We stayed at a nice hotel (that's all I got, if it's gross I'll tell you and try to remember the name) about a 5-10 minute walk from the city center. I love walking around cities. Exploring hole in the wall streets and alleys and Cuzco is full of them. Markets are hidden in alleys you'd walk right past otherwise and there is always something new to see. I stayed in Cuzco for one day before and after the Inca Trail/Machu Piccu. The elevation takes a little getting used to so if you find yourself out of breath after climbing a flight of stairs, it's all normal.
Cuzco thrives in its beauty of its surroundings. This is a perfect pre and post stop of the Inca Trail. Like I said before, perfect to start to accomodate yourself to the elevation and post because they have really inexpensive massages to help your aching muscles after hiking for 4 days and the Inca magic wears off.
Complementing Cuzco is a trip up the mountains overlooking the city for a beautiful picture spot. From there we traveled to my first experience with Inca ruins. Again, the elevation is killer so wear sunscreen (even if you think you don't need it...you do. I don't burn hardly ever and I burned here. Brutal.) and take the 15 minutes to climb to the top of a pseudo-mountain overlooking the valley to test your endurance with the elevation. If you're doing the Inca Trail, you're gonna need it.
You're also gonna need a stop in what I like to call the Inca Trail base camp. Ollantaytambo is a popular spot to stay the day before you start your hike. It has Inca ruins to climb to, again, push your endurance at high elevations and markets to get whatever you may have forgotten before going radio silent on the trail for 4 days. I loved this village. Picturesque, ancient, I could feel Peru come alive in this small town. The food is of all different variety. Traditional Peruvian restaurants, American pizza, pasta, etc. you can find almost anything. I went with pasta to carb load, it was delicious. There is also a legit Kwik-E-Mart for those of you who watch the Simpsons. And not only is Ollantaytambo a pretty place to stop, there is also a beautifully tragic story about what took place there hundreds of years ago with the Incas...
There is a story about a daughter of an Incan king who fell in love with one of his soliders. The solider asked for her hand in marriage and when the king refused, they ran away together to Ollantaytambo. The king and his army followed them and when the king still refused to let them marry, a battle broke out and the soldier and his daughter were captured. The punishment? Both the solider and his daughter were executed in what are now the ruins of Ollantaytambo...isn't that tragic?! There is a book in there somewhere so one of you authors needs to write it. So Shakespearean. *Le sigh*
Guinea pigs and alpaca cuisine