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Cusco tours and excursions

Cusco tours

Inca Trail and trekking tours

At the last count there were over 150 agencies offering trips, treks and tours in Cusco, many of which can get you onto the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu if booked far enough ahead. There are also a number of alternative treks in the surrounding areas that go to Machu Picchu that are well worth the muscle ache. These include the Salkantay trek, the Vilcabamba route and the rewarding Choquequirao hike, which takes nine days.

Tel: (84) 238 380.
Website: http://www.explorandes.com

Cusco city walking tours

Tourist agencies are mostly strung along three sides of the Plaza de Armas in Cusco, or up Procuradores, along Calle Plateros or Calle Saphi. Most can organise walking tours of the city, but you are better off exploring on your own. iPeru has free maps of the area with sights highlighted on them. Simple circuits starting and ending at the Plaza de Armas can be taken in every direction. Most agencies can also arrange half day horse riding or mountain bike tours of the city surrounds too.

Tel: (84) 252 974.
Website: http://www.peru.travel

Cusco excursions

Machu Picchu

Rediscovered by explorer Hilary Bingham in 1911, Machu Picchu is now one of the world's most popular historical sites. Along with the Taj Mahal, the Great Wall of China and the Colosseum, it is known as one of the New Seven Wonders of the World.

As the ancient centre of the Incas, Machu Picchu dates from the 15th century and around 55,000 people visit the site every year to gawp at over 200 different structures. Its many temples are the main highlight but if you are feeling energetic hike to the Sun Gate for an incredible view over it all. Otherwise, explore the remains of the village and agricultural terraces. The view of the surrounding mountains is spectacular.

PeruRail (tel: (84) 581 414; www.perurail.com) offers four departures a day to Machu Picchu from Poroy, a small village about 20 minutes by road from Cusco. The journey takes four hours. Departures are also available from Ollantaytambo in the Sacred Valley, a two hour journey. During the peak season from May to September, you should book your seat many months in advance to avoid disappointment.

Alternatively, Inca Rail (tel: (84) 581 860; www.incarail.com) offers an executive and first class train service from Ollantaytambo to Machu Picchu.

Another option is to simply join one of the many day tours from Cusco. Intrepid hikers shouldn't miss one of the world's most spectacular treks, the four-day Inca Trail. It arrives at Machu Picchu for sunrise, but will need to be booked months in advance.

Tel: (1) 574 8000.
Website: http://www.machupicchu.gob.pe

Pisac

One of the nearest towns in the beautiful Río Urubamba Valley (popularly known as the Sacred Valley) is Pisac, which lies about 15km (9 miles) north of Cusco. An impressive Inca citadel, it's best to visit on Thursdays and Sundays when a traditional Andean market sets up shop in the main square. Go for colourful textiles and ceramics, and take in the jaw-dropping views as you travel there and back. There is also a fascinating cemetery to visit.

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Featured Hotels

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Inkaterra La Casona

Cusco's first luxury boutique hotel is located in what is probably Cusco's first Spanish construction. The colonial courtyard is surrounded by 11 sumptuous suites furnished with antiques and all mod cons imaginable. Brilliantly located for the arty San Blas district and Plaza de Armas, Inkaterra La Casona is a quiet oasis of serenity with an eco conscience.

Palacio del Inka

Just moments from the Plaza de Armas, the Palacio del Inka combines utmost luxury with an Incan and Spanish twist. Expect framed dark ochre (a nod to Andean spirits), gold and burgundy furnishings that reflect the conquistador influence and original artworks. There are 203 wonderfully fitted rooms to choose from and all boast handcrafted furniture, huge beds and historical décor, along with fast internet, LED TVs and big bathtubs. The Inti Raymi Restaurant downstairs plates up remarkable Peruvian fine dining and there is a tranquil spa onsite as well.

Hotel Monasterio

Located two blocks from the Plaza de Armas, this is the best hotel in Cusco. A sensitive conversion of the 16th-century Seminary of San Antonio Abad, this former monastery has retained its original infrastructure and colonial décor but is now a 5-star international hotel boasting a gilded chapel, superb fine dining and oxygen-enriched air in every room. The therapy suite is also ideal for those returning from a long Machu Picchu trek.

Hotel Costa del Sol Picoaga

Formerly the colonial home of the17th-century Spanish noble, the Marqués de Picoaga, this top-end hotel in Cusco close to the heart of the city makes the most of its handsome colonnaded courtyard, beautiful stone columns and elegant archways. Service is excellent and the hotel has its own bar and high-quality restaurant.

Mama Simona

Quite frankly the coolest hostel in town, Mama Simona (named after one of the mountains in the Scared Valley range) is a clean, kitschy hostel that offers private rooms and dormitories. With varnished wooden floors, comfy beds and artworks adorning the cream walls, those that stay here could quite as easily be bedding down in a New York apartment. Free Wi-Fi and a decent breakfast buffet come as standard with the odd live music night providing the ideal opportunity to make friends too.

Hostal Suecia II

This friendly, budget Cusco hotel option is set in a colonial-style building located two blocks from the Plaza de Armas. Its 16 rooms are set around an attractive interior courtyard and are basic but spacious, clean and comfortable. A safe, sociable, economical option, this hostel has a family atmosphere and is particularly popular with backpackers, especially as Wi-Fi is now available. Ask for a room away from the street. No breakfast.