Peru Overview

Image Gallery

Peru is one of those amazing countries that you visit once and then realize there is just so much more you didn't know about, making a return trip a necessity. Peru is one of six places on the globe where an independent civilization developed totally on its own and thrived without outside interference until the Europeans arrived in the 1530s. The oldest civilization were the Norte Chico who made Peru their home and left archeological remains from 3500 BC to 1800 BC, they were followed by a succession of roughly seven different cultures and peoples until the Inca civilization took over in the 1400s. The ancient Inca are the typical tourist draw to Peru because of their amazing building skills and remaining cities and sites that can be visited easily. With well over 5000 years of history on offer as well as the dramatic Andes mountains, volcanoes, the Amazon jungle and spectacular coast line, there is something for everyone to enjoy in Peru. Officially known as the Republic of Peru, this South American cornerstone has roughly 30 million people with a diverse range of ethnicity from the indigenous natives to Europeans, Africans and Asians. Peru is bordered by Ecuador, Columbia, Brazil, Bolivia, Chile and the Pacific Ocean. It would be an understatement to say Peru has travelled a hard road ever since the Europeans arrived in the mid 1500s and brought this wealthy prosperous area to the attention of the Spanish. After occupation and the systematic pillaging of her resources and people for nearly 300 years, Peru gained independence around the same time as the rest of South America in the early 1800s. Also, like the rest of the continent, a succession of power struggles between military leaders took place for a long period until recently, with a concerted effort taking over to fight corruption and develop a sustainable economy. Any first trip to Peru should include the jewel in the crown not just for Peru but for all of South America: the Inca mountaintop city of Machu Picchu. Superlatives cannot describe how amazing this place really is and, even with the hype, how it lives up to expectations. The surrounding Sacred Valley area showcases what Incan remains were not totally destroyed by the Spanish, with Cusco, Pisac and Ollantaytambo being the best of the bunch. The capital, Lima, has all the positives and negatives you would expect from a big city with the Plaza Mayor main square being of particular note. If given time, Peru is one of those countries like Turkey or Egypt that could take a solid six weeks or more to properly travel through and see a diverse range of landscapes, culture and history. The mysterious Nazca Lines and nearby volcano's, the coastlines and peoples surrounding Lake Titicaca, or the amazing fortress in the north of the country at Kuelap are just a few of the places we missed on our first trip to Peru. Take your time when researching and planning a trip to Peru. There is so much available that priorities will have to be made on what gets in and what gets cut. Either way, this South American country will not disappoint.

Cusco
Lima
Machu Picchu
Moray and Maras Salt Pans
Pisac
Ollantaytambo
Peruvian Train Ride
 

Image Gallery

Photography by Eric Starling and Footside

Machu Picchu, Peru
Machu Picchu
Backflip in Cusco, Peru
Backflip in Cusco
Lima Cathedral, Lima, Peru
Lima Cathedral
White Llama in Machu Picchu, Peru
White Llama in Machu Picchu
Intihuatana Ruins, Pisac, Peru
Intihuatana Ruins, Pisac
Inca Fortress of Ollantaytambo, Peru
Inca Fortress of Ollantaytambo
Church la Merced, Lima, Peru
Church la Merced, Lima
Fields near Ollantaytambo, Peru
Fields near Ollantaytambo
Calle Santa Clara, Cusco, Peru
Calle Santa Clara, Cusco
Inca Terraces of Moray, Peru
Inca Terraces of Moray
View of Machu Picchu from Una Picchu, Peru
View of Machu Picchu from Una Picchu
Maras Salt Flats, Peru
Maras Salt Flats
View of Machu Picchu from the upper terraces near the Inca Trail entrance, Peru
View of Machu Picchu from the upper terraces near the Inca Trail entrance
View of the massive terraces at Pisac from the Kallaqasa Ruins opposite the entrance, Peru
View of the massive terraces at Pisac from the Kallaqasa Ruins opposite the entrance
Panoramic view of the Plaza Mayor in Lima, one of the most impressive central squares in the world, Peru
Panoramic view of the Plaza Mayor in Lima, one of the most impressive central squares in the world
View of the Plaza De Armas in Cusco, with Church of La Compañia de Jesus on the right and Cathedral of Santo Domingo on the left, Peru
View of the Plaza De Armas in Cusco. with Church of La Compañia de Jesus on the right and Cathedral of Santo Domingo on the left
Panoramic view of the High Plains and Mountains that surround Moray, Peru
Panoramic view of the High Plains and Mountains that surround Moray
View of Machu Picchu from halfway up the path that leads to the top of Huayna Picchu Mountain, Peru
View of Machu Picchu from halfway up the path that leads to the top of Huayna Picchu Mountain
Terraces and town of Pisac, Peru
Terraces and town of Pisac
Colonial and Inca Architecture, Cusco, Peru
Colonial and Inca Architecture, Cusco
Llama in Machu Picchu, Peru
Llama in Machu Picchu
Pisac Backflip, Peru
Pisac Backflip
Mass at Monastery of San Francisco, Lima, Peru
Mass at Monastery of San Francisco, Lima
Church of La Compañia de Jesus, Cusco, Peru
Church of La Compañia de Jesus, Cusco
Plaza De Armas, Cusco, Peru
Plaza De Armas, Cusco
Urubamba Valley, near Pisac, Peru
Urubamba Valley, near Pisac
Giant Spider and Ant, Machu Picchu, Peru
Giant Spider and Ant, Machu Picchu
Urubamba River, Peru
Urubamba River
Church of Santo Domingo, Lima, Peru
Church of Santo Domingo, Lima
Terraces of Moray, Peru
Terraces of Moray
Inca Fortress of Ollantaytambo, Peru
Inca Fortress of Ollantaytambo
High Andes Mountains near Moray, Peru
High Andes Mountains near Moray
Maras Salt Pans, Peru
Maras Salt Pans
Inca Stonework, Pisac, Peru
Inca Stonework, Pisac
Inca Stonework, Machu Picchu, Peru
Inca Stonework, Machu Picchu
Inca Stonework, Qurikancha Temple, Cusco, Peru
Inca Stonework, Qurikancha Temple, Cusco
View of the Residential Area of Machu Picchu and the start of the Main Square, Sacred Valley, Peru
View of the Residential Area of Machu Picchu and the start of the Main Square
Panoramic view of the Monastery of San Francisco in the capital Lima, Peru
Panoramic view of the Monastery of San Francisco in the capital Lima
View of the Maras Salt Pans from the hillside Entrance, Sacred Valley, Peru
View of the Maras Salt Pans from the hillside Entrance
View of Sacred Plaza with local Llama overlooking Machu Picchu, Sacred Valley, Peru
View of Sacred Plaza with local Llama overlooking Machu Picchu
View inside of the terraced Inca Ruins of Moray, Sacred Valley, Peru
View inside of the terraced Inca Ruins of Moray
View of the Plaza De Armas central square in Cusco, Peru
View of the Plaza De Armas central square in Cusco
View from the entrance to the Inca ruin site of Pisac of the different tiers of terraces, Sacred Valley, Peru
View from the entrance to the Inca ruin site of Pisac of the different tiers of terraces
View of Machu Picchu and the Urubamba River Gorge from the top of Huayna Picchu Mountain, Peru
View of Machu Picchu and the Urubamba River Gorge from the top of Huayna Picchu Mountain
Machu Picchu Backflip, Sacred Valley, Peru
Machu Picchu Backflip
Pisac Backflip, Sacred Valley, Peru
Pisac Backflip
Machu Picchu Backflip, Sacred Valley, Peru
Machu Picchu Backflip
Terraces at Ollantaytambo, Sacred Valley, Peru
Terraces at Ollantaytambo
Train Ride from Machu Picchu, Sacred Valley, Peru
Train Ride from Machu Picchu
High Plains near Cusco, Peru
High Plains near Cusco
Terraces at Machu Picchu, Sacred Valley, Peru
Terraces at Machu Picchu
View from the top of Huayna Picchu, Sacred Valley, Peru
View from the top of Huayna Picchu
Royal Tombs, Machu Picchu, Sacred Valley, Peru
Royal Tombs, Machu Picchu
Plaza De Armas Sunset, Cusco, Sacred Valley, Peru
Plaza De Armas Sunset, Cusco
Lima Cathedral, Lima, Peru
Lima Cathedral
Ruins at Pisac, Sacred Valley, Peru
Ruins at Pisac

Machu Picchu

Text by Eric Starling; Photography by Eric Starling and Footside

Machu Picchu Backflip, Machu Picchu, Peru
Machu Picchu Backflip
View of Machu Picchu from Huayna Picchu, View from Wayna Picchu, Machu Picchu, Peru
View of Machu Picchu from Huayna Picchu
View of Machu Picchu from Una Picchu, Machu Picchu, Peru
View of Machu Picchu from Una Picchu
View of Machu Picchu from Huayna Picchu, View from Wayna Picchu, Machu Picchu, Peru
View of Machu Picchu from Huayna Picchu
Dead Spider being carried by giant ant, Machu Picchu, Peru
Dead Spider being carried by giant ant
White Llama in Machu Picchu ruins, Machu Picchu, Peru
White Llama in Machu Picchu ruins

Machu Picchu is one of the world's most famous stone-built monuments constructed by ancient peoples and continues to captivate the modern traveller. Like the big ancient cities of Petra in Jordan, Ankor Wat in Cambodia or the Roman cities of Jerash and Palmyra in the Middle East, Machu Picchu has stood the test of time due to its use of stone and the superior engineering by its builders. Located 2430 metres above sea level, high above the Urubamba River, this dramatically situated city in the mountains is the most famous and familiar icon of the Inca civilization. Many people have seen the classic pictures of Machu Picchu in National Geographic or on documentary films but nothing can prepare you for the visually stunning sheer cliffs and jagged peaks that surround the valley in which Machu sits. The location is absolutely spectacular and spurs a reaction to take pictures of everything from every angle. The visitor arrives expecting Machu Picchu to be a mountain ruin with good views, yet, no matter what the weather brings there are amazing vistas and dramatic scenery you just cannot appreciate until standing on one of the terraces overlooking this well preserved masterpiece of stonework. Machu Picchu was constructed around 1450 AD during the pinnacle of power of the Inca Empire. Most historians agree that Machu Picchu was built as a retreat or estate for the Inca Emperor Pachacuti with construction work continuing under the next Inca emperor Tupac. The city made of intricate stonework was abandoned during the Spanish conquest in the early to mid 1500s. Modern archeological theories propose that the site was of sacred religious importance, with a number of small niches and expertly worked stone showing signs of ritual significance similar to other Inca sites which supports this theory. Anyone visiting Machu cannot help but come away with a host of questions. How did they create these perfect terraces that can withstand earthquakes and centuries of unpredictable Andes mountain weather? How did a pre-industrial society with no metal tools carve stone, much of it hard granite, with such precision? How did the Incas move massive monolithic blocks, not only within the site itself, but up to the top of a mountain?

View of Machu Picchu below the Guardhouse with the Royal Tomb area in the foreground and Huayna Picchu Mountain overlooking the site, Machu Picchu, Sacred Valley, Peru
View of Machu Picchu below the Guardhouse with the Royal Tomb area in the foreground and Huayna Picchu Mountain overlooking the site
View of the Residential Area of Machu Picchu and the start of the Main Square, Machu Picchu, Sacred Valley, Peru
View of the Residential Area of Machu Picchu and the start of the Main Square
View of the Royal tomb area on the left going up the hillside and the Agricultural Terraces on the right, Machu Picchu, Sacred Valley, Peru
View of the Royal tomb area on the left going up the hillside and the Agricultural Terraces on the right
View of Machu Picchu from halfway up the path that leads to the top of Huayna Picchu Mountain, Machu Picchu, Sacred Valley, Peru
View of Machu Picchu from halfway up the path that leads to the top of Huayna Picchu Mountain
View of the Royal Tombs and the Temple of the Sun, Machu Picchu, Sacred Valley, Peru
View of the Royal Tombs and the Temple of the Sun

The Spanish Conquistadors did their best to destroy, pillage and plunder the Inca empire for their own benefit, consequently erasing the majority of Inca cities along with their written history and the people themselves by conflict and disease. Machu Picchu stands as a rare Inca site that was not discovered by the marauding Spanish even though it is only 80 km from their capital Cusco, sparing it from the fate that so many other cities and sites suffered at the hands of the conquerors from Europe. It appears likely that due to the need to fight the Spanish for their survival, the Inca workers at Machu abandoned the remote mountain location and the site became forgotten to history. There are still areas within the site where you can see stone work half finished and apparently left where it was being worked on. With the exception of a few local farmers who still worked the terraces, Machu Picchu became overgrown and disappeared from the wider world until discovered by the American historian/adventurer Hiram Bingham. Many travellers to the Sacred Valley in Peru only give Machu Picchu a single day which does not do the site justice for what is on offer. If possible, don't just do a daytrip from Cusco, spend a couple nights in the overpriced yet visitor-friendly town of Aguas Calientes where you can access Machu whenever you want. Due to the elevation and substantial changes in terrain in the site of Machu Picchu itself, visitors should be prepared for serious hiking and a hard workout each day. Most guidebooks advise booking your tickets to Machu Picchu in advance. This is not necessary if you just want to access the site alone with touts who will swarm you upon leaving the train station or if you're just going to the Tourist Office. However, if you want to hike the imposing jagged peak of Huayna Picchu, seen in so many iconic pictures of Machu, or to the top of Machu Picchu mountain well above the site, you need to pre-book these tickets to ensure access. Authorities continue to threaten shutting down Machu Picchu to preserve it due to the number of visitors each year, although, this is highly unlikely considering it is not just the jewel in the crown and money maker for Peru but all of South America. Get to Machu before the free reign access is restricted and you can't escape the crowds that follow the pre-determined bus tour route.

Eastern facing side, Machu Picchu, Sacred Valley, Peru
Eastern facing side
The Torreón (Observatory), Machu Picchu, Sacred Valley, Peru
The Torreón (Observatory)
Near Temple of 3 Windows, Machu Picchu, Sacred Valley, Peru
Near Temple of 3 Windows
Intihuatana Temple Hill, Machu Picchu, Sacred Valley, Peru
Intihuatana Temple Hill
Machu Picchu Backflip, Machu Picchu, Sacred Valley, Peru
Machu Picchu Backflip
Intihuatana Temple Hill with Guardhouse in the distance, Machu Picchu, Sacred Valley, Peru
Intihuatana Temple Hill with Guardhouse in the distance
Stairs to the Residential Area, Machu Picchu, Sacred Valley, Peru
Stairs to the Residential Area
Stairs to the Royal Tombs Area, Machu Picchu, Sacred Valley, Peru
Stairs to the Royal Tombs Area
View of the Urubamba River, Machu Picchu, Sacred Valley, Peru
View of the Urubamba River
The Torreón (Observatory), Machu Picchu, Sacred Valley, Peru
The Torreón (Observatory)
Temple of 3 Windows, Machu Picchu, Sacred Valley, Peru
Temple of 3 Windows
Monolithic Stonework, Machu Picchu, Sacred Valley, Peru
Monolithic Stonework
View from below Guardhouse, Machu Picchu, Sacred Valley, Peru
View from below Guardhouse
Westside Terraces, Machu Picchu, Sacred Valley, Peru
Westside Terraces
Llama on Westside Terraces, Machu Picchu, Sacred Valley, Peru
Llama on Westside Terraces
View of Machu Picchu from near the top of the site with the Urubamba River below, Machu Picchu, Sacred Valley, Peru
View of Machu Picchu from near the top of the site with the Urubamba River below
View of Machu Picchu from the top of Huayna Picchu, Machu Picchu, Sacred Valley, Peru
View of Machu Picchu from the top of Huayna Picchu
View of the Three Windows Temple and the Intihuatana Temple Hill, Machu Picchu, Sacred Valley, Peru
View of the Three Windows Temple and the Intihuatana Temple Hill
Machu Picchu Backflip, Machu Picchu, Sacred Valley, Peru
Machu Picchu Backflip
Machu Picchu Backflip, Machu Picchu, Sacred Valley, Peru
Machu Picchu Backflip
Machu Picchu Backflip, Machu Picchu, Sacred Valley, Peru
Machu Picchu Backflip
Machu Picchu Backflip, Machu Picchu, Sacred Valley, Peru
Machu Picchu Backflip
Royal Tomb Area, Machu Picchu, Sacred Valley, Peru
Royal Tomb Area
Urubamba River, Machu Picchu, Sacred Valley, Peru
Urubamba River
Temple of the Sun, Machu Picchu, Sacred Valley, Peru
Temple of the Sun
Westside Terraces, Machu Picchu, Sacred Valley, Peru
Westside Terraces
Residential Area Stonework, Machu Picchu, Sacred Valley, Peru
Residential Area Stonework
Huayna Picchu Mountain, Machu Picchu, Sacred Valley, Peru
Huayna Picchu Mountain
Temple of the Sun, Machu Picchu, Sacred Valley, Peru
Temple of the Sun
Urubamba River, Machu Picchu, Sacred Valley, Peru
Urubamba River
Westside Terraces, Machu Picchu, Sacred Valley, Peru
Westside Terraces
Eastside Terraces, Machu Picchu, Sacred Valley, Peru
Eastside Terraces
Residential Area, Machu Picchu, Sacred Valley, Peru
Residential Area
View of the Industrial Area in the middle and the Residential area on the left, Machu Picchu, Sacred Valley, Peru
View of the Industrial Area in the middle and the Residential area on the left
View from Machu Picchu from the top of the site where the Inca Trail connects, Machu Picchu, Sacred Valley, Peru
View from Machu Picchu from the top of the site where the Inca Trail connects
View from Una Picchu, Machu Picchu, Peru
View from Una Picchu
Llama in Machu, Machu Picchu, Peru
Llama in Machu
Near Entrance to site, Machu Picchu, Peru
Near Entrance to site
Terraces, Machu Picchu, Peru
Terraces
Intricate Stonework, Machu Picchu, Peru
Intricate Stonework
West Side of Machu, Machu Picchu, Peru
West Side of Machu
Temple of the Sun and Guardhouse, Machu Picchu, Peru
Temple of the Sun and Guardhouse
Monolithic Stonework, Machu Picchu, Peru
Monolithic Stonework
Intricate Stonework, Machu Picchu, Peru
Intricate Stonework
View from Huayna Picchu, Machu Picchu, Peru
View from Huayna Picchu
Terraces, Machu Picchu, Peru
Terraces
Huayna Picchu Stairway, Machu Picchu, Peru
Huayna Picchu Stairway
View from Huayna Picchu, Machu Picchu, Peru
View from Huayna Picchu
Stairway to valley below, Machu Picchu, Peru
Stairway to valley below
Royal Tomb, Machu Picchu, Peru
Royal Tomb
View from Huayna Picchu, Machu Picchu, Peru
View from Huayna Picchu
View of Sacred Plaza with local Llama, Machu Picchu, Peru
View of Sacred Plaza with local Llama

Cusco (Cuzco)

Text by Footside; Photography by Footside and Eric Starling

Sunset in Cusco, Cuzco, Sacred Valley, Peru
Sunset in Cusco
Plaza De Armas, Cusco, Cuzco, Sacred Valley, Peru
Plaza De Armas
Vaulted buildings in Plaza De Armas, Cusco, Cuzco, Sacred Valley, Peru
Vaulted buildings in Plaza De Armas
Cusco Backflip, Cuzco, Sacred Valley, Peru
Cusco Backflip
Colonial and Inca Architecture, Cusco, Cuzco, Sacred Valley, Peru
Colonial and Inca Architecture
Statue of Pachacuti, Plaza De Armas, Cusco, Cuzco, Sacred Valley, Peru
Statue of Pachacuti, Plaza De Armas

It's hard to start with an apt one-line description of Cusco. On a scale of 1 to 10, the various characteristics of Cusco will slip and slide depending on what you're looking at, when you're looking at it and from what angle. At first glance, it's a city of near half a million people resting upon a lung-sapping valley at 3300 - 3600 metres above sea level. Backstreets choking with cars, pollution and a tide of tourism and over development. Yet in the heart of all this lies the picture perfect classical epicentre of Cusco - the Plaza de Armas. The true symbol of a golden age set amongst a pristine backdrop of mountains and clear blue sky. The Plaza de Armas is the iconic image of Cusco. Ringed by arched shopfronts and the vaulted balconies of restaurants and cafes, the Plaza boasts manicured gardens, flowing fountains, bronzed statues and idyllic park benches. Accented by the Cathedral of Santo Domingo's dominant towers and the bulky baroque facade of La Compañia de Jesus, the Plaza de Armas has a real European feel, but with a twist. The buildings earthy colours, perhaps baked through the thin air of altitude, retain an unmistakable highland finish. The Plaza by day is nice, albeit busy with tourists, locals and street vendors. In the evening, its takes on a whole new ambience as fading sunsets, floodlit facades and the glowing lights of bustling restaurant balconies cover up the flaws for a postcard vista. Whatever you do, make sure you grab a seat at one of these overhanging restaurants for that perfect view, either day or night (but preferably both). Slightly off the Plaza, calle Santa Clara is the main drag connecting most of Cusco's other notable sites and relics. Framed by ornamental gates and archways, within a short stroll you'll find the churches of San Pedro and San Francisco as well as the large local market. The other big tourist draw of Cusco is the Qurikancha Temple and Convent of Santo Domingo. This one site sums up the Spanish conquest of Peru in a nutshell. What was once the greatest, richest and most ornate temple in the Inca Empire, stripped bare and levelled by Conquistadores who used its perfect stone foundations as the base for a newly built convent above. Whilst the gold is long gone, the Incan stonework, so expertly laid that the Spanish simply gave up on trying to damage and dismantle it, can still be seen and appreciated today. The convent itself is simple. A large courtyard with surrounding walkways and a few small rooms with various pieces of religious art and heirlooms dating back to its days in operation. So what is Cusco? Well, it's a modern sprawl built on cobble stone streets, it's Old World Christian architecture built upon ancient world foundations, it's cashed up tourists in a highland market. It's the crossroads of old and new, good and bad. It's history and location make it one of the most unique cities in the world, and one that should not be missed.

View of the Plaza De Armas at Sunset with Church of La Compañia de Jesus on the left, Cusco, Cuzco, Sacred Valley, Peru
View of the Plaza De Armas at Sunset with Church of La Compañia de Jesus on the left
View of the city of Cusco and surrounding hills, Cusco, Cuzco, Sacred Valley, Peru
View of the city of Cusco and surrounding hills
View of the Plaza De Armas with the Church of La Compañia de Jesus on the right and Cathedral of Santo Domingo on the left, Cusco, Cuzco, Sacred Valley, Peru
View of the Plaza De Armas with the Church of La Compañia de Jesus on the right and Cathedral of Santo Domingo on the left
Streets of Cusco, Cuzco, Sacred Valley, Peru
Streets of Cusco
Church of La Compañia de Jesus, Cusco, Cuzco, Sacred Valley, Peru
Church of La Compañia de Jesus
Streets of Cusco, Cuzco, Sacred Valley, Peru
Streets of Cusco
Calle Santa Clara, Cusco, Cuzco, Sacred Valley, Peru
Calle Santa Clara
Qurikancha Temple and Convent of Santo Domingo, Cusco, Cuzco, Sacred Valley, Peru
Qurikancha Temple and Convent of Santo Domingo
Church of San Francisco, Cusco, Cuzco, Sacred Valley, Peru
Church of San Francisco
Plaza De Armas at Night, Cusco, Cuzco, Sacred Valley, Peru
Plaza De Armas at Night
Cusco Cathedral at Dusk, Cuzco, Sacred Valley, Peru
Cusco Cathedral at Dusk
Church of La Compañia de Jesus, Cusco, Cuzco, Sacred Valley, Peru
Church of La Compañia de Jesus
Convent of Santo Domingo, Cusco, Cuzco, Sacred Valley, Peru
Convent of Santo Domingo
Qurikancha Temple, Cusco, Cuzco, Sacred Valley, Peru
Qurikancha Temple
Cathedral of Santo Domingo, Cusco, Cuzco, Sacred Valley, Peru
Cathedral of Santo Domingo
View of the Plaza De Armas central square in Cusco, Cuzco, Sacred Valley, Peru
View of the Plaza De Armas central square in Cusco
Sunrise over Plaza De Armas with Church of La Compañia de Jesus on the right and Cathedral of Santo Domingo on the left, Cusco, Cuzco, Sacred Valley, Peru
Sunrise over Plaza De Armas with Church of La Compañia de Jesus on the right and Cathedral of Santo Domingo on the left
View of Cusco and surrounding hills from Qurikancha Temple and Convent of Santo Domingo, Cuzco, Sacred Valley, Peru
View of Cusco and surrounding hills from Qurikancha Temple and Convent of Santo Domingo
Cathedral of Santo Domingo, Cusco Cathedral, Cusco, Cuzco, Sacred Valley, Peru
Cathedral of Santo Domingo
Plaza De Armas at Night, Cusco, Cuzco, Sacred Valley, Peru
Plaza De Armas at Night
Church of La Compañia de Jesus, Cusco, Cuzco, Sacred Valley, Peru
Church of La Compañia de Jesus
Plaza De Armas, Cusco, Cuzco, Sacred Valley, Peru
Plaza De Armas
Hills around Cusco, Cuzco, Sacred Valley, Peru
Hills around Cusco
Qurikancha Temple, Cusco, Cuzco, Sacred Valley, Peru
Qurikancha Temple
Stonework around Cusco, Cuzco, Sacred Valley, Peru
Stonework around Cusco
Convent of Santo Domingo, Cusco, Cuzco, Sacred Valley, Peru
Convent of Santo Domingo
Qurikancha Temple, Cusco, Cuzco, Sacred Valley, Peru
Qurikancha Temple
San Pedro Church, Cusco, Cuzco, Sacred Valley, Peru
San Pedro Church
Sunrise in Cusco, Cuzco, Sacred Valley, Peru
Sunrise in Cusco
Plaza De Armas, Cusco, Cuzco, Sacred Valley, Peru
Plaza De Armas
View of the Plaza De Armas with Church of La Compañia de Jesus on the right and Cathedral of Santo Domingo on the left, Cusco, Cuzco, Sacred Valley, Peru
View of the Plaza De Armas with Church of La Compañia de Jesus on the right and Cathedral of Santo Domingo on the left
Church from San Francisco as viewed from Plaza De Armas, Cusco, Cuzco, Sacred Valley, Peru
Church from San Francisco as viewed from Plaza De Armas
View of the outside of the Incan temple Qurikancha and Convent of Santo Domingo, Cusco, Cuzco, Sacred Valley, Peru
View of the outside of the Incan temple Qurikancha and Convent of Santo Domingo
Cusco Cathedral at Night, Cuzco, Sacred Valley, Peru
Cusco Cathedral at Night
View of central Cusco, Cuzco, Sacred Valley, Peru
View of central Cusco
Calle Santa Clara and San Pedro Church, Cusco, , Cuzco, Sacred Valley, Peru
Calle Santa Clara and San Pedro Church
Plaza De Armas, Cusco, Cuzco, Sacred Valley, Peru
Plaza De Armas
Qurikancha Temple, Cusco, Cuzco, Sacred Valley, Peru
Qurikancha Temple
Cusco Skyline, Cuzco, Sacred Valley, Peru
Cusco Skyline

Lima

Text by Eric Starling; Photography by Eric Starling and Footside

Jiron de la Union, Lima, Peru
Jiron de la Union
Lima Cathedral, Lima, Peru
Lima Cathedral
Monastery of San Francisco, Lima, Peru
Monastery of San Francisco
Church la Merced facade, Lima, Peru
Church la Merced facade
Torre Tagle Palace, Lima, Peru
Torre Tagle Palace
Lima Cathedral and Plaza Mayor, Lima, Peru
Lima Cathedral and Plaza Mayor

Lima is the capital of Peru and its largest city with roughly nine million people in its Greater Metropolitan Area. Founded by the Spanish conquistador Francisco Pizzarro in 1535, this massive city is like the "Cairo" of South America. Dirty, polluted, loud, insane traffic and fantastic colonial architecture on a grand scale. One of the things that hurts Lima for many people is that it has a permanent thick fog that settles over the city during the winter months. Most people visit Peru during this time because it creates the best conditions in the Andes for exploring places like Machu Picchu. Apparently, it's much nicer during the summer months when blue sky is the norm. With this in mind, it's easy to understand why the first impressions of Lima are not all that favourable. The fog and mist is so thick you can taste it, taking away from the impressive colonial architecture that is a UNESCO World Heritage site in the historic centre of the city. Specifically, the main square, Plaza Mayor, which houses the Cathedral, Government Palace and a number of impressive buildings from the colonial period is the highlight of any trip to Lima and arguably as fine a square as any in Europe. Lima has alot to offer in different kinds of cuisine, whether Peruvian or around the world as well as a thriving nightlife scene. Like any big city, there are many things to see and do and many things that might put you off but if you're heading to Peru, there is almost no way for you to avoid Lima so make the best of what's on offer.

Panoramic view of the Plaza Mayor, one of the most impressive central squares in the world, Lima, Peru
Panoramic view of the Plaza Mayor, one of the most impressive central squares in the world
Panoramic view of Plaza San Martin with the Gran Bolivar Hotel on left and statue of José de San Martín on right, Lima, Peru
Panoramic view of Plaza San Martin with the Gran Bolivar Hotel on left and statue of José de San Martín on right
Panoramic view of the Monastery of San Francisco, Lima, Peru
Panoramic view of the Monastery of San Francisco
Panoramic view of the Plaza Mayor with Government Palace, Lima, Peru
Panoramic view of the Plaza Mayor with Government Palace
Torre Tagle Palace, Lima, Peru
Torre Tagle Palace
Lima Cathedral at night, Lima, Peru
Lima Cathedral at night
Plaza San Martín and statue of José de San Martín, Lima, Peru
Plaza San Martín and statue of José de San Martín
Gran Bolivar Hotel, Lima, Peru
Gran Bolivar Hotel
Church of Santo Domingo, Lima, Peru
Church of Santo Domingo
Stained Glass, Lima Cathedral, Lima, Peru
Stained Glass, Lima Cathedral
Streets of Lima, Lima, Peru
Streets of Lima
Crypt in Monastery of San Francisco, Lima, Peru
Crypt in Monastery of San Francisco
Plaza Mayor, Lima, Peru
Plaza Mayor
Torre Tagle Palace Carvings, Lima, Peru
Torre Tagle Palace Carvings
Atrium in Gran Bolivar Hotel, Lima, Peru
Atrium in Gran Bolivar Hotel
Torre Tagle Palace Carvings, Lima, Peru
Torre Tagle Palace Carvings
Church la Merced, Lima, Peru
Church la Merced
Gran Bolivar Hotel at night, Lima, Peru
Gran Bolivar Hotel at night
Religious Painting Shop, Lima, Peru
Religious Painting Shop
Streets of Lima in August, Lima, Peru
Streets of Lima in August
Plaza Mayor and its impressive Colonial Architecture, Lima, Peru
Plaza Mayor and its impressive Colonial Architecture
Gran Bolivar Hotel, Lima, Peru
Gran Bolivar Hotel
Lima Cathedral, Lima, Peru
Lima Cathedral
Monastery of San Francisco, Lima, Peru
Monastery of San Francisco
Government Palace and Plaza Mayor, Lima, Peru
Government Palace and Plaza Mayor
Map of Central Peru, Lima, Peru
Map of Central Peru
Police Riot Vehicle, Lima, Peru
Police Riot Vehicle
Riot Police and Horse, Lima, Peru
Riot Police and Horse
Government Palace, Lima, Peru
Government Palace
Lima in the fog, Lima, Peru
Lima in the fog
Municipal Palace of Lima, Lima, Peru
Municipal Palace of Lima
Lima Cathedral, Lima, Peru
Lima Cathedral
Plaza San Martin, Lima, Peru
Plaza San Martin
Gran Bolivar Hotel, Lima, Peru
Gran Bolivar Hotel
Church of Santo Domingo, Lima, Peru
Church of Santo Domingo
Church la Merced facade, Lima, Peru
Church la Merced facade
Lima Cathedral with Riot Police, Lima, Peru
Lima Cathedral with Riot Police
Streets of Lima, Lima, Peru
Streets of Lima
Lima Cathedral and Plaza Mayor, Lima, Peru
Lima Cathedral and Plaza Mayor
Road leading up to the Church of San Pedro, Lima, Peru
Road leading up to the Church of San Pedro
Panoramic view of the Plaza San Martín, Lima, Peru
Panoramic view of the Plaza San Martín

Pisac

Text by Eric Starling; Photography by Eric Starling and Footside

Kallaqasa Ruins, Pisac, Sacred Valley, Peru
Kallaqasa Ruins
Pisac Terraces, Pisac, Sacred Valley, Peru
Pisac Terraces
Intihuatana Ruins, Pisac, Sacred Valley, Peru
Intihuatana Ruins
View of town of Pisac and Terraces, Pisac, Sacred Valley, Peru
View of town of Pisac and Terraces
Path to Intihuatana Ruins, Pisac, Sacred Valley, Peru
Path to Intihuatana Ruins
Citadel Ruins and Terraces, Pisac, Sacred Valley, Peru
Citadel Ruins and Terraces

The stunning terraced mountainside and Inca settlement of Pisac doesn't get the same crowds or hype that Machu Picchu does, but arguably ranks in second place for Inca Ruins and impressive Incan architecture in the Sacred Valley region. Pisac is a totally different location and has a very different feel to it over Machu Picchu. Being more than 1000 metres higher in the Andes mountains, it provides different phases and styles of Inca architecture that you rarely see elsewhere. The difference in elevation is noticeable when hiking around the steep terraces and between different areas of the site, which encompasses an entire mountain on two sides. There are, roughly, four separate areas with varying degrees of Inca building styles around Pisac. Intihuatana is the most impressive having been carved in the classical Inca style out of red granite blocks and featuring a rounded Temple of the Sun. Pisaqa, Kallaqasa and Kinchiracay are the other sites within Pisac, each with their own dramatic positioning, either cliffside or right on top of the mountain. Pisac is another one of those places with a lack of concrete historical fact regarding when it was built and why, due to its complete and utter destruction by the Spanish in the 1530s. The rough consensus among Inca historians is that it would likely have been built no earlier than the mid 1400s. The Incan site of Pisac towers above the town of Pisac which was built by the Spanish, post-conquest. Built on a mountain spur that was expertly terraced by the Inca people, it acted as a possible fortress protecting Cusco from rival native groups. Cusco is a mere 35 km away and can be reached within an hour drive on a paved road with minimal pot holes. Due to this closeness to the major tourist centre in the region of Cusco, Pisac receives a large number of bus tours that shuttle people on day trips to the Sacred Valley Inca sites. With the exception of a 3 hour period where tours funnel people in and out of the site, Pisac lacks major crowds and because it's so spread out, you can go for an extended period of time without seeing other people outside of peak times. This ability to escape the crowds and feel like you have a whole Inca ruin to yourself is timeless and not to be missed. It is highly recommended by our team to take the time to explore all of Pisac over a day and not just on a rushed 1 hour long tour before getting back on a bus. If you want to see different stages of Incan development and their truly impressive terracing of the landscape, ensure Pisac is on your list when visiting Peru.

View of the massive terraces at Pisac from the Kallaqasa Ruins opposite the entrance, Pisac, Sacred Valley, Peru
View of the massive terraces at Pisac from the Kallaqasa Ruins opposite the entrance
View from the entrance to Pisac of the different tiers of terraces, Pisac, Sacred Valley, Peru
View from the entrance to Pisac of the different tiers of terraces
Intihuatana Ruins, Pisac, Sacred Valley, Peru
Intihuatana Ruins
Kallaqasa Ruins, Pisac, Sacred Valley, Peru
Kallaqasa Ruins
Intihuatana Ruins, Pisac, Sacred Valley, Peru
Intihuatana Ruins
Kallaqasa Ruins, Pisac, Sacred Valley, Peru
Kallaqasa Ruins
View from road to Pisac up the valley, Pisac, Sacred Valley, Peru
View from road to Pisac up the valley
Pisac Terraces, Pisac, Sacred Valley, Peru
Pisac Terraces
Pisac Backflip, Pisac, Sacred Valley, Peru
Pisac Backflip
Pisac Backflip, Pisac, Sacred Valley, Peru
Pisac Backflip
Pisac Backflip, Pisac, Sacred Valley, Peru
Pisac Backflip
Path to Intihuatana Ruins, Pisac, Sacred Valley, Peru
Path to Intihuatana Ruins
The Citadel Ruins, Pisac, Sacred Valley, Peru
The Citadel Ruins
View of Pisac Town, Pisac, Sacred Valley, Peru
View of Pisac Town
Pisac Terraces, Pisac, Sacred Valley, Peru
Pisac Terraces
Pisac Terraces, Pisac, Sacred Valley, Peru
Pisac Terraces
Pisac Terraces, Pisac, Sacred Valley, Peru
Pisac Terraces
Path to Intihuatana Ruins, Pisac, Sacred Valley, Peru
Path to Intihuatana Ruins
Gateway to Intihuatana Ruins, Pisac, Sacred Valley, Peru
Gateway to Intihuatana Ruins
Pisac Terraces, Pisac, Sacred Valley, Peru
Pisac Terraces
View from the road between Cusco and Pisac looking up the valley towards Urubamba, Pisac, Sacred Valley, Peru
View from the road between Cusco and Pisac looking up the valley towards Urubamba
The impressive terraces at Pisac with the Citadel Ruins on top, Pisac, Sacred Valley, Peru
The impressive terraces at Pisac with the Citadel Ruins on top
View of the path to Intihuatana Ruins and the terraces below, Pisac, Sacred Valley, Peru
View of the path to Intihuatana Ruins and the terraces below
Intihuatana Ruins, Pisac, Sacred Valley, Peru
Intihuatana Ruins
Kallaqasa Ruins, Pisac, Sacred Valley, Peru
Kallaqasa Ruins
Path to Intihuatana Ruins, Pisac, Sacred Valley, Peru
Path to Intihuatana Ruins
Kallaqasa Ruins, Pisac, Sacred Valley, Peru
Kallaqasa Ruins
Nearby Andean Glacier, Pisac, Sacred Valley, Peru
Nearby Andean Glacier
View of Pisac Town, Pisac, Sacred Valley, Peru
View of Pisac Town
Pisac Terraces, Pisac, Sacred Valley, Peru
Pisac Terraces
Pisac Terraces and Kallaqasa Ruins, Pisac, Sacred Valley, Peru
Pisac Terraces and Kallaqasa Ruins
Pisac Terraces, Pisac, Sacred Valley, Peru
Pisac Terraces
Pisac Terraces, Pisac, Sacred Valley, Peru
Pisac Terraces
Tunnel to access Intihuatana Ruins, Pisac, Sacred Valley, Peru
Tunnel to access Intihuatana Ruins
Stone terrace near entrance, Pisac, Sacred Valley, Peru
Stone terrace near entrance
Path to Intihuatana Ruins, Pisac, Sacred Valley, Peru
Path to Intihuatana Ruins
Intihuatana Ruins, Pisac, Sacred Valley, Peru
Intihuatana Ruins
Pisac from Valley Floor, Pisac, Sacred Valley, Peru
Pisac from Valley Floor
Gateway to Intihuatana Ruins, Pisac, Sacred Valley, Peru
Gateway to Intihuatana Ruins
Tunnel to access Intihuatana Ruins, Pisac, Sacred Valley, Peru
Tunnel to access Intihuatana Ruins
Path to Intihuatana Ruins, Pisac, Sacred Valley, Peru
Path to Intihuatana Ruins

Peruvian Train Ride from Cusco to Machu Picchu

Text by Eric Starling; Photography by Eric Starling and Footside

Farming Community near Ollantaytambo, Peruvian Rail, Cusco to Machu Picchu, Peru
Farming Community near Ollantaytambo
High Plains near Cusco, Peruvian Rail, Cusco to Machu Picchu, Peru
High Plains near Cusco
Urubamba River Gorge, Peruvian Rail, Cusco to Machu Picchu, Peru
Urubamba River Gorge
Riverside Inca Terraces, Peruvian Rail, Cusco to Machu Picchu, Peru
Riverside Inca Terraces
Peru Rail Carriage Car, Peruvian Rail, Cusco to Machu Picchu, Peru
Peru Rail Carriage Car
Andean Glacier, Peruvian Rail, Cusco to Machu Picchu, Peru
Andean Glacier

The train ride to Machu Picchu from Cusco is the most common method of transport people take to access the amazing site built by the ancient Incas. The distance from the different train stations around Cusco to the town of Aguas Calientes, below Machu Picchu, is only about 80 km but takes nearly four hours. The journey is slow to be sure but offers a diverse range of landscapes that make the travel enjoyable and interesting. The area around Cusco is roughly 3400 to 3600 metres above sea level. At this altitude you don't get many trees or vegetation, just barren hills and wide open high plains in the Andes. There is a vast and noticeable difference between the terrain and foliage around Aguas Calientes, which is nearly 1200 metres lower in elevation than Cusco and much closer to the Amazon jungle. The start of the journey you see desolate brown, red and yellow hills and high plains. These high altitude landscapes turn into steep-sided canyons with towering mountains as the train route meets up with the Urubamba River. Further along steep, jagged mountains capped with glaciers and snow offering some fantastic visuals from the train carriage, rise up above the narrow valley floor. The last hour before arrival at Aguas Calientes becomes thick jungle, forest and brush that grows right from the river to the peaks of the surrounding mountains. Immediately, you can feel the difference in humidity in these near tropical gorges compared to the dry, arid area around Cusco. As the train winds it way along the Urubamba River, you get an appreciation for how difficult it must have been travelling in this terrain for not only the early explorers but the Inca themselves. It becomes less surprising that the Spanish never discovered Machu Picchu even though it was so close to their area of control. Thanks to this dramatic remote location Machu Picchu remains for all to see.

Urubamba River, Peruvian Rail, Cusco to Machu Picchu, Peru
Urubamba River
High Plains near Cusco, Peruvian Rail, Cusco to Machu Picchu, Peru
High Plains near Cusco
Jagged Mountain, Peruvian Rail, Cusco to Machu Picchu, Peru
Jagged Mountain
Near Ollantaytambo, Peruvian Rail, Cusco to Machu Picchu, Peru
Near Ollantaytambo
Urubamba River, Peruvian Rail, Cusco to Machu Picchu, Peru
Urubamba River
Aguas Calientes, Peruvian Rail, Cusco to Machu Picchu, Peru
Aguas Calientes
High Plains near Cusco, Peruvian Rail, Cusco to Machu Picchu, Peru
High Plains near Cusco
Railway Workers, Peruvian Rail, Cusco to Machu Picchu, Peru
Railway Workers
Inside Peru Rail Carriage, Peruvian Rail, Cusco to Machu Picchu, Peru
Inside Peru Rail Carriage
Riverside Inca Terraces, Peruvian Rail, Cusco to Machu Picchu, Peru
Riverside Inca Terraces
Peru Rail Engine Car, Peruvian Rail, Cusco to Machu Picchu, Peru
Peru Rail Engine Car
Urubamba River, Peruvian Rail, Cusco to Machu Picchu, Peru
Urubamba River
Inca designs on the inside of the Peru Rail train carriage, Peruvian Rail, Cusco to Machu Picchu, Peru
Inca designs on the inside of the Peru Rail train carriage
Start of the Inca Trail, Peruvian Rail, Cusco to Machu Picchu, Peru
Start of the Inca Trail
Andean Glacier, Peruvian Rail, Cusco to Machu Picchu, Peru
Andean Glacier
Shack next to railway, Peruvian Rail, Cusco to Machu Picchu, Peru
Shack next to railway
Small Village, Peruvian Rail, Cusco to Machu Picchu, Peru
Small Village
Aguas Calientes, Peruvian Rail, Cusco to Machu Picchu, Peru
Aguas Calientes
Near Ollantaytambo, Peruvian Rail, Cusco to Machu Picchu, Peru
Near Ollantaytambo
Urubamba River, Peruvian Rail, Cusco to Machu Picchu, Peru
Urubamba River
Urubamba River, Peruvian Rail, Cusco to Machu Picchu, Peru
Urubamba River
Urubamba River, Peruvian Rail, Cusco to Machu Picchu, Peru
Urubamba River
Urubamba River, Peruvian Rail, Cusco to Machu Picchu, Peru
Urubamba River
Near Cusco, Peruvian Rail, Cusco to Machu Picchu, Peru
Near Cusco
Railway Workers, Peruvian Rail, Cusco to Machu Picchu, Peru
Railway Workers
Start of the Inca Trail, Peruvian Rail, Cusco to Machu Picchu, Peru
Start of the Inca Trail
Urubamba River, Peruvian Rail, Cusco to Machu Picchu, Peru
Urubamba River
Urubamba River and Old Bridge, Peruvian Rail, Cusco to Machu Picchu, Peru
Urubamba River and Old Bridge
Inside Peru Rail Carriage, Peruvian Rail, Cusco to Machu Picchu, Peru
Inside Peru Rail Carriage
Willy Goyzue, Peruvian Rail, Cusco to Machu Picchu, Peru
Willy Goyzue
Peru Rail Carriage, Peruvian Rail, Cusco to Machu Picchu, Peru
Peru Rail Carriage

Ollantaytambo

Text by Footside; Photography by Footside and Eric Starling

Ollantaytambo Inca Fortress, Ollantaytambo, Sacred Valley, Peru
Ollantaytambo Inca Fortress
View of Fortress from Train Station, Ollantaytambo, Sacred Valley, Peru
View of Fortress from Train Station
Agricultural Terraces, Ollantaytambo, Sacred Valley, Peru
Agricultural Terraces
View from top of Inca Fortress, Ollantaytambo, Sacred Valley, Peru
View from top of Inca Fortress
Craft Stalls, Ollantaytambo, Sacred Valley, Peru
Craft Stalls
Inca Fortress and Terraces, Ollantaytambo, Sacred Valley, Peru
Inca Fortress and Terraces

Ollantayambo may only be some 20 kilometres, as the crow flies, from Machu Picchu, but expect any journey between Ollantayambo and the famous Inca ruin site to take up a good portion of your travel day. Sure it's possible to skip on through, straight to Machu or Cusco, but at the very least the compact town of Olly and its impressive Inca fortress and other ruins are worth a quick midday stop. Better yet, make the most of the picturesque, desolate surroundings with some awesome hikes, abandoned ruins and free reign to all the little sites surrounding the town. The most prominent feature of Ollantayambo are the pyramid-like terraces that climb the towns adjacent hillside. Nowhere near the same scale as the premier terraces of Pisac, they are nonetheless an impressive sight and a marvel of old-world engineering. After a quick climb to the top, you'll be rewarded with some great views of the surrounding valleys and mountains. A further scramble around the rocky hilltop trails and you'll get some fine side profile views of the jagged terraces. There are a couple of large monoliths positioned in the temple area atop the terraces, some other basic rock ruins, but essentially it's relatively bare. At ground level, there are some ruined storehouses, wells and irrigation systems. Again basic, but worth a quick look. All this can be easily covered in under an hour, and you'll be on the next minivan to Cusco before you know it. It's a rush, but handy if you're on a tight schedule. For those with the luxury of a little time, the small town of Olly has a quaint, rustic feel with quiet streets and peaceful cafes. It's a world away from the tourist oriented areas of Cusco and Aguas Callientes. A real welcome piece of authenticity. Pretty much everyone has to pass Ollantayambo on the way to/from Machu Picchu, what you get out of it will depend on what you put in. The more time the better, and although limiting yourself to a quick stop-off can be justified, the appealing town of Olly needs a good solid day to really shine through.

View of the prominent jagged mountain Pinkuylluna that the rises above the town of Ollantaytambo, Sacred Valley, Peru
View of the prominent jagged mountain Pinkuylluna that the rises above the town of Ollantaytambo
View of the town of Ollantaytambo on the left, Terraces of Pumatallis on the right and the fortress of Ollantaytambo above it all, Sacred Valley, Peru
View of the town of Ollantaytambo on the left, Terraces of Pumatallis on the right and the fortress of Ollantaytambo above it all
Craft Stall and Local Taxi, Ollantaytambo, Sacred Valley, Peru
Craft Stall and Local Taxi
View up the Urubamba Valley, Ollantaytambo, Sacred Valley, Peru
View up the Urubamba Valley
View of Inca Ruins below fortress, Ollantaytambo, Sacred Valley, Peru
View of Inca Ruins below fortress
Terraces , Ollantaytambo, Sacred Valley, Peru
Terraces
Stairway to Fortress, Ollantaytambo, Sacred Valley, Peru
Stairway to Fortress
Inca storehouse above town, Ollantaytambo, Sacred Valley, Peru
Inca storehouse above town
Pinkuylluna, Inca Storehouse, Ollantaytambo, Sacred Valley, Peru
Pinkuylluna, Inca Storehouse
Ollantaytambo Skyline, Ollantaytambo, Sacred Valley, Peru
Ollantaytambo Skyline
Inca Fortress, Ollantaytambo, Sacred Valley, Peru
Inca Fortress
Flowers, Ollantaytambo, Sacred Valley, Peru
Flowers
Inca Fortress, Ollantaytambo, Sacred Valley, Peru
Inca Fortress
Inside Ruin Site, Ollantaytambo, Sacred Valley, Peru
Inside Ruin Site
Terraces, Ollantaytambo, Sacred Valley, Peru
Terraces
Terraces, Ollantaytambo, Sacred Valley, Peru
Terraces
Terraces, Ollantaytambo, Sacred Valley, Peru
Terraces
View of the craft stalls and mountains that surround Ollantaytambo, Sacred Valley, Peru
View of the craft stalls and mountains that surround Ollantaytambo
View of the top of the Ollantaytambo Inca Fortress looking down on the town, Ollantaytambo, Sacred Valley, Peru
View of the top of the Ollantaytambo Inca Fortress looking down on the town
View of the top of the Ollantaytambo Inca Fortress looking down on the town, Ollantaytambo, Sacred Valley, Peru
View of the top of the Ollantaytambo Inca Fortress looking down on the town
Unfinished building stones, Ollantaytambo, Sacred Valley, Peru
Unfinished building stones
Inca Fortress, Ollantaytambo, Sacred Valley, Peru
Inca Fortress
View of Fortress from road, Ollantaytambo, Sacred Valley, Peru
View of Fortress from road
Inca Storehouse, Ollantaytambo, Sacred Valley, Peru
Inca Storehouse
Inca Fortress, Ollantaytambo, Sacred Valley, Peru
Inca Fortress
Entrance to Ruins, Ollantaytambo, Sacred Valley, Peru
Entrance to Ruins
Ruin Site, Ollantaytambo, Sacred Valley, Peru
Ruin Site
Craft Stalls, Ollantaytambo, Sacred Valley, Peru
Craft Stalls
Top of Terraces, Ollantaytambo, Sacred Valley, Peru
Top of Terraces
Inca Site, Ollantaytambo, Sacred Valley, Peru
Inca Site
Inca Site, Ollantaytambo, Sacred Valley, Peru
Inca Site
Inca Site, Ollantaytambo, Sacred Valley, Peru
Inca Site

Moray and Maras Salt Pans

Text by Eric Starling; Photography by Eric Starling and Footside

Moray, Inca Ruins, Sacred Valley, Peru
Moray
Maras Salt Pans, Sacred Valley, Peru
Maras Salt Pans
Road to Moray, Sacred Valley, Peru
Road to Moray
View from Moray, Sacred Valley, Peru
View from Moray
Maras Salt Pans, Sacred Valley, Peru
Maras Salt Pans
Moray, Inca Ruins, Sacred Valley, Peru
Moray

Moray and the Maras Salt Flats are common stopovers on the Sacred Valley tour that can be done from Cusco. This tour typically includes the exceptionally impressive site of Pisac as well as the Inca fortress of Ollantaytambo, making for a long 12 hour day. Moray is a relatively small site with the circular terracing apparently serving as a spot that allowed different crops to be farmed at different levels of the depression it sits within. The purpose of this Inca site is still uncertain, but the depression where it sits has provided the theory that it was suitable for advanced agriculture. The depth and orientation with respect to wind and sun exposure creates a temperature difference of as much as 15 °C from the top and bottom. Nearby the site of Moray are the Maras Salt Flats. Taking up an entire hillside within a very steep gorge of red earth, these salt ponds have been used for centuries and pre-date the Incan dominance of the region. The salt is obtained through evaporation of the salt infused water that originates within the earth and appears in small pools staggered down the hillside. The flow is directed into an intricate system of tiny channels constructed so that the water runs gradually down into several hundred ancient terraced ponds. Once a pool has filled to the correct height with supersaturated water, workers shut off the flow of water and let it dry out before harvesting. Our team personally found the distinctive round Inca terracing of Moray and the Salt Flat of Maras to be an average experience after seeing Machu Picchu, Pisac and Ollantaytambo. It is recommended to either do this tour first so as not to have a similar let down or spend more time exploring Pisac and Ollantaytambo which both have a richer history and more to see and do.

View inside of the terraced Inca Ruins of Moray, Inca Ruins, Sacred Valley, Peru
View inside of the terraced Inca Ruins of Moray
View of the Maras Salt Pans from the Entrance, Sacred Valley, Peru
View of the Maras Salt Pans from the Entrance
View of the High Plains, Mountains and road to Moray, Sacred Valley, Peru
View of the High Plains, Mountains and road to Moray
Moray, Inca Ruins, Sacred Valley, Peru
Moray
Maras Salt Pans, Sacred Valley, Peru
Maras Salt Pans
Moray, Inca Ruins, Sacred Valley, Peru
Moray
View from Moray, Sacred Valley, Peru
View from Moray
Moray, Inca Ruins, Sacred Valley, Peru
Moray
Road to Moray, Sacred Valley, Peru
Road to Moray
Maras Salt Pans, Sacred Valley, Peru
Maras Salt Pans
Maras Salt Pans, Sacred Valley, Peru
Maras Salt Pans
Maras Salt Pans, Sacred Valley, Peru
Maras Salt Pans
Maras Salt Pans, Sacred Valley, Peru
Maras Salt Pans
Moray, Inca Ruins, Sacred Valley, Peru
Moray
Maras Salt Pans, Sacred Valley, Peru
Maras Salt Pans
View of the Maras Salt Pans from the dirt road that accesses the site, Sacred Valley, Peru
View of the Maras Salt Pans from the dirt road that accesses the site
Panoramic view of the High Plains and Mountains that surround Moray, Sacred Valley, Peru
Panoramic view of the High Plains and Mountains that surround Moray
View inside of the terraced Inca Ruins of Moray, Sacred Valley, Peru
View inside of the terraced Inca Ruins of Moray
View of the High Plains and Mountains that surround Moray, Sacred Valley, Peru
View of the High Plains and Mountains that surround Moray
Moray, Inca Ruins, Sacred Valley, Peru
Moray
Maras Salt Pans from above, Sacred Valley, Peru
Maras Salt Pans from above
Farmers near Moray, Sacred Valley, Peru
Farmers near Moray
Moray, Inca Ruins, Sacred Valley, Peru
Moray
Moray, Inca Ruins, Sacred Valley, Peru
Moray
Moray, Inca Ruins, Sacred Valley, Peru
Moray
Moray, Inca Ruins, Sacred Valley, Peru
Moray
Maras Salt Pans, Sacred Valley, Peru
Maras Salt Pans
High Plains near Moray, Sacred Valley, Peru
High Plains near Moray
High Plains near Moray, Sacred Valley, Peru
High Plains near Moray
Road to Moray, Sacred Valley, Peru
Road to Moray
Moray, Inca Ruins, Sacred Valley, Peru
Moray