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CUZCO  &  MACHU  PICCHU  -  PERU


Cuzco (also known as Cusco) and the Inca ruins of Machu Picchu (recently declared as one of the "new" Seven Wonders of the World) are probably the best known and most visited sites in all of South America and should be high on the list of any traveler to this continent.
 

T
he City of Cuzco is located in the Southeastern part of the country at an altitude of 3,399 meters above sea level. It was declared as "cultural patrimony of the world " and is considered to be the archeological capital of South America and is without doubt the biggest tourist attraction in Peru. The city is filled with Inca History and architecture, including the immense Sacsayhuaman Fortress, the Q'enqo amphitheater, the ruins of Puca-Pucara and Tambomachay with its suggestive waterfalls. The Churches, which quite often were built by the Catholic conquerors over Inca temples, are filled with excellent works of art from the Cuzco school and pagan image.
 

Besides visits to the ruins both in the city and in the mountains there are many other activities that should be considered when visiting the area. The Inca trail is a highlight for any adventure traveler and brings hikers back in time when Inca runners used to deliver messages between settlements and fortresses.

 

The surrounding areas of Cuzco are rich in history as the city is itself. To the south we find the ruins of Piquillacta, a small Inca village, and the colonial church of Andahuaylillas. To the north is the Sacred Valley of the Incas, irrigated by the Urubamba river, where picturesque towns such as Pisac, with its important ruins and its colorful Sunday market are located.
 

Machu Picchu
, once the citadel of the Inca culture in Peru, sits atop a mountain in a jungle of green landscape at an altitude of 2,400 meters (some 8,000 feet) above sea level. The citadel was a mystery for over 400 years and was left undiscovered during the Spanish Conquest. Not that the Spanish did not search, they wanted to find the gold that was believed to have been there but their search was in vain. The "lost city" of the Incas lost credibility over time, as it sat disguised in the jungle, hidden by eons of overgrowth.
 

In 1911, Yale archaeologist Hiram Bingham finally found Machu Picchu, "the Lost city of the Inca", after years of searching. The "find" of the ancient city made worldwide news, as the citadel was slowly disrobed from her green vegetative mantle of vines and plant life. With a semi tropical climate this monumental archeological unit comprises palaces, temples, plazas, dwellings, steps and terraces.
 

Visitors to Cuzco should take at least a full-day excursion to Machu Picchu. Beginning in Cuzco, we take the train early in the morning, ride through the impressive Sacred Valley of the Incas ending at Aguas Calientes from where we explore the ruins at Machu Picchu.


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