9 Things To See and Do on a Trip to Machu Picchu and Peru’s Sacred Valley

Located just 350 miles south of the Peruvian capital of Lima, Cusco, Machu Picchu and the Sacred Valley deserve a spot on any traveler’s South American destination list.
Zach Honig (Cardless)
June 6, 2022

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Set high up in the Andes mountain range, with an elevation of over 11,150 feet, Cusco is easily one of the world’s most popular tourist destinations, attracting millions of visitors each year.

Cusco, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, serves as the gateway to Peru’s Sacred Valley, with easy access to Machu Picchu and other key attractions, including the Incan ruins at Pisca and Ollantaytambo, the Incan-era Salinas and the markets of Pisac and Chinchero.

From incredible food to local crafts to unbeatable Machu Picchu views, there’s plenty to eat, see and do on your next trip to this very special region of Peru.

Book an easy flight from Lima

LATAM Airlines offers more than 20 daily flights between Lima and Cusco. (Photo by Zach Honig/Cardless)

During peak periods, LATAM Airlines offers more than 20 daily flights between Lima and Cusco, with fares starting around $120 (as of this writing) or as few as 8,500 LATAM Pass Miles each way. With travel times of about 90 minutes from gate to gate, it’s an easy journey to the mountains from the sea. Be sure to grab a window seat if you can; the views are spectacular.

Be sure to pay with the LATAM Airlines Mastercard or LATAM Airlines World Elite Mastercard to earn bonus miles when you book your flight, and consider redeeming an Upgrade Coupon from your LATAM Airlines World Elite Mastercard for a chance at scoring a seat in Premium Business on your long-haul flight or Premium Economy for the final leg to Cusco, when booking an eligible Plus or Top economy fare. Learn more about upgrading your flight right here.

Hire a driver

The cost of hiring a car and driver is typically far less than you’d expect to see in the U.S. (Photo by Zach Honig/Cardless)

A rental car will give you the flexibility to explore the region over an extended period or on your own time, but the cost of hiring a car and driver is typically far less than you’d expect to see in the U.S. In some cases, providers can ferry you between Cusco and key regional attractions for around $100 per day. Similarly, transfers between the Cusco Airport and your hotel are considerably less expensive than private car rates you’d expect to see at destinations in North America.

Don’t miss the iconic view of Machu Picchu

You’ll have an unobstructed view of the citadel and the renowned Huayna Picchu mountain just behind. (Photo by Zach Honig/Cardless)

It may be the reason you’re there, but one wrong step could have you missing one of Machu Picchu’s most iconic views. Once you pass through the main entrance, keep left at the fork in the path and head toward the trail to Machu Picchu mountain. After a bit of climbing, you’ll have an unobstructed view of the citadel and the renowned Huayna Picchu mountain just behind.

Explore Aguas Calientes

Machu Picchu visitors first pass through the small town of Aguas Calientes, also known as Machupicchu Pueblo. (Photo by Zach Honig/Cardless)

Travelers visiting Machu Picchu begin their journey up to the citadel by passing through the small town of Aguas Calientes, also known as Machupicchu Pueblo. Booking an overnight stay can make it possible to visit Machu Picchu for sunrise or sunset, giving visitors an opportunity to photograph the site during a far quieter time of day.

Shop for local products

You’ll find comfy hats and gloves, traditional panchos, decorative runners and other handicrafts. (Photo by Zach Honig/Cardless)

Peru’s Sacred Valley is famous for its wool products, including a wide range of alpaca and llama products. At the region’s many markets and shops, you’ll find comfy hats and gloves, traditional panchos, decorative runners, throw blankets and warm sweaters. For an extra treat, pick out an item made of baby alpaca wool, among the world’s finest.

Sample Andean cuisine

Peru’s mountain cuisine tends to be heartier, and full of flavor. (Photo by Zach Honig/Cardless)

Coastal Peru is known for its seafood, including legendary ceviche, a dish of fresh, cured raw fish. Mountain food tends to be heartier, but still full of flavor. Peruvian quinoa soup is a must-try in the Andes, as are alpaca steak and llama stew. After your visit, you may even want to recreate some of your favorites with beef back home.

Visit during shoulder season

The shoulder months of April, May and September can make for a very pleasant trip, without the crowds. (Photo by Zach Honig/Cardless)

You could luck out with good weather and fewer tourists any time of year, but you’re more likely to encounter rain during the months between October and March. While June, July and August can be especially busy, the shoulder months of April, May and September can make for a very pleasant trip, without the crowds.

Splurge on a five-star hotel

A trip to the Sacred Valley makes for a great opportunity to experience a high-end stay at a reasonable rate. (Photo by Zach Honig/Cardless)

Despite its remote location, the Cusco region offers a wide variety of luxury hotels. Especially if you’re visiting during the quieter months, pricing at some of the most luxurious hotels in the Andes can hover below $200 per night, making for a great opportunity to experience a high-end stay at a reasonable rate. You’ll pay less for incidentals than you will at many U.S. hotels, too, including spa treatments, activities and exceptional meals.

Consider the altitude

Positioned at just over 11,150 feet, Cusco is one of the highest cities in the world. (Photo by Zach Honig/Cardless)

Last but certainly not least, anyone prone to altitude sickness will want to consider the region’s elevation when planning out an Andean itinerary. Positioned at just over 11,150 feet, Cusco is one of the highest cities in the world. To ease the transition you may want to begin your adventure with overnight stays at lower altitudes, in towns like Aguas Calientes (6,700 feet), Ollantaytambo (9,160 feet) or Urubamba (9,420 feet), all three of which are located with day trip distance of Machu Picchu. Then, consider a Cusco stay at the end of your trip, after you’ve had a few days to acclimate.

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