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A Perfect Week in Cusco

Into the Andes

Picture yourself inhaling fresh mountain air and soaking up the sunlight from the soaring peaks of the Andes. With its narrow cobblestone streets and the merging of Inca and Spanish cultures, the Peruvian city of Cusco provides a gateway to a historical journey made modern by cafés and restaurants, handicraft shops and hotels for every taste. Follow this plan to get the most out of your trip to one of the globe's most breathtaking World Heritage sites.

Inkaterra La Cascona: in the lap of luxury

If you are looking for the perfect balance of intimate and high style, the stunning 16th-century colonial manor house of Inkaterra La Casona will charm you. Enormous carved doors, stone fireplaces, Andean textiles and a lavish courtyard make La Casona one of the finest places to stay during your visit to Cusco. Located minutes from the Plaza de Armas, at the tiny Plazoleta Nazarenas, the hotel is within easy reach of the Museum of Pre-Columbian Art, MAP café and cobblestone streets. If you are lucky enough to experience breakfast through dinner here, try the crispy guinea pig confit with Andean ratatouille and sweet pears cooked in purple corn and pisco. — Plaza las Nazarenas, Cusco. +511 610 0400; inkaterra.com

Cusco City: start here

The Qorikancha and the Convent of Santo Domingo
As soon as you start walking through the historical center of Cusco, you'll notice how colonial buildings were built on the bases of Inca palaces. While most visitors want to see all ruins and get a deeper understanding of their history, travelers pressed for time need a concise circuit. The Cusco Tourist Ticket (Boleto Turístico) allows you to see the most important places in the city as well as major archaeological sites. Since this is your first day (at more than 11,000 feet above sea level), sip your mate de coca (herbal tea made with coca leaves) and take a slow stroll through Qorikancha, one of the richest temples in the Inca empire. Legend says it was once covered in gold. — BTG Ticket Office, Avenida el Sol, Galerías Turísticas. cosituc.gob.pe. You can also buy tickets in any of the attractions listed on the ticket.

Sacsayhumán and more: circuit two

Your day-two journey begins with a 10-minute drive (in a cab, bus or minivan) to visit the nearby archaeological sites. Your first stop will be Tambomachay (Baños del Inca), a sanctuary dedicated to the cult of water, said to be reserved for ancient Incan leaders. Take time to observe the amazing hydraulic engineering and enjoy the sound of the springs. Before you head to the stone labyrinth of Qenqo, breathe some fresh air in the mountain valley and share time with local weavers herding their llamas and alpacas in the vast fields. Next on the list is the Inca architectural masterpiece of Sacsayhuamán, a stone citadel on a hill overlooking the city. You'll want to spend at least a couple of hours discovering the nine-meter massive stones and their peculiar placement. And you literally can't miss the expansive view of the city.

Greens Organic: down to earth

Greens Organic Restaurant
After a long day of walks and hikes, reenergize with a fresh organic meal. Located near the main plaza, Greens Organic is a gourmet restaurant featuring ingredients from the restaurant's own farm in the Sacred Valley. Order the house garden salad to start and you'll instanly feel your energy revive. It may take several minutes to decide among the main courses, but if you order the locally raised trout we promise you'll be delighted as it's set before you. — Santa Catalina Angosta 135, second flr., Plaza de Armas, Cusco. +51 84 243379; cuscorestaurants.com

Los Perros: relax on the couch

On Tecsecocha Street, just a few blocks away from the main plaza, you'll find Los Perros, a casual bar that serves homestyle food and great cocktails. Once you recline on the comfy couches, you can grab a magazine or book and enjoy the soundtrack while a friendly crowd hangs out around you. If you're not in the mood for booze, ask for the lemon verbena lemonade and buzz on the freshness. — Tecsecocha Steet 436, Cusco. +51 84 241 447

Písac Market: heading to the Sacred Valley

Pisac Market
Today, escape the city and discover the Andean countryside, dotted with weaving villages, ruins and craft markets, before heading to Machu Picchu. Písac is a small village in the Sacred Valley that's known for its hilltop Inca citadel and colorful markets. This is a must-stop if you want to experience an authentic open-air market. Popular for its spiritual magnetism, Písac is a good bet if you're in the mood for a yoga retreat or an Andean cleansing session. — Mercado de Pisac, Valle Sagrado

Urubamba Villas: Welcome to Higuspucro

Higuspucro Houses
Do you believe in love at first sight? You will once you cross the main entrance of Urubamba Villas - Higuspucro. Charming gardens ensconced in mountain mist join tall eucalyptus trees to envelop each adobe-style casita, where inside a cozy fireplace awaits. Each villa has distinctive decor and character; woven tapestries, antique artcrafts and brilliant textiles brighten the houses. If you've been longing to spend a day or two in the serene natural atmosphere before stepping  into the touristy cluster of the ruins, this is where to stay. The most you'll do is take a stroll through the gleaming meadow or walk a few steps to the nearest bodega, where you can pick up Cusqueñan bread and cheese for a satisfying snack. — +51 999 705 270; villahigus.com

Maroma: adventure time

Wrap up your Sacred Valley excursion with a thrill thanks to Maroma Experience. Jump on a buggy or a four-wheeled motorcycle and head to the salt pans of Maras, located two miles above sea level with panoramic views of the snowcapped Andes. Then get back on track to head to Laguna Huaypo, where you can rest and regroup with a snack surrounded by the peaceful scenery. Don't worry about getting dirty: Just get comfortable and Maroma will take care of the rest. — Av. Berriozabal 106, Sacred Valley, Urubamba. + 51 964 102463; maromaexperienceperu.com

El Huacatay: perk up

El Huacatay
How we perceive food is a multilayered experience: Each sense stimulates another, over and over. For that reason El Huacatay is a stimulating spot for any meal. Expect Peruvian fusion cuisine, such as a Pumahuanca trout tartare to start, followed by an alpaca tenderloin in Oporto sauce. Do we need to say more? Didn't think so. — Jirón Arica 620, Urubamba, Sacred Valley. +51 84 20 17 90; facebook.com

Ollantaytambo: step back in time

Yes, this is where you'll catch the train to Machu Picchu. But wait! Before you head to the train station there's plenty to do. And you may want to spend a whole day (perhaps a night, too) wandering the narrow coblestone streets of Ollanta. Take in the fortress and temple of the Inca ruins, where Manco Inca retreated after his defeat at Sacsayhuaman. Go for hikes and ride bikes, explore restaurants and bars, and wander down narrow trails. You made it all the way here. Don't miss a thing.

Machu Picchu: you made it

When the explorer Hiram Bingham III encountered Machu Picchu in 1911, he brought the Peruvian Andes to the world's attention. The classic journey to the Inca citadel is a challenging multiday hike along the Inca Trail, but if you already made it all the way to Aguas Calientes, you can contact an Inkaterra private guide and discover the archaeological site within minutes. No matter how you arrive to the "Old Peak" (its name in the native Quechua language), the result is astounding: You'll feel a sublime combination of reverence, wonder and appreciation. A sense of mystery that invites you to go beyond what you already know. (You may want to spend a full 48 hours here: Check out our Perfect Weekend in Inkaterra Machu Picchu for your itinerary.)

Hilo: one of a kind

Before bidding adieu to the Incan capital, alleviate your going-back-home blues by discovering Eibhlin Cassidy's 1940s-style boutique workshop Hilo. Old sewing machines, vintage typewriters and a wide collection of spools and buttons decorate the walls and tables. Inspired by theater, dance, Victorian costumes and the vibrant streets of Perú, Irish designer Eibhlin Cassidy combines fabric, textures, hooks and ribbons to create bespoke garments. We can guarantee you'll leave here with a dress that no one else in the world owns. Email for more information. — Carmen Alto 260, Cusco. +51 974 222 294; hilocusco.com

This post was originally published on SavoteurSavoteur is a digital publication celebrating what makes the world rich and unique - the food, music, art, culture, nightlife, style and travel.

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