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Cuzco, Machu Picchu, the Inca Trail, Urubamaba - these are just a few of the exciting places this guide has to offer. Peru was the center of the Inca empire, but other civilizations were here long before. The country is larger than Spain, France and Germany combined. Hike the Inca Trail through ancient ruins en route to Machu Picchu. Join in the Andean festivals, unchanged for centuries, or sample the finest cuisine on the continent. Participate in a shamanic ceremony and sample the hallucinogenic potions that have been used by locals since pre-Inca times. The tallest mountains outside of the Himalayas are here, as are the world's two deepest canyons. More than 3,000 orchid species fill the cloud forests, along with toucans, parakeets, hummingbirds, macaws and jaguars. The adventures are endless. On the coast try surfing, paragliding and fishing. Shop for handcrafted ceramics, leatherwork and jewelry. This detailed guide is written by a long-time resident. Photos, maps. It's a city shrouded in myths and legends, thought even now to have elements of magic. At night the lights on the surrounding hillsides resemble stars so much that it can be difficult to tell where the earth ends and the heavens start. It is one of the most important tourist destinations in the world. Most of Peru's two million annual visitors pass through here. The Incas considered it the navel of the world because it was once a transportation hub for the Inca Empire and connected much of the entire continent and much of modern day tourism revolves around it still. It is the backpacker hub of the Americas, one of the best locations for language schools, an excellent base for hiking, rafting, trips into the jungle, and other adventurous activities. There are a few incredible hotels, fine dining restaurants and charming cafés, a lively nightlife, immense Incan-built walls, an array of Pre-Columbian ruins, and stunning churches built on ancient temples. The most popular ruin near Cuzco, the Incan fort of Sacsayhuaman rarely disappoints. Located on a hill overlooking the city to the north, it is one of the Incas' most impressive architectural feats. The enormous polygonal stone blocks are some of the finest stone masonry you will ever see. Construction began in the 15th century and lasted for almost 100 years, requiring thousands of men to complete it. The limestone blocks, the largest weighing more than 300 tons, were brought from as far as 20 miles away. The Inca Trail, or the Camino del Inca, was a path through the Andes that led to Machu Picchu. Ruins are lined up along the trail like a connect-the-dots puzzle. It is the highlight of the 127-square-mile national park, the Machu Picchu Historical Sanctuary. The zone is filled with great views of mountains, cloud forests, wildlife, and ruins. The park is home to the very rare Andean spectacled bear (which you are unlikely to see), more than 400 species of birds, and a plethora of orchids and other plants. The trail itself is 43 km/27 miles of almost continuous stone stairs. Machu Picchu is simply stunning, breathtakingly gorgeous. The ancient city is so remote, so high up and surrounded by mountains that are as beautiful as it is. The wind, the sun, the rain, the clouds all seem to converge at this point that remained hidden for so long. It is a dream-like setting if there ever was one.

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