Just outside Cusco, the Urubamba river flows through the picturesque, fertile Sacred Valley under the shadow of the snow-capped Vilcabamba mountains. Once breadbasket of the Inca, the Sacred valley sits on average at 2800m above sea-level, 500m lower than Cusco, and is characterised by white-washed Inca villages, traditional markets and a series of impressive Inca sites and ruins.
Though more often visited as a daytrip from Cusco, the Sacred Valley is the perfect spot for acclimatising and recharging your batteries. There is a good selection of hotels that provide welcome relief from the bustle of Cusco and attractions that will keep you busy for days.
At the top end of the Valley, Pisac offers a popular traditional market with fine ruins in the hills above the town while at the far end, Ollantaytambo, arguably the most authentic Inca town remaining, boasts a spectacular fortress overlooking the countryside, never conquered by the Spanish. Further afield, the pre-Colombian salt-flats of Maras are hugely photogenic and often combined with the enigmatic site of Moray, circular Inca terraces that rise up the hills.