Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Machu Picchu Travel Guide

Planning a trip to Peru/Machu Picchu can be tricky.

There are a lot of really expansive (=overpriced) tours and hotels in Peru, so read on that I will give you the shortcuts for an amazing journey without breaking the bank.

We flew on Latam Airlines from Los Angeles to Lima. We had a great experience, nice and comfortable Airbus, flights on time and good onboard service. 



We spent two days in Lima before heading to Cusco and we were glad we did it. Such a beautiful city, with lots of history, museums, churches, beach, amazing food...



We did a 4 hours city tour with Haku Tours. The guide picked us up at the hotel and took us to the historic center of the city and we walked around learning about the history and architecture of Lima.

This company is a non-profit, they offer affordable tours (our tour was US$40 per person)  and our guide was very passionate about the city. The money they raise helps the poor neighborhoods in Lima.

We stayed at the brand new Hyatt Centric San Isidro and we were very happy with this hotel. Click here to read my review on TripAdvisor. There are plenty of hotels in Lima for every budget. Best neighborhoods: Miraflores and San Isidro.

We wish we had more time in Lima...

Then we flew with Latam to Cusco (Altitude 3,400 meters). It's a one hour flight. To prevent any altitude sickness we started taking Diamox the day before we ascended and we took it every day we were in the mountains. It helped immensely since we had no issues at all with the altitude.

In Cusco, we had prearranged a transfer to the city of Urubamba (90 min drive) with a local company called KB Tambo based in Denver that hires Fullbiketours Peru to operate the tours. I found that out during my tour so it would be cheaper to go directly to the source and avoid the middleman. Fullbiketours Peru was professional, knowledgeable and they had the best price for tours in the Sacred Valley that I could find. We were very happy with their services.

We stayed in the Sacred Valley at Tambo del Inka Resort and Spa for three nights. The plan was to explore the area before heading to Machu Picchu. This is an incredible hotel and we were glad that we spent almost a day enjoying the property. They have the most beautiful hotel pool I've ever seen! Click here to read my Tambo del Inka review on TripAdvisor and click here for my blog about my experience at this hotel.

Note that there are lots of good affordable hotels in the Sacred Valley. I heard great things about the Peruvian hotel chain called Tierra Viva and they have hotels all over Peru with great rates.


Ollantaytambo
During our stay in the Sacred Valley, we visited all major sites in the area.

The village and ruins of Ollantaytambo was an incredible experience. This is where backpackers stay since you find lots of hostels in this area and also the main station for the Machu Picchu train is located here. Don't miss it!

We also visited Pisac (ruins and market), Chincheros, Maras (the salt mines) and Moray. You can do everything in one day with a good guide.

Driving around the Sacred Valley is breathtaking.


MACHU PICCHU

This is the main reason most people go to Peru. Once you are there, you realize that there is so much more than Machu Picchu in Peru and you will be glad you went.

From Ollantaytambo, you can walk the Inka Trail for three days or take a two hours train ride to Aguas Calientes (the village close to Machu Pichu). Peru Rail is the most popular option and they run most trains. Beware, these are old trains, they usually are not on
time and they stop several times during the trip for many reasons. It's just part of the experience of visiting Peru. Enjoy!
You must buy train tickets in advance. Click here for the website.
They offer three different trains at very different prices. We did the most expansive (Belmond Hiram Bingham) and the cheapest one (Expedition), and honestly, the cheapest one was just perfect for this journey. 

                                           Aguas Calientes is a charming little village. We spent one night at Hatun Inti Boutique Mach Picchu located five minutes from the train station and right in front of the bus stop to Machu Picchu. 
Click here to read my review on TripAdvisor.


We had the best meal in Peru at Indio Feliz in Aguas Calientes.
We had dinner and went back for lunch the next day.
Click here to read my review on TripAdvisor.

The round trip bus to Machu Picchu costs US$25 and it's a life defying journey up the mountain. 
The bus dropped us off right at the main Machu Picchu entrance.
You will need to have your entrance tickets to board the bus in Aguas Calientes. Buy your tickets way in advance, since only four thousand people are allowed in Machu Picchu per day. You can click here to buy tickets at the Peruvian government official website and print them at home. Avoid third parties websites, they might be bogus or overcharge for tickets.

This site will give a step-by-step guide to buy your tickets:
https://thriftynomads.com/how-to-buy-machu-picchu-tickets-online/  

We hired a guide at the entrance and he took us through the citadel placing the ruins in the historical context. 
Luckily we arrived at 3pm, and we almost had the whole place to ourselves. The afternoon light was perfect for pictures and we had an amazing time. 
We went back the next morning and it was madness, with people everywhere. I highly recommend visiting Machu Picchu late afternoon for an enjoyable experience.



Machu Picchu is one of those places that you read about, you see thousands of pictures, but once you are there, it will blow your mind. 



Mission accomplished


Safe travels!

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