After Class Activities
Our program allows you plenty of time to discover your new country, culture, traditions, and everyday life after your class is over. Cusco was designed in the form of a puma with the legendary 15th century fortress of Sacsayhuaman as the head, the confluence of the Huatanay and Tullumayo rivers was canalized and straightened to form the tail.
The hearth of the city and the puma, was the "Huacaypata" which was the main square of Inca Cusco. It was located in the same place as the modern city square but twice the size. A gravel covered area, surrounded by the palaces of past Inca kings was the site of important ceremonies in the Inca calendar. Get yourself started for a trip to Cusco with the links below:
Top Highlights: See What Cusco is Famous For
The ancient ruins of Machu Picchu can be found 80 km northwest of Cusco, in the Cordillera de Vilcabamba of the Andes Mountains. It is situated above the Urubamba River valley in a narrow spot between two peaks: Machu Picchu or “Old Peak” and Wayna Picchu or “New Peak”. It was built by the Inca empire, however it was not discovered until 1911 by professor Hiram Bingham of Yale University. The ruins were never found by the Spanish and so remained intact for hundreds of years. It was officially designated an UNESCO World Heritage site in 1983. Excavations of the site in the early 20th century, showed fortified buildings, signal towers as well as small homes, although how extensively it was used is uncertain. The architecture of the ruins suggest that the structures were carefully planned and built. The famous Intihuatana or carved ritual stone is arranged to point directly at the sun during the winter solstice, another indication at how advanced the Incas were.
For all students taking a Spanish course in Cusco, Machu Picchu is a highly recommended site to visit. It is a great opportunity to follow the steps of the Inca Trail to the ruins of Machu Picchu. The best way to do this, is by booking a tour with one of the school s tour operators. They will also provide all the walking, camping equipment you will need for the climb, including sleeping bags which are important as the weather can change very quickly. The bus ride to the bottom of the trail takes about 2 to 3 hours and you have several tour options to choose from, which vary from 1 to 5 days. Please ask the school for further details. Note: The Inca Trail is closed in February.
The Sacred Valley of the Incas
The Urubamba Valley is also known as the Sacred Valley of the Incas. It is a long narrow valley in the Andes of Peru near Cusco and Machu Picchu. The valley is situated in between Calca and Lamay, Pisac and Ollantaytambo and was formed by the Urubamba River, which is fed by adjoining small rivers. The Incas chose the valley because of its agricultural wealth and temperate climate. Terraces seen in the valley were once a point of maize production.The best time to visit is in the spring or fall. The rainy season, from October to March makes tours and accommodations slightly cheaper, but cooler weather can be a factor.
Main Sights: Get to Know Cusco
Flora and Fauna
The geography and location of Cusco provide it with a rich biodiversity of flora and fauna. The elevation, mountains and valleys shield the region and provide ample rainfall during the rainy season and warm springs and summers. Its flora and fauna of high forest and its mountainous topography is very appealing to ecotourists. A strong movement towards sustainable ecotourism and development is present to prevent the destruction of the area. Highly visited sites like Machu Picchu and its surrounding ecosystems are sensitive to tourism. Various species of trees, ferns, grasses, mosses and scrub plants, coniferous and broadleaf trees line the many hiking and climbing trails in the Andes. There is also a presence of llamas and alpacas throughout the region. They are frequently used to transport goods and gear for hikers as well as being used in Peruvian cuisine.
Local towns that surround Cusco offer markets most days of the week. Popular market tours include wood markets, and food markets with live animals. Visit the artisan area of San Blas where you can buy wonderful paintings "cusqueño" style. The old techniques of pre-Incas and Inca civilizations remain in the work of the noble metals, ceramics and fabrics.
Excursions: Explore More of The Region
Many people visit Pisac, an Andean village, on Sundays. It is best known for it’s market that attracts many tourists with its local charm, fresh produce, and handicrafts. Another interesting area to visit is the citadel, an entrance to a once vital Inca road that led into the Urubamba Valley. The stonework of the citadel and its surrounding terraces are astonishing. Local buses depart from Cusco for a one hour ride to Pisac village. A hike or a taxi ride is required to visit the citadel.
Located on the lofty plains of Anta, Chinchero is a small Andean Indian village known for its vibrant Sunday market that is less touristy than other markets near Cusco. The village overlooks the Sacred Valley of the Incas and offers views of the Cordillera Vilcabamba and the Salkantay mountain. The locals live in buildings and homes constructed from mud brick and the village is scattered with stone walls agricultural terraces. The high elevation limits growth to mainly potatoes and grains. The village has a colonial church which dates back to the 17th century and its interior is decorated with floral and religious designs and paintings.
Ollantaytambo is a beautiful town at the end of the Sacred Valley of the Incas. This modern town shares the same streets and blocks of the original Inca town and is given a nickname as the “living Inca town”. It can be busy during peak tourism because the train to Machu Picchu passes through the city and makes multiple daily stops. It also serves as a good meeting point for trekking around the region.
Salineras de Maras and Moray
Maras is a traditional small town that does not receive many tourists. The more popular area to visit is the Salineras de Maras. These are large deposits of salt left behind in hundreds of pools after water from the mountainside that flowed down to fill them has evaporated. Many families from Maras own these pools and collect and sell the salt. Moray is an Inca site where several agricultural terraces were used to grow crops that required slightly varying temperatures and water conditions. Each terrace differed in altitude to provide optimal growing conditions. There is no public transportation to these areas so it is not easily accessible. However, joining a tour, renting a car or taking a taxi is recommended.
Sports: Go Out and Be Active
Take in the sites of Cusco and the Inca trail by horseback. Experience the spectacular scenery of snow capped mountains, archaeological ruins, agriculture terraces and old Inca villages. Riding tours range from two hours to half-day or even full day excursions. All of the tours accept riders of all skill levels, from beginner to advanced.
Peru is becoming well known for its whitewater rafting adventures. The Andean range near Cusco offers exceptional rafting on the Urubamba River. Make your way through valleys and jungles on a snaking watery rapid. Many tour operators offer day trips and multi-day trips that include lunch, transport, safety equipment, and camping gear. All of the tours accept rafters of all skill levels, but it is a requirement that participants must know how to swim.