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Cusco / Machu Picchu, Peru

Current Cusco weather

The Andes Mountains form Peru's backbone from top to bottom of this elongated country. High in these mountains to the south lies Cusco, nestled in a valley where red-roofed houses crawl up the surrounding mountains like anchoring arms. Cusco, meaning "earth's navel," was the Incan capital of South America before the Spanish invasion in the 16th century. Today's Cusco reflects its past in an archeological mixture of Spanish colonial cathedrals alongside massive Inca ruins and pre-Incan stone remains. The Quechua names of many local sites, Sacsayhuaman, Ollantaytambo, Tambo Machay, Qenko and others, are as melodic as the Urubamba River that bubbles through nearby Sacred Valley.

The most famous Incan site in this area is Machu Picchu. The train to Machu Picchu follows a zigzag rail over the mountain and alongside the Urubamba River, eventually sliding into the Amazon Jungle before reaching the foot of the sacred ruins at 9000 feet. Noted as a powerful energy site and where clouds float by at eye level, mystical Machu Picchu sits upon a mountaintop that is surrounded by four other mountain peaks. These peaks, according to Quechua legend, house the mountain spirits, or "Apus,"who help protect their culture.

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