Cusco, Peru

I’ve had Peru on my list since I decided I wanted to be more intentional with my travel plans. My goal was to start 2019 at the top of Machu Picchu, so I did just that. I tell everyone I meet that Peru is one of the most beautiful countries I have ever been to. If there was a heaven on earth, it would be Peru and I mean that. Me and my three girlfriends were in Peru from Thursday December 27th to Saturday January 5th and we still felt as if we needed more time to do and see more. Below is a look at our very packed itinerary.

Here is an overview of our Itinerary.

Day #1
We arrived in Lima on December 27th and flew to Cusco where we stayed for seven days. We booked a hotel as opposed to an Airbnb because hotels in Cusco are insanely cheap. We stayed at the Imagen Hotel; it was close to the city centre and easily accessible. My friends and I took the risk and decided to book our tours when we arrived in Cusco. We read up about this online and majority of the feedback was that booking online was severely overpriced. We were on a budget so we decided to arrive in Cusco and go to an agency. It turns out that a lot of the airport taxi operators are friends with tour operators and they will recommend and take you to these tour operators. Be sure to stand your ground because these taxi operators can be a little aggressive. We decided to go with Luan Tours we paid $150USD for:
– Full day tour of Sacred Valley
– Full day tour to Rainbow Mountains
– 3 Day Two Night Inca Jungle Tour to Machu Pichu

We spent over an hour sitting with the tour operator who broke down the various tours and prices and what we should expect. For the most part they were very accommodating, and they spoke English, which helped a lot.

We booked our tour and had dinner in the city before retiring to our hotel. We were in for a long second day.

 

Day #2
The second day we did a full day tour of the Sacred Valley. When they say full day, they mean it. We were picked up at 6:00am and we were dropped back home at 8:00pm. To say we were exhausted would be an understatement, but it was a fulfilling day.
I highly recommend the Sacred Valley tour as it is packed with sites, history, and numerous activities. The Sacred Valley tour incorporated the following:

-> We stopped in a village and met with some ladies who showed us how alpaca wool is made. They gave us an in-depth look into the entire process, and they offered us free coca tea, which was lovely. At the end of the demonstration we then patronized their craft market.

-> From there we went to Chinchero. It is beautiful, sprawling and overflowing with history. We were able to take photos of the ruins and do a bit of shopping. This spot is so picturesque.

-> Our next stop was Moray, this is where we heard about how the Inca experimented with crops and their cycles based on the movement of the sun. A short ride from Moray and we were in the Salt Mines. This was my first time seeing a salt mine and it was so beautiful in person.
We had a short lunch break. I would recommend skipping the buffet, you will not have enough time to truly enjoy the buffet. We were shocked at the limited time we had for lunch.

->From lunch we then went to Ollantaytambo, but by this time we were so tired we skipped the climbing of these ruins and opted to sit in a café and enjoy some coffee.

-> The last official stop on the tour was Pisaq. By the time we arrived there they were getting ready to close so we briefly looked around and got some photos before leaving for our drive back to Cusco. Before we headed back to Cusco the Tour Guide made a stop at a market for us to get souvenirs and grab a photo with an Alpaca.

This day tour was LONG and exhausting, plus we were still a bit jet lagged, so I recommend giving yourself a day to acclimatize to Cusco’s high altitudes before heading out on such an intense tour.

Day #3
We saw all the photos but we wanted to get to see The Rainbow Mountains in person, so we booked a full day tour to do just that. Two of the ladies who were travelling with me opted out of this tour and looking back, they made a smart decision. Let me put you out of your misery by saying this:
– The Rainbow Mountain does not look like those photos, those photos are heavily photoshopped.
– The climb to get to the top will leave you breathless no matter your fitness level. The altitude is a killer and we paid dearly.
If given the choice, would I choose to do the full day Rainbow Mountain tour? Yes! I think this was the hardest thing I’ve ever done in my life and I may be better for it.

Here is what to expect with this tour/what it was like for us:
-> We were picked up at our hotel at 4:00am, we then met up with other persons on the tour. We drove for over 3hrs to get to the area where we would start the hike. We had breakfast and then we were dropped to the base of the mountain to start our ascension.

– >Things to note: Rainbow Mountains is 2000m higher than Cusco so prepared to be shocked by the increased altitude. It is extremely cold; I found it unbearably cold.

-> The first 40mins of the hike was manageable, it felt like a long walk. There were some persons who paid for a horse to take them close to the top of the mountain, we did not.

– >The hike became increasingly hard because of the altitude. We went from being cold, to bearing a mini hail storm, to being insanely hot, back to being cold. There are some steep areas especially closer to the end- if you reach so far.

-> If you are like me, the altitude will render you useless. I had to take baby steps and watch my breathing, the top felt so out of reach. I did make it to the top, but not at the highest point, that is where most persons get their photos.

Honestly, this was rigorous for me. Once I reached the top I wanted it to end. It took me at least 2hrs to get to the top, were it not for the altitude I would have taken an hour to do that hike. Coming down was easier but the cold was unbearable- please note, I was born and raised in the Caribbean so that is a factor. We waited for everyone to meet at the start of the hike then we went for lunch. After lunch we had a 3-4hrs drive back to Cusco.
If you are up for a challenge I would recommend this tour. If you are fine with being uncomfortable for long person of time, this is your tour!

Day #4
We decided to do a the 3 day 2 night Inca Jungle Tour which would end at the peak of Machu Picchu.

On the first day of the tour we were picked up at our hotel at 7:00am. We met with other persons who were doing the same tour. We drove for two hours and from there we given the option of taking part in the bike activity, that is, riding for two hours through the Andes Mountain. We were given all the gears for this bike ride, most of which was downhill. I rode for 30mins and gave in because I was afraid of the traffic, the rain and the fog. Once you decide to stop riding they pick you up and you follow behind those riding.

After the bike ride we had lunch which wasn’t that great. Another two hour ride and we were taken to the hostel where we would be spending the first night in Santa Theresa. We decided to go to the hot springs- this entry fee was not covered so we had to pay $20Sols. From there we went to dinner and retired for the night.

Note: The hostel was very basic but comfortable.

Day #5
The second day of the Inca Jungle Tour we started off in Santa Theresa. From breakfast we left and headed to our zipline adventure which was included in the tour package. This was my very first time ziplining and it was exhilarating and scary at the time. We ziplined, rock climbed and walked across a suspension bridge- these activities are not for the faint of heart. When we finished our zipline tour we headed out on a 2hr bus ride to our lunch spot.
After lunch we prepared for the two hour walk to Aguas Calientes. My friends opted out of this walk so they took the train to Aguas Calientes while I walked through the jungle. It was a very flat, scenic walk, and I ended up arriving at Aguas Calientes before them. We went for dinner where we were briefed by our Tour Guide on what to expect when we arrived at Machu Pichu.
We spent the night at a hostel, it was very basic and wasn’t as clean as I would like but we powered through.

Day #6
On the third and final day of the Inca Jungle Tour we journeyed to Machu Picchu. Our tickets were booked for the morning group so we were up at 4:00am, excited and ready.

The gate for the bridge that leads to Machu Picchu opens at 5:00am so I wanted to ensure we were there from 4:45am much to my friend’s displeasure. We arrived at 4:45am and there were people ahead of us waiting on the gate to open- yes, people take the journey to Machu Picchu very seriously. Promptly at 5:00am the security guards opens the gate, checks your passport and tickets and then you start your hike to Machu Picchu.

They tell you the hike to Machu Picchu takes 90 mins. I hiked it in 45 mins so it depends on your fitness level. Once you arrive at Machu Picchu you then must wait for them to open to go to the site.

I saw all the photos, I read all the blogs but nothing could prepare me for what I experienced seeing the ruins in person. If you can, seeing Machu Picchu before you die is a MUST DO.
We spent 6-7 hours at Machu Picchu taking the tour. We hiked up to the Sun Gate and waited an hour for the fog to clear – the view was worth it. Overall it was a thrilling experience. Be sure to get your passport stamped on the way out.

We hiked down back to Aguas Calientes, checked out of the hostel and got on the train back to Cusco. It was an exhilarating three day tour.

Day #7
For my last day in Cusco I go up early and went into the square for breakfast. I walked around and soaked up as much as I could from this city that will forever be in my heart.

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