Machu Picchu and return to Cusco

As in the three-day itinerary, take the first bus up the hill to witness the Incan citadel in all its early morning splendour. Following your tour, take the bus back downhill and enjoy a leisurely lunch before hopping on the train back to Cusco.

For your final night, enjoy an evening out in Cusco. Treat yourself to a refined cocktail at the Museo del Pisco, which specialises in the grape liquor pisco, Peru’s premier distillation.

Cusco itinerary for seven days of travel

Days One and Two: Cusco

Arriving at the airport, take a taxi to your accommodation. Take a day or two to simply walk around, hydrate and acclimate. Starting at the Plaza de Armas, visit the Catedral de Cusco and Iglesia de la Companía de Jesús, the most impressive Spanish architectural feats.

Dotting the old centre are numerous examples of the Incan architecture which predates the Spanish arrival. Take in the unparalleled Incan masonry along the narrow alleys, contrasting with the newer Spanish baroque architecture.

Next, pop into one of the many excellent museums to better understand the history, culture and archaeological past of this region. Among the best are the Museo de Arte Precolombino, Museo Inka and Qorikancha. Each offers insight into the way of life before the Spanish conquest.

A cobbled street in one of Cusco, Peru's historical old city centre
Cusco’s cobbled streets are a photographer’s dream in the early morning.

For Day Two, visit the Centro de Textiles Tradicionales del Cusco to see how the local handmade textile industry continues to thrive as it has for centuries. You’ll have the opportunity to join in a workshop and sample their exquisite wares.

Alternatively, join in a local Peruvian cooking class. They’ll teach you Incan culinary history while walking you through local recipes, such as sarsa (Peruvian-style salad), trout soup and a pisco sour.

Finally, a visit to Cusco is incomplete without a trip to Mercado San Pedro. This is the perfect place to pick up handicrafts, fresh produce, locally-made chocolate or maté, and of course llama and alpaca textiles such as scarves, hats and jumpers.

For superb dining and accommodation options, scroll up to the three-day guide.

Where to stay in Cusco: The neighbourhoods of San Blas and San Cristóbal, east and north of the centre, respectively, offer a great range of options for those willing to climb the hill from the centre. Among the best are the tastefully-appointed Palacio Manco Capac ($140 USD double), and the lovely Antigua Casona San Blas ($165 USD double). If you’d rather avoid the climb out of the centre, we recommend El Mercado, just east of the Plaza de Armas.

Where to stay in Cusco on a budget: Few places offer the degree of comfort and affordability as MOAF Boutique Hotel ($80 USD). The rooms are bright thanks to plenty of natural light and have modern furnishings and pleasant neutral decoration. This helps to enhance the rooftop views available in some bedrooms, as well as in various communal areas.

Day Three: Pisac

As in the five-day itinerary, Pisac is a great jumping-off point from Cusco into the Sacred Valley.

Inca terraces and buildings at the Sacred Valley Inca site, Pisac
Pisac is home to wealth of terraces and other Inca architecture that has somehow stood the test of time.

You’ll have the opportunity for a good hike up to the ruins and to recover from any residual altitude sickness from Cusco.

Where to stay in Pisac: For those choosing to spend the night in town, we recommend the homey Pisac Inn ($93 USD double), opposite the central plaza. It engages those looking for more luxurious surroundings. From its charming rooms to the on-site spa facilities, this hotel is a place to be spoiled. 

Where to stay in Pisac on a budget: A good budget alternative would be El Parche Hostel ($19 USD double), just west of town along the river, with plenty of communal space and a rooftop terrace.

Day Four: Sacred Valley exploration and retreat

From Pisac, you can choose to visit either Moray, a collection of concentric terraces designed by the Inca to test how crops grow at different elevations, or Chinchero, a ruin complex of immense terraces, irrigation channels, and well-preserved Incan masonry.

To reach these sites, take a colectivo or taxi from the bridge in Pisac to Urubamba (45 minutes, S/2-3 ($0.5-0.75 USD), and about a half-hour by taxi from there to either Moray or Chinchero.

The concentric circles of Moray, an open-air laboratory dating from the Inca and located in the Sacred Valley, Peru
The concentric circles of Moray, an open-air laboratory dating from the Inca and located in the Sacred Valley, Peru.

A wonderful place to post up for the night is the lovely Aranwa Sacred Valley Hotel & Wellness ($158 USD double), which offers well-appointed rooms, great food, and a range of spa treatments to soothe your aching body.

Day Five: Ollantaytambo

A half-hour colectivo ride downriver from Urubamba will take you to the delightful town of Ollantaytambo. In Ollanta, make sure to keep your camera handy as you climb the ruins, which offer terrific views of the surrounding mountains and valley.

While away the afternoon sipping on a maté or beer and tuck into some excellent Andean cuisine at El Huacatay for dinner. 

Where to stay in Ollantaytambo: Right next to the train station, but home to a lush garden and suntrap terrace, El Albergue ($142 USD double) is a tranquil place to while away the evening. They also have a fantastic on-site restaurant that cooks up ingredients from the hotel’s organic vegetable garden.

Where to stay in Ollantaytambo on a budget: Rustic but clean bedrooms are the norm at the affordable Picaflor Tambo Guest House ($42 USD double) run by owners who will ensure you have the most comfortable stay possible

Day Six: Aguas Calientes

For Day Six, you can either take the morning train onward to Aguas Calientes, or take your time, enjoy the morning and lunch in Ollanta, and catch the afternoon berth (don’t forget to book your tickets in advance).

Once you arrive in Aguas Calientes, sort out your final preparations for Machu Picchu, enjoy dinner and a nightcap at Mapacho, and turn in early for your morning ascent.

Where to stay in Aguas Calientes: You can stay at the well-appointed, boutique hotel, Casa del Sol Machu Picchu ($263 USD double) or the ultra-plush Sumaq Machu Picchu Hotel ($510 USD double). 

Where to stay in Aguas Calientes on a budget: Travelers seeking a more social atmosphere can stay at the lively Supertramp Hostel ($43 USD double), which has a bar, restaurant and a youthful vibe – just don’t stay up too late as it’s an early start tomorrow!

Day Seven: Machu Picchu and return to Cusco

On day deven, do as you would for the three- or five-day itinerary and take the afternoon train back into Cusco. Enjoy your final night in the city of the Incas with a stellar meal, and enjoy the night out if you’ve still got the energy.

Cusco itinerary for ten days of travel

Days One to Three: Cusco

For Day One, do the same as in the three-day Cusco itinerary.

On Day Two, head just north of the centre to Saqsaywamán, the largest Incan complex in Cusco. Built as a palace and fortress and still in construction at the time of the Spanish arrival, the complex is an architectural marvel overlooking the city below.

Equally impressive for many are the colonial era cathedrals, churches and museums sharing the old centre. In addition to the cathedrals on the Plaza de Armas, don’t miss the Iglesia Santo Domingo and the Templo del San Blas, each with a stunning interior and collection of religious art.

For Day Three, take part in a workshop at the Centro de Textiles Tradicionales del Cusco to see how the local handmade textile industry continues to thrive as it has for centuries.

A street sign in Cusco, Peru
Even the street signs in Cusco look old and beautiful.

For those keen on learning to make some of the amazing food on offer here, you’ll want to take a local cooking class. They’ll teach you Incan culinary history while walking you through local recipes, such as sarsa (Peruvian-style salad), trout soup and a pisco sour.

Finally, a visit to Cusco is incomplete without a trip to Mercado San Pedro. This is the perfect place to pick up handicrafts, fresh produce, locally-made chocolate or maté, and of course llama and alpaca textiles such as scarves, hats and jumpers.

For lunch and dinner, Cusco possesses a great selection of restaurants offering exceptional local food. See above for a list of options.

When looking for a place to stay, check out our guide of where to stay in Cusco, which offers a full range of options catering to all travellers.

Where to stay in Cusco: The neighbourhoods of San Blas and San Cristóbal, east and north of the centre, respectively, offer a great range of options for those willing to climb the hill from the centre. Among the best are the tastefully-appointed Palacio Manco Capac ($140 USD double), and the lovely Antigua Casona San Blas ($165 USD double).

Where to stay in Cusco on a budget: Few places offer the degree of comfort and affordability as MOAF Boutique Hotel ($80 USD). The rooms are bright thanks to plenty of natural light and have modern furnishings and pleasant neutral decoration. This helps to enhance the rooftop views available in some bedrooms, as well as in various communal areas.

Day Four: Pisac

On Day Four, head just north out of town to Pisac. The valley can be accessed by local colectivo shared vans, taxi or private tour. Colectivos leave from the corner of Puputi and Juan Santos Streets, and leave for Pisac (a 45-minute drive) and cost between S/4-10 ($1-2.5 USD).

The town of Pisac is set in a lovely point in the upper portion of the valley, and offers a more laid-back experience compared with Cusco. It’s also significantly lower than Cusco and offers some respite for those suffering from altitude sickness.

The Sacred Valley as seen from the Inca site of Pisac
Views across the Sacred Valley from the archeological site of Pisac high above.

The highlights are the local artisan market and the outstanding ruin complex of the same name high above town. Half the fun of visiting the ruins is the hike up, which affords stunning views and begins from the north end of town. The hike takes 3-4 hours up, but taxis are available for those who would prefer to only walk downhill back to town.

Where to stay in Pisac: For those choosing to spend the night in town, we recommend the homey Pisac Inn ($93 USD double), opposite the central plaza. It engages those looking for more luxurious surroundings. From its charming rooms to the on-site spa facilities, this hotel is a place to be spoiled. 

Where to stay in Pisac on a budget: A good budget alternative would be El Parche Hostel ($19 USD double), just west of town along the river, with plenty of communal space and a rooftop terrace.

Days Five and Six: Urubamba 

On Day Five, take another colectivo (or taxi) from the bridge leading into town to Urubamba, the valley’s central town. While the city itself is more a workaday agricultural and transit hub, the bucolic surroundings make it an excellent place to unwind for a day.

A popular day trip just south of the valley from Urubamba is Moray, which is a collection of concentric terraces designed by the Incans to test how crops grow at different elevations. A taxi from Urubamba costs between S/60-80 ($15-20 USD) and takes less than a half-hour.

For a tasty lunch to refuel before heading out of town, try El Huacatay, whose locally-sourced creations include alpaca, trout and pastas.

A deluxe bedroom in the five-star Hacienda Inkaterra Urubamba in Peru's Sacred Valley
One of the gorgeous rustic-chic bedrooms in Inkaterra Hacienda Urubamba, a five-star hotel in Peru’s Sacred Valley.

On Day Six, take a colectivo or taxi from Urubamba to Chinchero, for a half-day excursion to the largely uncrowded archaeological complex. The ruins consist of immense terraces, irrigation channels, and well-preserved Incan masonry. 

Where to stay in Urubamba: Inkaterra Hacienda Urubamba ($420 USD double) is a five-star hotel with a gorgeous setting tucked away in the valley. Most of the bedrooms are located in the main house, a Spanish-style hacienda with rustic-chic bedrooms, luxurious bathrooms and private balconies, plus a cosy lounge and bar. Standalone cabins give you more privacy; all have glorious views along the Sacred Valley. , serving up bedrooms that embody either one of two main themes: colonial or modern.

Where to stay in Urubamba on a budget: Hospedaje Venka Urubamba (S/140 or $35 USD double) offers options for all types of wanderers. Budget travellers will find the double room more than adequate to accommodate their needs: a comfy bed, a private bathroom, and a patio with either city or mountain view.

Day Seven: Ollantaytambo

Take another colectivo from Urubamba to Ollantaytambo, the Sacred Valley’s most atmospheric town. Ollanta (o-YAN-tah), as the locals call it, is itself a living museum piece and is the closest to what a traditional Incan town was centuries ago.

Inca buildings at the archeological site Ollantaytambo in the sacred Valley
Inca storehouses high on the valley sides above the Inca town of Ollantaytambo in the Sacred Valley, a must-visit location on any Cusco Itinerary.

Perfectly situated between two steep mountain ridges, the town sits between archeological sites: the primary complex in the west with the Temple of the Sun at its top, and the mountainside storehouses facing the town from the east.

Ollanta can be quite crowded when Machu Picchu-bound tourist groups come through on the train, but the rest of the time it has a relaxed vibe. For a snack or something more substantial, check out Apu Ausangate on the main plaza, which offers a full range of beverages and Peruvian comfort food like quinoa soup, trout ceviche, and house-made chicha morada, a sweet, slightly fermented purple corn beverage.

Where to stay in Ollantaytambo: There are a number of boutique hotel options in the narrow cobbled streets of Ollanta, and one of the best is Apu Lodge ($70 USD double). Right next to the train station, but home to a lush garden and suntrap terrace, El Albergue ($142 USD double) is a tranquil place to while away the evening. They also have a fantastic on-site restaurant that cooks up ingredients from the hotel’s organic vegetable garden.

Where to stay in Ollantaytambo on a budget: Rustic but clean bedrooms are the norm at the affordable Picaflor Tambo Guest House ($42 USD double) run by owners who will ensure you have the most comfortable stay possible

Days Eight and Nine: Aguas Calientes and Machu Picchu

From Ollanta on Day Eight, take either the morning or afternoon train to Aguas Calientes as you would for the three- or five-day itinerary. You may choose to either remain in Aguas Calientes for Day Nine, or return to Cusco by train for an extra day.

Machu Picchu as seen at dawn as mist clings to Huayna Picchu
Machu Picchu as seen at dawn as mist clings to Huayna Picchu mountain.

Days Nine and Ten: Cusco

Once you return to Cusco, take advantage of any activities you feel you may have missed out on. If you’re keen on visiting another archaeological site, Q’enqo is just past Saqsaywamán on the road north of town.

For those seeking something more active, Cusco Peru Adventure offers ATV tours, horseback riding and paragliding on day trips nearby the city.

East of Cusco in the village of Andahuaylillas is perhaps the most beautiful church in the region, San Pedro Apóstol de Andahuaylillas.