Cuzco Peru & the Sacred Valley of the Incas

Cuzco is the old capital of the Incas and a fascinating tourist town in which to spend at least three nights. The best hotel in Cuzco is the Monasterio Hotel. Consider that Cuzco is high in the Andes, and travelers will need at least two days to acclimatize, especially if the plan on trekking the legendary Inca Trail to Machu Picchu. The spectacular Inca ruins at Machu Picchu are everyone’s highlight of their vacation to Peru. Easily accessible from Cuzco are the numerous jungle lodges in the area of Puerto Maldonado, where tourists can fly directly from Cuzco.

Almost everyone who travels to Peru also visits Cuzco, invariably on their way to Machu Picchu. Cuzco is the ancient Inca capital that was founded in 1100 AD. It is well worthy of at least two full days to explore the fascinating city, which is covered it meticulously carved Inca Walls. It has developed into one of South America’s most visited cities – you’re very much on Peru’s “Gringo Trail” here. There are numerous museums, colonial churches, monasteries, convents, and pre-Columbian ruins to discover both in the city and the surrounding Sacred Valley. You’ll need to purchase a “Cuzco Tourist Ticket” which allows you entrance to dozens of sites of interest in Cuzco and the Sacred Valley.

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Cuzco – there’s always something interesting happening in town.

Sacred Valley of the Incas

Aguas Calientes is the access point for Machu Picchu tours, and to get to Aguas Calientes you must travel from Cuzco through the valley of the Incas to Ollantaytambo, from where you catch the train onwards. This slow train also departs from Cuzco, but to avoid a crack of dawn start, it’s best to spend a night (or three) in the Sacred Valley of the Incas, and leisurely travel onwards to Ollantaytambo to pick up the train the following morning. By not visiting the Sacred Valley, you’re missing out on one of Peru’s most interesting and beautiful regions. By visiting on a day tour from Cuzco, and returning to Cuzco for the night, before traveling onwards to Machu Picchu, you’re doubling back on yourself, and wasting time. Our travel advice would be to book a hotel in Peru’s Sacred valley – there are various options. Personally, I would always recommend, to everyone, that Ollantaytambo is the best village to spend a night or two in.

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The indigenous Peruvian people of the Sacred Valley continue to dress traditionally.

Pisac

Pisac is just outside of Cuzco (30km) – there’s a fascinating Sunday market, in addition to an amazing Inca Fortress overlooking the small town. The luxury hacienda the Royal Inca Pisac is a good hotel option if you want to overnight in Pisac. Chinchero and Moray are two other small towns well worthy of a visit in the Sacred Valley – both are oozing with Incan culture and history, and it’s common to take a day tour from Cuzco to visit. Remember it’s best to travel onwards – no point in heading back to Cuzco – head for Ollantaytambo, Urubamba or Yucay and find a hotel in either (en route to Peru’s legendary Machu Picchu).

Urubamba

Urubamba has a wonderful setting with snow-capped Andean mountains in the distance and a fascinating market. Luxury hotels in Urubamba include the Casa Andina Private Collection Sacred Valley, which has numerous adventure travel options for those wanting to stay longer than a night, the colonial Libertador Valle Sagrado Lodge or the excellent Sol y Luna Hotel, which offers private bungalows, mountain biking, trekking, and horseback riding.

Yucay

The nearby town of Yucay is an alternative place to overnight, and a great place to relax for a few nights. Peru has no decent beach resorts – the Sacred valley is the logical place to wind down on your vacation to Peru. Luxury hotels in Yucay include the Inkaterra Urubamba Villas (which offers villa rental complete with a cook if you ask) or the converted monastery of Sonesta Posadas del Inca. There are lots of outdoor adventure activities such as rafting and horseback riding that can be arranged by both.

Ollantaytambo

By far the most scenic and peaceful village in which to stay in the Sacred Valley is Ollantaytambo. It’s a beautifully set village full of ancient old Inca walls and with some splendid Inca ruins in the hills either side of the village. The train to Machu Picchu passes through town, meaning you avoid the very early start from Cuzco. Pakaritampu Hotel is just a few minutes from the train station, or consider the more upmarket Nustayoc Mountain Lodge and resort which is just outside of town. There are over a dozen hotels in Ollantaytambo to choose from in total – it’s a lovely village worth at least a night.

Luxury Cuzco Hotels

Cuzco is rammed full of hotels. While many are cheap backpacker hotels, there’s plenty of luxury options in addition (Peru is one of South America’s top luxury travel destinations). The best luxury hotel in Cuzco is the Monasterio Hotel which is by far the most famous in town. The Monasterio is an old converted monastery, oozing in charm and character. This luxury hotel gets so booked up if there’s no space consider the 5 stars more modern Libertador hotel, or take a step down in price to the 4 star Novotel or Casa Andina Private Collection which are both excellent value.

Monasterio Hotel

The Monasterio hotel in Cuzco is the most famous hotel in town. Oozing in the atmosphere, this converted Monastery has for years been an essential stopping point for visitors to Peru.

Located in the heart of Cuzco, the Monasterio hotel is 3400 meters above sea level in Peru’s Andes. Just 20 minutes from Cuzco Airport, this is the most famous hotel in Cuzco, and one of the best hotels in all of Peru. The hotel is the perfect base to make a trip to Machu Picchu, the most famous Inca ruins in Peru. The 16th-century monastery with wonderfully unique features serves as a museum hotel.  Built in 1592 on old Inca ruins, the Monasterio Hotel has 106 rooms and 18 suites. Furnishings are typically colonial, and most rooms are oxygenated to counteract any altitude sickness that visitors might have.

Overall, the Monasterio is the best place to stay in Cuzco. Just be aware that the standard rooms are quite small – our advice is to book a deluxe room or even a junior suite.

Other Hotels in Cuzco

Cuzco is choc a bloc with many lovely colonial hotels. All over this ancient Incan city, you’ll find lovely hotels to choose from. The closer you are to Cuzco’s central plaza the better, as this is where most of the “action” happens. North of Cuzco’s plaza is a lovely peaceful area to find a hotel – to the South, it’s a little busier and noisier. For backpackers, you’ll find a range of hostels in Cuzco to choose from – the options are endless for all types of visitors to Peru!

Those traveling on from Cuzco to hike the Inca Trail or visit Machu Picchu should definitely consider staying for a night or two in Peru’s Sacred Valley en route – there are many different places to pick from.

 

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