We hadn’t been back from living in London, England and was already getting the travel itch. While living in Europe we took advantage of how easy it was to travel around to continent. We decided to go south…as neither of us had never been to any South American countries before and Peru sounded like it had everything we wanted to explore. The food, people, culture and history of the country are so amazingly rich that we could have spent much longer than the 2 weeks we were there and only scratched the surface.
Starting off in Lima for a couple days to understand the city a little and explore what it has to offer was a great way to ease into the country. It’s a massive city with a mix of Incan and colonial and modern all over the place. It’s right on the ocean so the climate is temperate and maybe even colder than most would expect. We had some amazing Incan food options as well as ceviche that I could have eaten every day.
From there we traveled to Arequipa, we read that we should start off at a lower altitude and work our way up where we could acclimate to those high altitudes of Machu Pichcu and be ok with the thin oxygen. I loved Arequipa, the city is filled with some of the nicest people I’ve ever met. We visited the central market and tried many of the local foods, beverages and treats. There are huge churches and the central town square where the locals all gather nightly to stroll and visit with each other. There are also Incan ruins nearby that make for a great day trip.
After a couple days in Arequipa we went to Colca Canyon to spend the night and get an early start to see the condors! You must get up early as they fly only in the mornings when the winds and temperatures are ideal for their soaring. There are lots of tourist that go to this canyon but there’s plenty of room to not feel crowded. Also, the trip out and back are amazing! Colca Lodge is highly recommended for this part of the trip.
Next stop was Cusco. Here you’re starting to really feel the effects of the higher altitude. You’re at 11,152 feet above sea level. To help with the change in altitude the locals realized that cocoa leaves fight altitude sickness. I personally didn’t have too many problems with the air, some complained. If you don’t over exert yourself, you should be fine.
Cusco is amazing! There are so many sites in Cusco to keep you busy for days with all it’s ruins, the Sacred Valley, Inca ruins and even some Spanish Colonial sites. Just north of Cusco is the area where you can experience sleeping in a glass pod on the side of a mountain. We didn’t but opted for the climb and zipline experience instead. Another adventure I highly recommend as the sites from the climb are so impressive.
To get to Machu Picchu you need to start your journey at Ollantaytambo, from there you can take a train, which we did to Aguas Calientes or you could do the 3-day hike on the Inca Trail. We went the easy route. Olly, short for Ollantaytambo, has a few basic hotels and several restaurants. There are some Incan sites near the town worth seeing the day before you take the train up.
Aguas Calientes is at the base of Machu Picchu that provides you with a place to stay and eat before going up to visit the ruins. The accommodations vary from a really nice hotel with a river view to basic hostel type sleeping arrangements. The town has everything you need to get food, enjoy a nice place to eat and lots of souvenir shopping. If you haven’t already arranged transportation up and back, there are several companies that you can sign up with for the ride.
Machu Picchu is one of those ‘pinch me! I’m REALLY here!’ moments. You must get your pass into the park in advance as they only allow so many people in per day to control the crowds. We purchased ours online 6 months in advance. It’s not expensive and since we had planned to stay overnight after the train ride up we bought a 2 day pass. There is also a nice restaurant up at the entrance to the park attached to a super luxury hotel there, where you’re ‘in’ the park and get special access to it. Once inside the park you can walk around for hours and explore all you want. You can go up to the Sun Gate which is the royal entrance to the park and where the hikers come in. This provides you with an incredible view over the ruins. The opposite side of the park has Huayna Picchu, which is that large peak in every picture you see. There you can climb up it on a very narrow path that is often wet from the rains and can be muddy. We didn’t brave it, but we did walk up to the Sun Gate.
If you want to know more about our trip to Peru and the places we visited, please, I’d love to hear from you!