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32 • Vacations


Fall 2018

Vacations® •

Fall 2018 • 33







Ex raordinary Experiences

Cusco, the gateway to Machu Picchu, is a small, bustling

city – only half a million people live in what was once the

capital city of the Inca Empire; but these days, some two

million visitors come from around the world every year en

route to Machu Picchu. From Cusco, travellers make their

way to the start of the famed four-day Inca Trail hike or go

all the way to Machu Picchu by train and bus. But Cusco isn’t

just a stopover – it’s worth spending a few days to explore.

While Machu Picchu is undoubtedly the

pinnacle to most Peruvian adventures,

getting there is just as much fun.

Gateway to

Machu Picchu

By Karen Leiva


Cusco, recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage site, tells the

story of the historic Spanish conquest over the Incas – and

efforts to create a modern city that preserves Inca traditions.

The Plaza de Armas, constructed by the Incan Empire, was

taken over by Spanish colonial buildings in the 1500s and what

remains is a combination of those two architectural styles.

Nearby trendy restaurants, like Uchu, where alpaca and beef

steaks are served sizzling on volcanic hot plates, are tucked

into narrow cobblestone alleys once carved out by the Incas.

Inside the Catholic cathedral, you’ll find hints of Incan homage

to nature. It’s worth visiting the Plaza de Armas at night, if only

to sit on the steps and take in the city’s nightlife.


Just a 15-minute drive outside of the city, take a guided tour

through the Saqsaywaman ruins. With temples dedicated

to earth and nature, it is believed that Saqsaywaman was

one of the Inca’s most important religious sites where rituals

were performed in honour of the Sun God and Mother Earth.

If you are fortunate to visit in June, don’t miss the Festival

of the Sun which sees a procession in traditional Incan dress

descend on the ruins for an elaborate ceremony. Beyond the

ruins, there are picture-perfect views of Cusco’s red tile-roof

homes and llamas grazing in fields. Also, check out the nearby

planetarium at night for a look at the stars and to learn how

the Inca used the constellations to guide their agricultural



The journey to Machu Picchu takes you through the

picturesque Sacred Valley. The road winds through the

majestic Andes, where industrious farmers have carved out

agriculture terraces on mountain slopes. A likely stop is a

look-out point to see the Urubamba River from high in the

mountains. Further on is Chinchero, where travellers can learn

more about the ancient art of weaving. The Ccaccaccollo

Women’s Weaving Collective, supported by G Adventures, is

another weaving co-op where women from nearby villages

give demonstrations and sell their handicrafts.

The last stop before arriving to Machu Picchu is Aguas

Calientes, a town that was constructed along the banks of

the Urubamba River to support massive numbers of tourists

heading to and fromMachu Picchu. Make-shift spas are popular

here, offering trekkers a chance to recover from (or get ready

for) their hike. Try the ‘Inca Massage’ at the Vida Spa, but when

the masseuse asks you how strong you want the pressure,

remember the women doing the massages are the descendants

of a powerful people.