Incas deemed this spot the belly button of the world. A visit to Cuzco tumbles you back into the cosmic realm of ancient Andean culture – knocked down and fused with the colonial splendors of Spanish conquest, only to be repackaged as a thriving tourist mecca. Yet Cuzco is only the gateway. Beyond lies the Sacred Valley, Andean countryside dotted with villages, high altitude hamlets and ruins linked by trail and railway tracks to the continent's biggest draw – Machu Picchu.
Old ways are not forgotten here. Colorful textiles keep vivid the past, as do the wild fiestas and carnivals where pagan tradition meets solemn Catholic ritual. A stunning landscape careens from Andean peaks to orchid-rich cloud forests and Amazon lowlands. Explore it on foot or by fat tire, rafting wild rivers or simply braving the local buses to the remote and dust-worn corners of this far-reaching, culturally rich department.