The first 150km of the road (and rail) south from Cusco towards Lake Titicaca passes through the beautiful valleys of Huatanay and Vilcanota, from where the legendary founders of the Inca Empire are said to have emerged. A region outstanding for its natural beauty and rich in magnificent archeological sites, it’s easily accessible from Cusco and offers endless possibilities for exploration or random wandering. The whole area is ideal for camping and trekking, and in any case, only the rustic towns of Urcos and Sicuani are large enough to provide reasonable accommodation.

A few kilometres further up the valley, the superb Inca remains of Tipón lie high above the road, little visited but extensive and evocative. Closer to the road, the Huari city of Pikillacta is easier to find and worthy of an hour or two. Beyond Urcos but before Sicuani, a rather dull transport hub of a town, the great Temple of Raqchi still stands unusually high as a monument to Inca architectural abilities.

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