Drive back onto the flat plains of the altiplano to the airport for your short flight to Cusco. Upon arrival, head out from Cusco over the high plains and descend to explore the fertile Sacred Valley of the Incas. Once the bread-basket of the Inca Empire, it was heavily populated in imperial times and scores of archaeological sites remain, where well-preserved ruins bear witness to the highly developed society that the Incas created. The drive passes through or close to several of the villages and temple fortresses that pepper the valley.
Stay 2 nights in the valley.
Your base is Ollantaytambo where the snow-frosted Andean cordillera forms a stunning backdrop. Ollantaytambo, sitting strategically at the gateway to the Amazon basin, was never captured by the Spanish conquistadors, but the inhabitants decided that the settlement was too vulnerable and would eventually fail, and so they abandoned it. The fortress, the colonial grid plan and the Inca foundations are still intact and there are wonderful views down over the sloping hillsides and into the fertile valley.
Later travel to the Pisac complex, set high above and visible from the eponymous colonial village you will visit, is built on terraces carved into the steep hillsides. The engineering and preservation are unrivalled. From the flat valley floor this intricate hillside rises up like a green staircase to the heavens.
There is also a full day at leisure with the opportunity to visit the spectacular salt pans of Maras which cascade down the steep terraces, the fascinating Inca site of Moray or the the colourful indigenous village of Chinchero.