Train times permitting, there’s the opportunity to return to the site of Machu Picchu. Getting up early and taking the first buses up to the ruins is well worth it... The site is virtually empty and the early morning mists swirl around the surrounding mountain tops. Optional hike to the summit of Huayna Picchu (must be booked in advance), or alternatively enjoy the thermal baths or walks in the village below.
In the afternoon, return by the train as far as Ollantaytambo or Poroy, before continuing the journey to Cusco, and your hotel, by road. The Expedition Train service offers you the chance to appreciate the scale of the ever-changing scenery, with portrait windows alongside your seat (seats are configured in pairs facing each other over a table). Perhaps more importantly, there are windows in the roof, so you can gaze up to the rim of the canyon. Your comfort is enhanced with air-conditioning and heating, and Andean music is played as a backdrop to the passing scenery.
The name Cusco derives from the Quechua word for navel, indicating its location at the centre of the Inca Empire, which reached its zenith at the same time as England was fighting the War of the Roses. It is said that the city was originally built in the shape of a puma and its position atop the precipitous foothills of the Andes is without doubt a commanding one. Capital of the Inca Empire and latterly a strong hold to the Spanish conquistadors, Cusco is not so much a blend of architectures as a defiant mix.
Today its many impressive original Inca walls display extraordinary craftsmanship, while the bustling squares are dotted with ornate baroque colonial churches. It’s a vivacious city, where shoeshine boys and postcard sellers jostle for your attention in cobbled streets lined with handicraft shops and cafés. In the evening, the town centre fills with people flocking to the many restaurants, bars and cafés.