Just returned from a wonderful journey to the Peruvian highlands where we visited the UNESCO World Heritage city of Cusco, small towns and markets in the Sacred Valley and, of course, Machu Picchu.
“Musts” in Cusco: Watch people from a cafe balcony in Plaza de Armas; visit one or more of the city’s Spanish colonial churches; browse the San Pedro market; shop in the boutiques and galleries around San Blas square; see the Saksaywaman Incan ruins, Pre-Columbian Art Museum and the Inca Museum.
We recommend the following restaurants for Peruvian specialties: Pachapapa, Cicciolina, Faustina, Chicha, and Belmond Monasterio. Also, be sure to try a pisco sour or other cocktails at Museo del Pisco. Want to shop for quality Peruvian textiles and jewelry? Check out Kuna (textiles), Viva Alpaca (textiles), and Ilaria (jewelry). If you want an ultra-luxurious accommodation, you can do no better than the Belmond Monasterio, a 16th-century monastery that’s been exquisitely preserved. An excellent, moderately priced, boutique hotel with superior service and a convenient location is Casa San Blas.
In the Sacred Valley make time to visit the Sunday market in Chinchero and view the spectacular Andean peaks that loom in the distance. Also special are Incan terraces that cascade down steep mountain slopes at Pisac and the Incan ruins in Ollantaytambo, the departure point by train for Machu Picchu.
No matter how many pictures you’ve seen of Machu Picchu, taking in a panoramic view on a clear, sunny morning with wispy clouds draping the peaks is a visual and emotional high. If you want to make the experience even more special, plan a night at the luxurious Belmond Sanctuary, the only hotel at the archaeological site. Besides rooms and terraces with dramatic mountain views, it has a spa and a restaurant with outstanding Peruvian cuisine.