Cusco, Peru by Alexander Ryabintsev Shutterstock© Alexander Ryabintsev, Shutterstock

Although justifiably famous, Cusco wears its celebrity well, and remains the perfect base from which to explore the Sacred Valley.

Cusco is a major destination in its own right and you can easily spend between three and five days just exploring the labyrinthine streets, taking in the first-class museums and exhibits, indulging in the cafe culture and  restaurant scene, and visiting the outlying ruins and archaeological sites. The city is a perfect base from which to explore the Sacred Valley, and it’s an ideal access point for the Amazon as flights and overland services leave here for Puerto Maldonado, the gateway to Tambopata and Manu.

Cusco is also the departure point for Aguas Calientes and Machu Picchu, either on foot or by rail. Although justifiably famous, Cusco wears its celebrity well and, despite the huge number of visitors, isn’t overwhelmingly touristy. However, over the years the steady rise in visitor numbers has inevitably had an impact and the city is no longer the quiet introduction to the Andes it once was. Hordes of gringos, hawkers, restaurant touts and tour operator reps ensure that you’re rarely troubled by peace and quiet in the city centre, yet there are still corners you can escape to and places where you can avoid the sensory overload that comes with exploring the rest of the city.

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