Start off your adventure in the archaeological hub city of Cusco/Cuzco while you acclimate to the altitude and prepare yourself for the heights of Machu Picchu above. This ancient, continuously occupied city will fascinate with its historical buildings such as the must-see architecture of the Plaza de Armas, uniquely situated with the surrounding mountains as its backdrop. The plaza morphed from being the center of activity for the Incas as well as the Spanish conquistadors, to being a hot-spot for tourists looking for souvenirs, restaurants and nightlife. Keep an eye out for taking the iconic photo with a Peruvian alpaca, adorned in colorful accessories, being walked around by local ladies who will take the photo for you for a tip.
Another must-see landmark in Cusco is the grand and impressive Cusco Cathedral, built in the 1500s on top of an ancient Inca palace, exhibiting a unique combination of Gothic, Baroque, and Renaissance styles.
And for a colorful photographic treat check out the San Blas neighborhood, the oldest and most beautiful district which retains the old narrow streets and bright multi-colored houses and international cafes and where local artists display their works, culminating in quite the charming bohemian vibe.
Now that you have had a leisurely day exploring the modern landmarks, it is time to venture out for a couple of hikes to explore the ancient sites of the Incas. The Fortress of Sacsayhuaman is a very impressive massive stone structure with stones weighing up to 125 tons each, and built to protect the capital of Cusco from the invading Spanish conquistadors. And the ruins of Qenko were specifically built as a religious and spiritual site where they would perform ritual sacrifices.
Another fascinating archaeological site is Tambomachay, also known as El Baño del Inca or the “bath of the Inca,” a beautiful construction with a canal system including aqueducts fed by natural springs that create small waterfalls.
And one of the most popular day trips from Cusco is the Sacred Valley and the Pisac Ruins, some of Peru’s most intact ancient sites and with fascinating architecture, built on top of a mountain, with views of the village of Pisac and the extensive countryside. And Pisac itself is a charming little hippie town with traditional markets it is popular for.