The most famous and spectacular archeological park in all of South America, Machu Picchu is considered by UNESCO to be a World Heritage Site for its outstanding cultural contribution to humanity and breathtaking location. Machu Picchu is a stone citadel constructed 2430 meters (7,970 feet) above sea level in the Andes Mountains in the 1400's. Scholars believe that it was built as a sacred religious site for Incan emperor Pachacuti, but its true purpose may never be completely known. It consists of military style buildings, squares, temples and terraces and is the most important archeological site in South America. The incredible energy and magical nature of this site attracts many visitors, but be aware that there is a daily limit on how many people can enter the site.

Choquequirao is another other stone city built in the first half of the 1400's with important historical significance. It was a religious, political, and social center during the Inca period and became a central point of an economic interchange between the coastal and mountain regions. The main area is comprised of ceremonial stone dwellings with public baths, fountains, and canals. In other areas there are multi- storied buildings and storehouses. Choquequirao served as a refuge for the Incas for more than 40 years during the resistance from the Spanish invasion in the 1500's. The citadel is situated at 3,050 meters (10,000 feet) above sea level and is similar in architecture to Machu Picchu. Its a 2-day hike from Cusco to get there.

One of the most monumental architectural sites of the imperial Incas, Ollantaytambo is commonly believed to be a fortress due to its huge walls. However, it was originally constructed to be the central city and ceremonial center in the Sacred Valley of the Incas. It eventually became a stronghold for Yupanqui, the leader of the Incan resistance against the Spanish invasion. The individually hand carved stones made Ollantaytambo one of the most characteristic and amazing works of art achieved by the Incas. It is situated at 2,792 meters (9,160 feet) above sea level. The present day city of Ollantaytambo has been used by the native population since the time of the Incas. It is only 20 minutes away by car.

Pisac is a picturesque town with Spanish colonial and mestizo (mixed race) architectural and cultural characteristics. On top of the mountain behind the city you will find the impressive archeological complex. The beauty of its walls, with large hand-carved stone blocks created with extraordinary symmetry, leave the visitor perplexed. At first there is a feeling of surprise, followed by a sensation of great respect for the creators of these buildings, and finally the realization of the sheer greatness of the past empire. Pisac is formed by a group of structures, aqueducts, paths, bridges, murals, immense terraces, and the sacred Intihuatana temple. It is situated at an altitude of 3,400 meters (11,150 feet) and is 35 minutes away.

In Chinchero, traditions of the past thrive and modern amenities are scarce. The native inhabitants dress in traditional attire and gather in the main square every Sunday to exchange produce, just as they have for centuries. An Incan stone wall with twelve sides forms a perimeter around the main square. The Spanish tore down the Incan temple and built a church using the very same walls the Incan's used. The permanent fusion between the two cultures provokes much thought and insight into the past. Inside the church you can view pieces of art from the Cusco Art School and impressive ornaments. Chinchero is at 3,780 meters (12,400 feet) and is 30 minutes away.

The picturesque village of Maras is a multi-colored fancy of nature, and it shelters the most important salt mines in the region. Luckily, a majority of its beautiful colonial architecture has been preserved. Of note are the extraordinary facades finely worked in stone, which are fed from a salty subterranean river. Once the water evaporates the salt is extracted. These salt mines have been exploited since the Inca times and during the viceroy period they were the first producers of salt from the southern part of the mountains. The salt mines are situated at an altitude of 3,300 meters (10,825 feet) above sea level and are located 30 minutes away.

A very impressive archaeological complex, Moray is made up of an incredible system of enormous terraces, placed concentrically on top of one another forming a large amphitheater. These beautiful terraces are part of a large agricultural laboratory in which the ancient Peruvians experimented and obtained improvements. In particular, the temperature difference from the top to the bottom (as much as 27 °F) allowed them to study the effect that climate has on crops. They achieved incredible advances in agriculture, which constituted their main work activity and was the basis of their economic development. It is situated at an altitude of 3,500 meters (11,500 feet) above sea level and is 30 minutes away.

This masterpiece was created by the Incas to show off their power and elegance to the world. Situated high above Cusco, Sacsayhuaman, known as the “House of the Sun,” was not a fortress like the Spanish thought when they discovered it. The ruins cover an enormous area, but what draws the most attention is the stonework of the three walls that hint at the shape of a fortress. The weight and size of the stones, with their amazing joints, makes this construction unique. There are shapes designed in the rocks and stone, and some have openings that allow you to gain entrance to underground tunnels or chicanes. Without a doubt, this piece of history provides an amazing glimpse into ancient Incan culture and rituals.

Every year on July 16th, Paucartambo, a small town in the Cusco region, demands the attention of both tourists and Peruvians because of the "Virgen del Carmen" festival. This 3-day festival is one of the largest street parties in all of Peru, with tens of thousands of visitors attending. Paucartambo is a small town of just a few thousand people, and still retains its colonial architecture (17th century) with a stone bridge and narrow cobblestone streets. Many tourists do not visit this village and only pass through it on their way to the Manu National Park. Nevertheless, the city is definitely worth a visit, especially during the Virgen del Carmen festival. The city is about 1.5 hours away, and rests at 2,900 meters (9,530 feet).

Another spot to visit close to Paucartambo is the "Three Crosses" lookout point. It is located 40 km north of the town and is reached by a 1.5 hour car ride on an unpaved road. The view of the Andean mountains sinking in a sea of clouds over the Amazon Forest is quite impressive, to say the least. It makes the adenturous journey worth every second. There is an ever-present blanket of fog in the region that covers the forest like an ocean hiding a secret. The sunset is absolutely gorgeous...the sky, the clouds just below your feet, and the mountains change colors from orange to blue. You can camp there too, as the sunrise the next day can be just as impressive. The site is at 3,800 meters (12,470 feet).

Manu National Park is a World Heritage Site and the largest National Park in Peru, covering an area of more than 18,000 square kilometers. It is a Biosphere Reserve that ecompasses and protects 11 different ecological levels that descend from 4000 meters (13,120 feet) to 300 meters (948 feet) above sea level. Within these levels are 15,000+ species of plants, 1,300+ species of butterflies, 1,000+ species of birds, 200+ species of mammals, and numerous types of reptiles. New species are contstantly being discovered within the park. The plant diversity in Manu represents 10% of all the types of plants on Earth. If you want to experience Mother Nature, biodiversity, and wildlife, this is where you go.

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Main Urubamba-Ollantaytambo Cusco Road Km. 71.5 Urubamba, Perú