A few months back, I turned The Long Weekender’s focus to the city of Cusco, the capital of the Inca Empire in southeastern Peru. With its rich history, awe-inspiring architecture, and beautiful Andean setting, Cusco has long been an alluring destination in its own right. Yet no adventure through the Sacred Valley of the Incas would be complete without a visit to its crowned jewel, Machu Picchu.
In 1911, as American historian Hiram Bingham combed southern Peru for the Inca city of Vilcabamba, an 11-year-old Quechua boy led him to an old citadel perched high above the Urubamba Valley. Its stone structures, standing for almost 500 years, were grown over with vegetation; some were even inhabited by the local people. But Bingham had inadvertently stumbled upon a treasure—one he would introduce to the outside world as The Lost City of the Incas.
A few years ago, if someone had asked me what I knew about Uruguay, I wouldn’t have had a whole lot to say. I might have remembered that its national soccer team won the first World Cup back in 1930. I would have guessed (incorrectly, as it turns out) that it shares a border with Paraguay. And I probably would have ventured that it’s a country with a rich gaucho heritage—an accidental correct answer, since I was really thinking of neighboring Argentina.