Often considered the spiritual and commercial heart of the Inca Empire.
Between Cusco and Machu Picchu is a valley so fertile that the Inca deemed it sacred. As well as bursting with crops, it is a treasure trove of historic sites. The nearest ruins to Cusco are the wide terraces of Pisac, one of the few sites where you can see religious, residential, agricultural, and military Inca architecture in one place. Further down the valley are the concentric circular terraces of Moray, usually combined on a day trip to the spellbinding salt mines of Salineras nearby.
The most impressive ruins in the valley are found at Ollantaytambo, the site of the last great Inca victory over the Spanish. The ceremonial baths, trapezoidal doorways, and sun temple make these ruins second only to Machu Picchu. It’s worth lingering here and staying overnight, such is the beauty of the surroundings.
The drive from one end of the valley to the other (Pisac to Ollantaytambo) is about one hour. Some sights are closer to one end or the other, but sights and hotels are evenly spread throughout the valley and are all easily accessible.
Ollantaytambo is the closest town to the train station if you are taking the train to or from Cusco or Machu Pichu.