Travel tips: Machu Picchu and the Sacred Valley
For independent travelers, here's some advice. Fly into Cuzco (11,000ft.) but don't begin your visit there. Head down into the valley and make a town at a lower altitude your base as you explore area sites. Unless you are accustomed to high altitudes, you'll understand why as you breathlessly make your way from the plane to baggage claim.
My daughter and I headed to Urubamba, comfortable at about 9,000 feet, and branched out from there. The Pisac ruins, the Pisac market -- the best market weâ€™ve encountered in South America -- and historic Ollantaytambo were close by. We enjoyed wandering around both the town of Urubamba and the garden-like setting of our hotel, which was situated on the Urubamba river.
We stayed in the Incaland Hotel in Urubamba, which sounds like a theme park, but isnâ€™t. The owners of the hotel also own the â€œSacred Valley Railwayâ€ which departs for Machu Picchu from a station at the hotel early in the morning. It arrives in Aguas Clientes well before the train from Cuzco. It also leaves later in the afternoon, allowing more time to explore Machu Picchu.
After four or five days in Urubamba we were ready to head up to Cuzco and found ourselves fairly well adjusted to the altitude. Iâ€™ve met many people who were too miserable to appreciate Cuzco because of the elevation and feel this is a good way to acclimate to the cityâ€™s high altitude.
Hope this is helpful and makes you want to go...it's well worth it!
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