While Lima is the capital of Peru, the heart of the country is the Sacred Valley. This is where the heart of the Inca Empire was based and that history and culture is still a source of pride for many Peruvians. The evidence of that civilization and the testament to their building prowess is easily visible at the many ruins in the valley.
For tourists, Cusco is the gateway to the Inca ruins. The city sits more than 11,000 feet above sea level and is a quick 40 minute flight from Lima. Ticket prices are surprisingly reasonable and flights are frequent. LAN provides the most mainstream service with the best planes. Other airlines like StarPeru and Peruvian (which I flew) provide decent service and lower prices... but with a few trade offs. For example, this is a fine specimen of a 737-200 has been around for quite a while. It may very well be as old as I am.
For transportation, nothing prearranged is needed. Ignore the taxi hustlers that speak excellent English when you first step out; They are just trying to get you to pay four times as much as you should. They originally offered $60 to drive out to Ollantaytambo (1.5 hours), which by US standards is great, but you can hire a private cab at the collectivo terminal 15 minutes away for $18. Or take a collectivo for the whole journey for a couple bucks!
Hostal Iskay was really nice and relaxing. Fortunately, there will have to be another time because there is much left unexplored.
Next time: The ruins of Ollantaytambo and More from Cusco!