By all means, see Machu Picchu when you go to Cuzco! But I’d suggest adding a couple more days to your trip so you can travel through the Sacred Valley of the Incas (Urubamba Valley) and surrounding towns and ruins. You’ll get to experience the Andean culture outside touristy Cuzco. Don’t get me wrong, Cuzco is one of my favorite places in the world. I have traveled there for years, but I’ve seen it change. I guess you could call it progress, but it’s gone from an almost remote pueblo or small town to a Starburcks-laden / Wifi Here! / Like-us-on-FB kind of place.
To balance the congestion in Cuzco, take a ridiculously cheap combi (a small-passenger bus – anyone at your hotel or hostel will be able to help you with this) or hire a taxi (still inexpensive) and ask the driver to take you to the Moray ruins, as seen above. The trip is about 1 hour by combi, a little less by taxi. On the way over there, you’ll appreciate stunning scenery and beauty. If you’re adventurous, like me, stop at a side-road restaurant campestre, where locals will feed you a simple, yet amazing meal. (Be forewarned: Guinea pig is a very common dish. I like it – it tastes better than chicken. Just saying).
Moray has a somewhat different structure than Machu Picchu. It’s not built up, but down. When you get there, you’ll see a very deep pit (maybe 100 feet deep) with a series of concentric circles. When we got there it was almost closing time and there was no guide, but we learned from our driver that this unique archeological site was actually an agricultural site, a place where the Incas experimented with different crops.
The drive through the Sacred Valley is stunning. I was there in July, a time when farmers are almost done harvesting their crops. They do this as a family, as you can see below. There’s so much more to see in Cuzco. Don’t miss it.