Cusco was built by the Spanish on the ruins of the city that was the administrative centre of the Inca empire. The Incas laid the city out in the form of a Puma, the head being the ceremonial centre of Sacsayhuaman. The city must have been one of the grandest in the world and fit to be the capital of a vast empire. When the Spanish arrived in 1532 they were amazed by what they saw. They had seen nothing of its like in the Americas or in Europe. Tragically, they destroyed and looted the city, building their own city on the foundations.
Today Cusco is a bustling, fun city. Its proximity to Machu Picchu, Sacsayhuaman, the Sacred Valley of Rio Urubamba, Ollantaytambo, Pisac and many other Inca sites makes it an unmissable place to visit. Besides the history and culture, it is also a centre for outdoor adventure: the surrounding mountains provide great hiking trails, most famously the Inca Trail.
As the single most visited site in South America, Machu Picchu needs no introduction. People the world over travel to Peru to see the famous citadel and no matter how many photos you may have seen or how many accounts you may have heard, nothing can do it justice. It is a truely extraordinary place that never fails to impress.
The Sacred Valley, or Vilcamayo as the Incas called it, runs from just north of Cusco to Machu Picchu. Not only is the valley home to the great Inca sites of Pisac, Ollantaytambo and Machu Picchu, but it is also incredibly beautiful. The classic trip here is to take a few days to walk the Inca Trail from Ollantaytambo to Machu Picchu, although there are other less crowded and equally rewarding walking routes for the adventurous traveller.