The small town of Urubamba is about 18 mi/29 km northwest of Cusco. While most tourists choose to stay in Cusco, Urubamba is nonetheless an important town in the Sacred Valley, with a number of good to top-end hotels. It also sits at a lower attitude than Cusco, making it the perfect place to acclimatize or escape the effects of altitude sickness.
The town itself is charming enough but has little historical significance. Within easy reach, however, are a number of fascinating archaeological sites. These include the terraces of Moray with their circular amphitheater-like levels and the pre-Inca Salinas de Maras salt ponds. Urubamba also sits about halfway between Cusco and Machu Picchu.
If you choose to stay in Urubamba, you'll be well placed to see authentic Andean culture and stunning scenery. The Urubamba River (also known as the Vilcanota River) flows by the town, while the snowcapped Ch'iqun Mountain rises up to the northeast. The local market is a focal point for local shoppers and vendors, and not as touristy as those in Cusco. Before you go to Urubamba, check the local schedule for traditional festivals, such as the annual Cuy Festival (a guinea pig-based gastronomic event) in May and the major Senor de Torrechayoc Festival in June.
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