Before visiting Machu Picchu, I spent two weeks exploring the area around Cuzco, Peru. Most of the people I met were simply rushing to get to Machu Picchu and missed out on spectacular ruins and picturesque towns in the nearby Sacred Valley, the nickname for the Rio Urubamba Valley 10 miles north of Cuzco. The dry season in Peru starts in May, which makes it the perfect time to explore and acclimatize to the altitude before heading to Machu Picchu.

Before leaving Cuzco, purchase an official tourist ticket—a boleto turístico for $40—which offers access over a 10-day period to 17 sites, including Cuzco museums and four of the Inca ruins below. Boleto turísticos are required, although you can buy a single-entry ticket for $22 at each site.

Be sure to set aside a few extra days to visit these five amazing places, many of which are an easy day trip from Cuzco.

Anna Mazurek is a travel photographer and writer based in Austin, Texas. Follow her adventures and travel advice on Instagram and at

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