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Peru--mini Trip Report

Hi, I'm posting this mini trip report on request.

I did not go through a tour. I got quotes on some tours, but as usual, figured out that I could go for twice the time at half the price by doing it myself. It was by far the most complicated trip I've ever organized, though. Would I do it that way again? You bet. We did do some day tours that I booked myself.

We flew into Lima (in our case, from the Galapagos Islands, via Guayaquil, Ecuador). We spent a night at an airport hotel in Lima, because we had 9 or 10 hours before our flight to Cusco in the morning. In Cusco, we had arranged for a driver and a guide to pick us up and take us to the Sacred Valley. (We didn't immediately stay in Cusco, because of the altitude, although we did have altitude medication.) We didn't take the train or other public transportation to the Sacred Valley, because we wanted to make some stops along the way. I booked through cuscotransport.com We had the option of booking a driver only (may or may not speak English) or a driver and a guide. We chose the driver and guide option, and this was great. We went to the Pisac ruins, near Cusco and stopped for a bit at the Pisac market and had lunch nearby. Then we drove to Urubamba, stopping at a couple of scenic points for photos along the way. I had a special reason for wanting to stop in Urubamba. I have a friend who works with a sort of orphanage there, called Ninos del Sol, and I wanted to pop in for a visit. We then went on to Ollantaytambo and visited the ruins there--spectacular! We spent the night in Ollantaytambo, and our little hotel there was a favourite with my husband. I liked it, too. It was in a pedestrianized area (be aware, if you look into this and have a lot of luggage---we travel light), right along one of the Incan canals. Anyway, we stayed at BnB Picaflor Tambo . https://bnbpicaflortambo.com We had to carry our luggage out to the main street where we got a little tuk tuk to take us to the train station.

From Ollantaytambo, we took the Peru Rail Vistadome service to Machu Picchu pueblo. We took the 9:15 train, which got us to the pueblo at around 11:00 a.m. That gave us time to drop off our luggage, have lunch, wander around the town a bit, and then check into our room before catching the bus to the citadel.

New rules at Machu Picchu include timed entry (i.e. you have to choose a window of time in advance), and you are supposed to have an authorized guide if it is your first visit. Nobody really checks the guide thing, but we thought it was a good idea, anyway. We had booked a guide in advance, but he didn't show (or didn't wait for us, as we were about 10 minutes late), so we ending up hiring one of the guides hanging around at the gate who helped us try to locate our prebooked guide. Our new guide was excellent, and, in retrospect, I shouldn't have bothered prebooking this.

You are supposed to have a maximum of 4 hours in the citadel after you enter. Again, there's no real way to enforce this, but as there are no washrooms inside, that's probably enough for most people, anyway. I had booked 2 pm entry for 2 reasons. 1. To ensure we would have time for lunch and to get to the citadel, and 2. To be at Machu Picchu for sunset. (Most people try to be there for sunrise, but it means lining up for the bus ridiculously early, and there's no guarantee the citadel won't be shrouded in clouds/mist/fog at that time of day, anyhow.) Our choice turned out to be a good one. Although it was fairly crowded when we arrived, the crowds thinned out considerably as our time went on. As it got less crowded, the chinchillas came out. :)

It was lovely to sit and watch the lengthening shadows at the end of the day.

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We went back and slept at our hotel--Waman Suites. (Nothing special, but perfectly fine for our purposes. The really special place to stay there is the Inkaterra, but we didn't want to spend the $$$$$.)

We had breakfast at our hotel (included) and caught the bus for our 7:00 a.m. entry to the citadel. It was probably more like 8:00 when we actually got there. The morning was misty and damp, and we had some rain. It was interesting to see the ruins shrouded in mist after seeing them in the bright sunshine the day before. Anyway, this day, we did the little hike to the Sun Gate (which is also the end of the Inca Trail). This gives different views of the citadel and there are some ruins and interesting vegetation to see on the way.

Note that it was far, far more crowded at the citadel than it had been the afternoon before. So, if I were to do only one visit to MP, I would choose late afternoon.

When we got back to the pueblo (after a long wait for the bus), we went to the hot springs (almost nobody else there--it was great), had lunch, and caught our ~4 pm train to Cusco.

We had booked two visits to Machu Picchu, because it had so long been on our bucket list, we didn't want to risk cloudy, rainy weather for an only visit. We thought we might skip the second visit if we had good weather on the first. We did have good weather, but we really wanted to go back and do a different route (the Sun Gate) this time. Note that we did not do the mountain hikes, as my husband has a fear of heights. The classic view of Machu Picchu is from the Watchman's Tower area, anyway.

We did not do the Inca Trail, either--opting for the train both ways--due to time constraints and the fact that I don't enjoy camping. If you are doing the Inca Trail, then, obviously, you would not be doing the train all the way from Ollantaytambo to MP.

The train, MP passes, and the bus should all be booked in advance!!! I booked the train directly through Peru Rail. I tried to book the MP passes and bus directly, but kept having some kind of weird technical problem. This is not uncommon, apparently. I ultimately booked these through https://machupicchu.center/ , and this worked well, although the cost was a bit higher.

Our train was delayed on the way to Cusco--not sure why, so when we arrived at the Cusco station, we couldn't find the driver we had booked through the hotel. (The station is a little outside of Cusco.) We waited and looked and waited and looked until everyone else from our train was gone. There was a horde--a literal horde--of drivers outside the station gates, clamouring at us to ride with them, but we weren't comfortable with that. We, again, ended up going with someone who was inside the gates, for some reason, and who tried to help us find our driver. (Hmm. There's a pattern here. :) ) As he took us through the gates to his car, the horde surrounded us and I momentarily got separated from my husband and the driver. This was the only time I felt really unsafe on our trip. Anyway, I pushed through, and we went to our hotel.

In Cusco, we stayed at Andenes Al Cielo http://www.andenesalcielo.com , and I loved it. The location was great, the hotel beautiful and charming, and the breakfasts hearty. We spent 3 nights/ 2 days in Cusco. On our first day, we did a walking tour up to the Sacsayhuaman ruins with one of the university-aged Ninos (from Ninos del Sol (in Urubamba). (They are not professional guides, but they offer tours in exchange for donations to the centre, as a way of helping to earn their keep.) Afterwards, we strolled around some of the old town, including the market. The next day, we did a tour with another of the ninos, this time of the historic centre and of the Inca walls. My husband has worked with young people for his entire career, and these tours were a highlight for him. (If you are interested in Cusco or Urubamba tours with the Ninos, their website is https://www.ninosdelsol.org

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After Cusco, we flew to Lima to spend 2 nights/3 days (our flight home left at 12:30 am). We had a room at Second Home Peru http://www.secondhomeperu.com STAY HERE! This is one of my favourite places to stay, ever. It is a home/compound owned by a famous Peruvian artist and sculptor, Victor Delfin. He is now in his 90s, and his kids have turned his home into a guesthouse, which they run. The home is on the cliffs overlooking the sea. It is filled with his art, both inside and out. There are pets there, and one of the cats slept with us (you don't have to allow this, of course) and even alerted us right before a small earthquake happened! This home is in the Barranco district of Lima. It is not the main tourist area, but it is a beautiful area, full of street art, restaurants, and charm. We loved it. We walked to the main tourist area (Miraflores) one day, in part to see the "Love Park" where Delfin's most famous sculpture is, and we were glad we were staying in Barranco.

We had booked a car from the airport through Second Home, and they allowed us to store our luggage on our last day. Our drives from/to the airport were pretty hairy. We have taken to calling our driver "Mr. Toad" after the old "Mr. Toad's Wild Ride" at Disneyworld ( orig. from Wind in the Willows). He is a scary, aggressive driver. However, don't tell him we call him this. He is also a very nice man.

In Lima, we mostly walked around--there is so much beautiful street art and architecture to see. We did go to Museo Larco, and had lunch there, both on the recommendation of Delfin's daughter. We enjoyed this. If you go, don't miss the ancient erotic art annex.

Because we were combining Peru with a trip to the Galapagos, we did not have time for Rainbow Mountain, Lake Titicaca, etc., so I can't comment on those.

Posted by
639 posts

Thank you so much for this. It is really helpful. I'm sure I'll have more questions once I have time to digest it all and check out all the links. The Peru trip is probably over a year from now but I figure since I know literally nothing about traveling in South America I'd better start early and just the other day got two guidebooks to start planning. What time of year was your trip?

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329 posts

Oh, I should have mentioned that. Ecuador/Galapagos was the end of April, first few days of May. Peru was early to mid-May. So, this was not low season, but not peak season, either.

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1701 posts

Just curious, but were you affected by the altitude in Cusco? If so, how did you deal with it?

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329 posts

We got altitude medication before we left, from the travel clinic.

We didn't notice it as much in Cusco, because we'd already been in Ollantaytambo and Machu Picchu, so we got to Cusco more gradually. We did use the medication, though, and I'm sure it helped. We didn't experience any side-effects from the medication, either, except that cola tasted funny.

We noticed it more in Quito, Ecuador, the first place we stayed on our trip, and it's a little higher than Cusco, too. Of course, we ignored all the standard advice and, instead of taking it easy the first day, we trekked up a very steep street from our hotel to a basilica, where we then proceeded to climb up to the towers. :D In Quito, we were taking the medication, but we still found we got out of breath a little more easily, and we generally fell asleep about 8-9 pm.

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4128 posts

We love Peru. We had been to Lima in 2011 and went back in March if this year to see Cusco, the Sacred Valley and Machu Picchu. We saw many Incan sites, did the train and MP was awesome, We had great tour (private) with Peruagency.com including 4 star hotels. Our guides were University educated. Cost was $799 per person. We had to pay our own airfare Lima- Cusco ($150 pp).
Here is our story including a cruise after.
Cusco, Sacred Valley, Machu Picchu and Celebrity Eclipse home
https://www.cruisecritic.com/memberreviews/memberreview.cfm?EntryID=654963&et_cid=3214772&et_rid=17221689&et_referrer=Boards

Posted by
379 posts

Hi, BB
Thank you so much for this report. I am planning our trip to Peru for 2020. Which airport hotel did you stay at? I read that the area is not safe to walk around. Did you find that to be true?
Again, thank you.
Michelle

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329 posts

geo - Your trips sound wonderful. I mention not booking through a tour, because I was asked that question in the forum where I originally posted (and then moved the post here). For our trip, which combined mainland Ecuador, the Galapagos Islands, the Sacred Valley, Machu Picchu, and Lima, a tour would have cost far more. But tours can be a great way to go, too. :)

Michelle - We stayed at the Wyndham Costa del Sol Airport hotel. We chose this hotel because it is right across the street from the airport, connected by a walkway. The hotel was nothing special, but it was convenient for a short layover, and we wanted to maximize our sleep time.

Do you mean the airport area is not safe to walk around? We only crossed the street when we arrived, but in that time, we were hassled by people trying to convince us to go to their hotels. Going back to the airport in the morning, we used the walkway.

Do you mean Barranco? I had heard some things about Barranco being unsafe, but I think that can be true of Lima in general. During the day, we didn't feel unsafe at all, nor in the early evening. We weren't out really late, so I can't speak to that. When we arrived in Lima, Mr. Toad drove us through some VERY sketchy looking areas, indeed, and we were wondering what we were getting into. Barranco wasn't like that. We loved it.

I did read that you should never grab a taxi on the street in Lima, but have one called for you (and we did that, to go to/from the museum). I also read the buses can be sketchy, but we didn't take any, so I can't comment on that. We are always careful with our wallets, etc. when we travel, anyhow.

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379 posts

Hi, BB
Thanks for your quick reply. Sorry, I didn't make myself clear. I meant the airport area. But thanks for the additional information.
Michelle

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4128 posts

We stayed at the Holiday Inn near the Lima Airport before we flew down to Cusco. When in Peru a few years ago, I was warned about the area around the airport by our tour guide. Also, warned again at the airport.
The hotel had a free shuttle that took us to the hotel and then later back to the airport. You can actually see the hotel building from the front of the airport, but because of the highways between, walking there is not possible.

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2019 posts

Thanks for sharing BB--excellent trip report and great details on your experience.

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33 posts

Thank you for sharing your experience and posting in such detail. It sounds like it was a wonderful and well thought out trip. It has certainly triggered my wanderlust. It is on my list but, it has always seemed complicated to plan so I have put it aside. However, posts like this help me put it in perspective. I am also afraid of heights so I have also wondered about how scary it would be in Macchu Pichu. Nonetheless, I am ok as long as there is a railing or I stay way back from the edge.

I have traveled to Latin America multiple times and found the arrivals experience can be a little scary with hordes of people trying to get you to use their taxi service or tour etc. I also experienced this in Naples this past May at the cruise port. it is all part of the experience and you just have to know how to stay safe.

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5019 posts

Thanks for the great, detailed trip report (hardly a "mini trip report"!). On my list, too, working its way closer to the top...

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329 posts

Soraya--Machu Picchu is not too scary, as long as you don't do the mountains (which have to be reserved separately, anyhow). My husband was fine with it, even though he doesn't like heights. There are places with no railings, but there are steps, so it's not too bad. Ollantaytambo ruins are steeper.

David--It started out as a mini-report, and then I got carried away. :D It was such a great trip.

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1526 posts

Great report, thanks for sharing. Do either of you speak Spanish? If you don’t was language/communication a problem?
I have only been to the Galapagos on a live aboard dive trip. I was so glad to be with friends when we arrived at the Quito airport. All those folks clamoring for your tourist dollars was a bit over-whelming!

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329 posts

No, we don't speak Spanish, other than the few words we try to learn wherever we go (hello, please, thank you, etc.).

For the most part, people spoke some English. Where that wasn't the case, we managed to communicate through a mixture of spoken word, gestures, and goodwill. A couple of times, we had cab drivers who babbled away to us in Spanish. Sometimes, we could figure out what they were saying from the context and from catching the odd word or two that was familiar. (We both know a little French, and the vocabulary is often similar.) My husband was better at this than I was, but I was better at answering in broken Spanglish. We can also read Spanish a bit, because of its similarity to French. Mostly though, in the tourist areas or with guides, tours, etc., there was English spoken or English translations, so it wasn't a big deal.

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Thanks for the post. We are planning a REI trek to Machu Picchu in June and were trying to decide how much time to give Lima and whether to do it at beginning or end. The person at REI commented that a full day in Lima was probably enough. I know some of the Gate1 Travel and Overseas Adventure tours spend 2 days there. What do other people think in terms of time to spend in Lima?

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329 posts

I don't think 2 days is too much for Lima, but, as always, it depends on your priorities. Would an extra day there mean taking a day away from someplace you want to see even more?

In our slightly-more-than 2 days, we did not see everything we might have liked to (museums and ruins). However, we were also satisfied with what we did see.