If you start your journey in Ollantaytambo, Peru, which is just 2 hours outside of Cusco, you have the option to take Perurail’s crazy Vistadome trains to the summit of the site. If you never get to travel via rail, like most of America, you’ll be amazed at the enormous windows that crawl up the sides of the train cars and curl around the roof. They’re perfect for watching staggering mountains rush past you.
2. Inca Kola
This sugary sweet version of Pepsi is a Peruvian staple and tastes a little bit like cream soda with an extra packet of sugar, or six. You will see the tall glass bottles everyone, and you shouldn’t leave Peru without trying it at least once.
3. Hearts Cafe in Ollantaytambo
Ollantaytambo is like the base camp one of Machu Picchu and Hearts Cafe is where people from all walks of life get together to share a quick meal, an Inca Kola and stories of their hopes as they begin the Inca Trail, or horrors of altitude sickness afterwards. Before you leave, take a walk around the village, which could not be more idyllic, and score some Peruvian-print Keds knockoffs to take back home.
They are everywhere.
5. The Market at Cusco
Everything from affordable real silver to textiles to masks.
6. Aguas Calientes
This town’s name literally means “hot water” in Spanish, and it’s built on top of a natural hot springs. It’s the last stop before climbing to Machu Picchu. Though there are some great restaurants and shops, it’s most known for its natural hot springs, which run through the town and conveniently land in little hot tubs that stay open late at night. It’s a great pitstop before the long day at the site.
7. Street Food in Cusco
You can find choclo (corn) and tamales on many corners, as well as meat kabobs and even cuy, which is Andean guinea pig, a delicacy in Peru.
8. No Really. They’re So Stinking Cute.
Seriously, come for the llamas alone.
9. The Art
There’s a lot of quiet art all over Peru, from golden statuettes in the dozens of chapels and churches across the country, to tiny murals like this one, sending homage to “Pacha Mama,” or Mother Earth.
10. The Passport Stamp
Though Machu Picchu is not its own country, if you bring your passport to the gates of the site, staff will give you a stamp for your collection.
11. Bonus: This View
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