In December 2016, it was time to visit one of the places I most wanted to see – Peru and Machu Pichu.
After my trip to Madagascar, I felt like taking a vacation and not having to worry about anything. It was also a stressful time at work and I desperately needed to clear my head and spend some time alone. As a result, I contacted a company called Peru for Less to arrange the entire trip.
Although the trip was a little more expensive than the Madagascar adventure, it was totally worth it. Traveling Peru and Machu Picchu is an experience I will never forget.
For unknown reasons, I felt extremely nervous about going to Peru. Maybe it was because of heading to a new country or having left all the planning to someone else. Going from my busy and stressful work environment to a break-away trip certainly also contributed to the feeling of unrest.
Day 1 – Cancun to Lima
The night before flying to Peru, I stayed over at a friend’s place in Cancun, Mexico. At 3 am I was up and getting ready to go. My friend drove me to Cancun airport from there I would fly to Mexico City and onward to Lima.
Most people will advise you to visit Peru during the dry season, but this was the only gap I had, and passing by on the experience was simply not an option. Knowing that I would be hiking, I managed to pack only 10.7 kilograms of luggage while ensuring that I had enough warm, waterproof clothing in case it rained.
The tour company arranged for José to collect me from Lima airport and take me to B&B Wasi Hostel. The room was small but comfortable, with all the necessities. I took a walk around the neighborhood and found a local chicken rotisserie where I bought chicken and rice for dinner.
Day 2 – Lima to Cusco
The next morning, I returned to the airport, drew some cash and got altitude sickness pills. The airport was crowded with travelers and I wondered if any of them would be on the same hike as me.
On the plane, I spoke to the guy next to me who was traveling to Cusco with his family. It was nice to have a random conversation with a stranger outside of work again and we really connected.
Landing in Cusco
When I arrived in Cusco, I took a bus to Hostel Mallqui. They were working on the roads, so the bus couldn’t drop me in front of the hostel. Consequently, I was dropped on the corner and made my way up the cobbled road, over planks covering the road works, and to the doorstep of the beautiful hostel.
The lady at the front desk was very polite and informative. She showed me to my room and offered some coca tea. Due to the higher altitude of Cusco, most people either chew on coca leaves or drink coca tea to help with altitude sickness. Coca tea is a greenish liquid that tastes and looks very similar to green tea. Luckily, I didn’t experience any altitude sickness during the trip to Peru.
Exploring Cusco on Foot
Late afternoon, I ventured into the city square to explore. Cusco center is spectacular at night. Families spend time sitting on the benches in the square, enjoying snacks and each other’s company. The city lights and Christmas decorations provided a magical atmosphere. There were artists walking around, selling their art to anyone who showed interest, and I purchased two paintings. For dinner, I treated myself to Peru’s famous ceviche at the glamorous Limo Cocino Peruana restaurant.
Having read so much about the mysteries of Peru, it was fantastic to walk through the streets, taking in the culture, architecture, and lifestyle. The streets were cobbled pathways with little souvenir shops hidden in its walls. There were many tours being sold around the parameter of the square and I realized that I probably could have arranged the whole trip from there. Regardless, I was grateful that I didn’t have to worry about arranging anything and could just soak up the experience. Just a few blocks from the Plaza de Armas, the city was buzzing. The streets were crowded with people making their way home from work.
Day 3 – Cusco Tours
Early morning, I headed out to explore the city some more and treated myself to the best Tres Leches cake and coffee I have ever tasted. At 1 pm, I was picked up from the hostel to start the day tours.
We started off at the Museo Inka where we were met by our tour guide, Sandra. She walked us through the museum and gave a more in-depth understanding of the Inka culture, history and architecture. After that, we wandered through the Cusco Cathedral – a magical Gothic-renaissance style building, coated with so much history and mystery.
From there, we made our way to the Puka Pukara Archeological complex North of Cusco and Tambomachay. Puka Pukara was by far the highlight of the day. Walking through the ruins, I was overwhelmed by the architecture, size, and location of these ruins. Unfortunately, our visit there was a little rushed and we didn’t have time to really take in the magnitude of the complex we were standing in.
Day 4 – The Sacred Valley
The next day, I joined a tour group to explore the Sacred Valley. On our first stop, we met with some locals dressed in traditional clothing, witnessed the women hand-weaving blankets from Alpaca wool, and got to feed some Llamas and Alpacas.
From there, we headed deeper into the sacred valley and walked along the terraces. Our guide provided us with ample time to explore and hike through the ruins on our own. Although there were quite a few tourists, the valley of terraces was hauntingly quiet and peaceful.
After witnessing the terraces, we traveled to a point overlooking a river flowing through villages and stopped along the way to sample a local delicacy – freshly roasted guinea pig. The meat was tender, but (for my palate) the herbs they used to cook with overwhelmed the flavor of the meat.
Our next stop was Tunupa – a beautiful buffet-style restaurant situated on a riverbank. We enjoyed a variety of local and international dishes and walked through the gardens and down to the river. And, who did I meet there? The guy I met on my flight from Lima to Cusco. It’s a small world indeed!
After lunch, we made our way to Ollantaytambo. Visiting the town and Ollantaytambo archeological site was another one of my favorite stops during my trip to Peru. The town is charming and inviting. The locals are friendly and their market offers a variety of souvenirs and textiles, all locally produced.
After walking through the market, we passed through a stone gateway that unveiled the enormous archeological site. It completely took my breath away. And, after climbing up the endless staircase to the “Wall of the six monoliths”, I was truly out of breath. Standing on top of the site, you realize how enormous the structure actually is. It is a mind-blowing, humbling experience to say the least.
Our guide gave us plenty of time to walk through and explore the ruins. Ollantaytambo is a definite must-see for anyone traveling to Peru.
Sacred Valley Grand Finale
We ended our day by visiting a textile market and workshop and then drove around, for what felt like an eternity. Our final stop of the day was to view a glacier on one of the mountain tops. Honestly, we could have finished the tour at Ollantaytambo. The last stretch of the day was, in my opinion, an unnecessary venture and a bit of a let-down after all the other amazing things we saw that day.
Getting Ready for The Inca Trail
The first few days in Peru was spent relaxing, exploring, and acclimatizing to the higher altitude. What came next was four days of hiking, climbing, and reflection as I took on the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu.
Have you ever traveled to Peru? What was your favorite experience? Please comment and remember to follow me on Instagram @onkeytravel.
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