Our entire trip to Peru was planned around our 4 day trek to Machu Picchu along the Inca Trail. It's important to acclimate to the elevation before beginning the trek, as it is physically difficult and your body needs time to adjust to the reduced amount of oxygen. We spent 4 days in Cusco prior to our hike, and then 1 day after the hike to unwind. This time was so fortunate, because Cusco is an incredible city full of history, culture, great food and fun streets to explore. Before going on this trip, I wholeheartedly recommend reading Turn Right at Machu Picchu: Rediscovering the Lost City One Step at a Time. It is a great primer to the things you will see and learn about in a trip memoir / Inca history combo.
- Visit Pisac which has a large outdoor market. Climb from the market up into the mountains and visit the ruins above town. It takes about 4 hours to make the hike and explore the ruins and was a great first taste of Inca ruins. Afterwards (or before) pick up some souvenirs (and coca leaf!) at the market. Take in the smells, colorful sights and bustling market.
- Visit Cristo Blanco - a white statue of Jesus above the city offering great views of the sprawling cityscape.
- San Blas - boutiques, cafes, great views of the city. Our hotel was in this neighborhood and we really enjoyed it.
- Hire a guide to explore the Sacred Valley. They are reasonably priced and super knowledgeable. They'll pick you up, drive you around the valley, and drop you back off at your hotel aftewards. You can see Urubamba, Ollantaytambo, Salas, Moray, Chinchero, Saqsaywaman etc.
- To slow it down a bit while exploring the Sacred Valley, look into a horseback riding tour that visits Salas and Moray. Incredible views to be had.
- Try Cuy! Guinea pig. It's a local delicacy. It's prepared differently depending on where you are in the country. In Cusco it comes baked, while in Huancayo it comes fried.
- Just explore. Get lost. Visit Qorikancha. Get lost in the winding streets. Have a pisco sour overlooking the Plaza de Armas.