By Ted Rose
Any visit to Machu Picchu begins in Cusco, the capital of the Inca empire that at its height stretched from modern day Argentina to Ecuador. To the Spanish Conquistadors, Cusco was

a major source of golden idols that were melted down and shipped to Europe as bullion. For me, 11,000-foot Cusco is a base for altitude adjustment. Flying in from Lima, the seaside

Peruvian capital, I'm hopped up on Diamox, to ward off the effects of the thin air.

Where overnight in Cusco ? Surf our suggested hotels and resort list and also the travelogues section

When the Spanish looted Cusco, they found plenty of wealth, but they never found Machu Picchu. These days, of course, Cusco travel agents are more than happy to point you in the right

 direction and get you there by practically any means you like. Wanting to walk, I sign up for a budget backpacker tour. For $80 a piece, the outfitter agrees to provide food and shelter for

 the four-day hike, plus transportation to the trailhead near the base of the Sacred Valley — a fertile plain that has produced much of the highland region's crops since Inca times.

Cusco Cathedral


I set out for the Sacred Valley one day early to see a bit more of the country and shed some of Cusco's altitude. I spend a night at Ollantaytambo, a small village framed by the Inca fortress that

 rises just steps from the town's square. It's an historic area of its own — the endpoint of the Spanish explorations in this area. The next morning, at 8 a.m., I rendezvous with the bus carrying

fellow trekkers, and we drive to the trailhead.

If one were to follow the Urubamba River, as the train tracks do, the hike would be a gradual descent into the lush jungle that surrounds the ruins: Machu Picchu is at a significantly lower altitude

 than Ollyantantambo. But the Inca Trail takes the high road, then low road, then the high road, making for a tough journey, especially when battling altitude. The trail, which at points retains the

 cobblestones laid by the Incas, traverses several steep Andean valleys and features three passes over 12,000 feet. It's difficult hiking, to be sure; in return, one is rewarded with spectacular views

 of the Urubamba gorge and the neighboring Andean peaks.

Or so I was told. The first day, clear views capture our eyes and imaginations, but then rain and clouds start moving in. This is unusual for August (the South American winter), which is supposedly the

 best time to visit. And the crowds (another staple of the high season) are as much in evidence as the clouds. Competition for camping spaces is so intense that our tour leader sends out
porters a day

 in advance in an effort to secure the best ones.

But the fourth day brings the prospect of reaching Machu Picchu. We wake before dawn to hike the final stretch

Check us out in Frommers cusco hostal we got everything you are looking for to make your stay comfortable
Program Duration Highlights
CUSCO CITY TOUR HALF DAY Half Day Cusco, archaeological centers and museums
MACHUPICCHU TOUR FULL DAY Full Day Cusco, Sacred Valley of Urubamba, Aguas Calientes, Ciudadela of Machu Picchu
RAFTING IN URUBAMBA RIVER 2 DAYS (private service) 2 Days and 1 Nights Cusco, Rafting in Urubamba River, Camping, Chuquicahuana
Machu Picchu Classic 4 Days 4 Days and 3 Nights Cusco, Machu Picchu, Sacred Valley
New Pisaq & Machupicchu 4 Days 4 Days and 3 Nights Cusco, Ruins of Pisac, Urubamba Valley, Ollantaytambo, Maras, Moray ruins, Machu Picchu, Aguas Calientes
New Pisaq & Machupicchu 5 Days 5 Days and 4 Nights Cusco, Ruins of Pisac, Sacred Valley of the Inkas, Ollantaytambo, Maras, Machu Picchu, Sacred Valley of Urubamba, Aguas Calientes,
Cusco The Incas Empire 5 Days 5 Days and 4 Nights Cusco, Koricancha, Sacsayhuaman, Puka Pukara and Tambomachay, Urubamba Valley, Ollantaytambo, Machu Picchu, Aguas Calientes
Cusco Soft Adventure 5 Days 5 Days and 4 NightS Short Inca Trail to Machu Picchu (2 days), Cusco, Sacred Valley
Machu Picchu Total Excursion 6 Days 6 Days and 5 Nights Cusco, Moray, Maras, Salinas, Aguas Calientes, Mandor, Putukusi, Wayna Picchu, Intipunku, Machu Picchu
Machu Picchu Light Adventure 6 Days 6 Days and 5 Nights Cusco , Horse Back riding to Cusco Ruins, Sacsayhuaman, Agus calientes, Machu Picchu.
Cusco Unknown 6 Days 6 Days and 5 Nights Cusco , Koricancha, Lares, Huacahuasi, Patacancha, Ollantaytambo, Aguas Calientes, Machu Picchu
Cusco Nature 7 Days 7 Days and 6 Nights Cusco, Koricancha, Sacsayhuaman Fortress, horse riding adventure, short Inca Trail to Machu Picchu
Cusco Archeological 7 Days 7 Days and 6 Nights Cusco, Machu Picchu with overnight stay, Sacred Valley
Cusco Adventure Budget 8 Days 8 Days and 7 Nights Cusco, Inca Trail hike up to Machu Picchu, Sacred Valley, Rafting
Salkantay Adventure Budget 8 Days 8 Days and 7 Nights Cusco, Rafting, Salkantay, Soraypampa, Chaullay, Aguas Calientes, machu Picchu.




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