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Cusco, Machu Picchu 

A visit to Machu Picchu and Cusco is one of the highlights of a lifetime of travelling.  Note that I mention Cusco on equal terms with Machu Pichu.  If Machu Picchu is one of the world's most impressive outdoor locations, surely Cusco is one of the greatest urban locations.  Cusco is not simply a way station for reaching Machu Picchu.

The following is based on a visit during 2002.

The most famous hotel in Cusco is the Hotel Monasterio, a converted monastery.  Try to stay there.  We were unable to get a room there, and were happy with:

HOTEL NOVOTEL CUSCO

San Agustin 239

Esquina Pasaje Santa Mˇnica

Phone: 011-(51-84)22-82-82

Fax: 011-(084)22-88-55

You will need to take the issue of altitude very seriously when you travel to Cusco, even if you have never had problems before.  The usual gateway is a flight from Lima, which is at sea level.  This allows for no transition.  Speak to your doctor, if you have not experienced how you will cope.  Our travel agency recommended eating lightly the day before travel to Cusco and no alcohol. Upon arrival in Cusco we were told to go to bed immediately for at least a two hour nap. Major hotels have oxygen.  The locals swear by various coca drinks, which are readily available.  Machu Picchu is actually 1,000 meters lower than Cusco, so if you are acclimated to Cusco, Machu Picchu should not be a problem.

Cusco is a fascinating combination of Inca and Spanish construction.  There is no city like it anywhere in the world.  Allow plenty of time to walk around.  Don't miss the Inca fortress of Sacsayhuaman, which would be a major destination even without its proximity to Cusco.

Most people take a day trip by rail to Macchu Pichu, departing at 6 am and returning at 6 pm.  This is a very long day with a relatively short period of time to visit Macchu Pichu.  Most of your time will be on the very slow train, which goes through fascinating territory, but will not be Macchu Pichu.  From the train, there is a memorable bus ride up the mountain.  It will still be one of the most fascinating days of your life, but you will never be alone during the peak of the day and you will wish you had more time.  We didn't do it, but I strongly recommend planning your trip so that you can stay overnight at the one hotel that is adjacent to the park, so that you can be there during the early morning hours.