First Trip to Peru 2019
This is an account of my first trip to Peru in 2019. Peru is a beautiful place and I thought I should share our experience with you all!
Let me start by stating some generic points about Peru that will apply to all the places that I mention below.
- We thought there was a lot of Asian influence in the markets, downtown and people. People bargain a lot, based on our research we usually went for 50% less than what the seller said and it worked in most cases. So, I recommend trying to bargain when buying anything in Peru.
- Knowing Spanish is good because then you can interact with the local people better. We wish we knew some Spanish…but oh well…Google Translate worked just fine!! :)
- Be careful with valuables. This is a tip I read before going, we did not run into any issues but heard stories about mobbing, robbing etc….so does not hurt to be aware of your vicinity. Keep camera inside while not in use.
- Uber work working fine in Lima and Cusco, and we ended up using it a lot because the locals bargain the price which was hard for us to do as tourist.
- Altitude can get to you, I was only feeling it while walking and hiking but it can have different affects on people. Pack a medication if you know that it can be an issue for you.
- Decent hotels are not too expensive, we wanted to spent more of our budget on the adventure part than on the hotels. Just throwing this point in here as info, it is totally up to you to pick the hotel that meets your needs!
Here is the map of all the locations we covered during the 9 day trip followed by the full description.
Day 1: Reached Lima in the afternoon.
- We opted for hotel pick up from the airport (it was about $20) and they sent someone to pick us up with our name and the name of the hotel on the sign. That was convenient and I recommend booking a hotel that offers the pick up service from the airport since it can be overwhelming to see so many people trying to offer taxi at the airport. The ride from airport to Miraflores area is about 40 mins, there is usually traffic along the way.
- Our hotel was in Miraflores which is the safest area for tourists. After settling in, we went to grab lunch and walked around in Miraflores. The bar scene is nice and interesting, we did some bar hopping in the evening.
Day 2: Lima
- Took an Uber to the Lima Plaza de Armas (main square) in the morning from the hotel. It was nice and easy ride, the Uber/taxis drops you about a block away since cars are not allowed in Plaza de Armas. We spent about an hour taking pictures in the main square and then walked to the other plaza nearby. There is a walkway from the main plaza to Plaza San Martin and the whole walkway has local shops. The walk took about 15 mins but it is not bad since the cabs don’t pick right at the main square anyway.
- After that we took an Uber from the Plaza San Martin to Huaca Pucllana ruins. This is a pre Inca ruin site and is still under restoration, the ticket gets you in and you see the site on a guided tour. Tours are every hour and included in the ticket. The site cannot be seen without the guided tour. They are also open in the night, which is interesting. There is a great restaurant at the location inside Huaca Pucllana. We had lunch there but if you are visiting in the evening you can soak the views of the ruins in the night light. It is recommended to make a reservation since dinner time is very busy (we heard).
- In the evening we took a flight to Cusco where we had our hotel pick us up from the airport.
Day 3: Sacred Valley
We had already set a custom private tour with the hotel. Our taxi, driver and guide was ready at 7am in the morning. We had an awesome free breakfast at the hotel and then left for the private tour. The tour covered following places in order: Pisac (Archaeological Site), Pisac (Market), Moray, Maras salt mines, Urubamba (Town) and lunch, Chinchero, Ollyntaytambo Archaeological site and town.
- We has asked our tour to end at Ollantaytambo PeruRail station since we booked the train from there to Machu Picchu around 7 pm.
- We reached Machu Picchu train station. Let me just say that it is a really really crowded place with tourists all around. Even getting out of the train station was a nightmare. We made it out and figured out the route to our hotel. We booked a hotel right where the Machu Picchu bus stop is so we can take the bus early morning easily without hassle. We grabbed quick dinner and crashed to wake up early around 4am.
Day 4: Machu Picchu
- We booked Hostel Urpi which was amazing for a night crash and had all the basic amenities hot water, nice shower and they packed us breakfast to go in the morning.
- The Machu Picchu ticket has the entrance time on it, based on that time you board the bus. Our entrance time was 6am so we could board the bus at 5:30am. People start lining up around 4:30am. Like I said, it is a huge tourist place so budget the time for lines. We made it to Machu Picchu around 6am, there was again a line at the gate. There are restrooms right before you enter the Machu Picchu gate, there are no restrooms inside, so make sure you use them prior. I think they were 3 sols.
- Once you are inside, it is up to you how you explore the are, some people prefer bringing their own guides. We wanted to explore it ourselves. It took us about an hour to look around and take pictures from different angles.
- We also had a ticket to do the Huayna Picchu hike (picture if the mountain), It is basically the mountain that you see in most Machu Picchu pictures. This ticket also comes with a time, you need to enter the hike starting point at that time. Our was 7am, there is one more slot at 10am I think. And they only allow 400 tickets per day to do the hike. So make sure you book in advance. The views are gorgeous from the top, you get a panoramic bird’s eye view of the majestic Machu Picchu. It was breathtaking. It took us 2.5 hours to complete the hike from where we started. After that, we explored the Machu Picchu ruins a little bit more and then exited around 11:00am. It was getting too hot up there.
- There is another hike called the Mountain, this is the one where to actually climb the Machu Picchu Mountain, this one is a little bit longer but we heard that it leads to good views too. Although the views from Huayna Picchu are talked about more.
- If you cannot get a ticket to do any of the two hikes then the other good option is to do Sungate Hike, this one actually is a long, about 5 hours but it has gorgeous views based on the pictures I have seen.
- Then we took the bus back to the Machu Picchu town where we went and had lunch, strolled around a bit, went to the tourist marker near the PeruRail station.
- Our train back to Cusco was at 5pm from the PeruRail station. Note that the train station for departures is different from the train station for arrivals. A lot of people were confused about that since it is not explicitly mentioned anywhere.
- We booked VistaDome option but the train ended up being late and it was already dark due to which it we could not really see any vistas. I would just say if you are booking PeruRail make sure the time you are taking the train is earlier in the day to see the vistas, we definitely missed out on that.
- Train dropped us in Poroy, Cusco which is a little bit far from Downtown. It is recommended that you set up a pick up with your hotel prior. We did not do that and it turns out Poroy is a small place and there are not much Uber’s around. Unless you are up for haggle and are ready to deal with taxi drivers coming up to you. We had to get help from a PeruRail staff person to negotiate a taxi to the city center.
- We safely made it to our hotel in Cusco Hostel Suscia I.
Day 5: Cusco
- The hostel is right at Plaza de Armas, exactly where we wanted to be to explore the city on foot. We got free breakfast at the hostel and started off the day at around 11 am by just going to the city center. Took a few pictures and looked around.
- I had researched that city tours start from the city center and they sell tickets right there. The Panoramic tours was the one I had read about on tripadvisor, we booked that with an agent in the city center. They had an English speaking person, which was great and the tour has an English guide too.
- The tour was about 3 hours and it mostly covered all that we wanted to see in Cusco. It started with the history of the city starting from the center, took us around the city in the open bus. We wanted a light tour of cusco without much of Sacred valley Inca ruins stuff because we had already done that the past day. If you skip that, then you may want to do a full day more comprehensive tour of Cusco covering some Inca sites.
Places it covered included: City center, Plaza San Francisco, San Francisco Church, Christo Blanco, Puca Pucara, Sacsayhuman
- The bus dropped us back a few blocks from the city center, we walked and reached the Plaza de Armas had a bite at the great cafe called Plaza Cafe overlooking the plaza.They had amazing juices.
- We headed back to the hostel to refresh and rest for about 2 hours and then left for dinner. We grabbed dinner at Hanz restaurant, it was really good. Had good vegetarian options.
Day 6: Skyview Lodge
Skyview lodge is a wonder!! You have to see it.
- They have three glass rooms hanging by the side of the mountain. We wanted to stay the night but it was not available even 5 months prior to the desired date. It seems you have to book about a year in advance. Oh well, next time…
- They have another option to at least experience the hanging cubes on a day trip and enjoy Lunch in the cube. They picked us up from a hotel in Cusco and drove us to the Picchar in Sacred Valley, where the mountain is. They have guides that explain how you will climb up the mountain, they are very helpful and committed to their job. Made the trip a lot more fun and enjoyable.
- It is about 400m high that you are climbing before you reach the lunch cube. They served amazing lunch. The trip back was six fun zip-lines. We purchased a package for pictures and they arrived about 3 days after the trip. They do a good job in making it a fun experience.
- At around 6pm we were dropped back in Cusco at our hotel. We grabbed dinner and crashed after a long day of physical activity.
Day 7 to 9: Belmond Andean Explorer (Cusco -> Puno -> Arequipa)
This was an experience of a lifetime. I highly recommend this train. You can pick a route that work for you, they have four route options. We picked the 3 days 2 night option from Cusco to Puno to Arequipa and every single day was amazing with great room, dining and outdoor sightseeing. They really take care of you at a personal level. Here is the link to the itinerary we picked.
From Arequipa we boarded our flight back home, concluding an adventure of our dreams!
I hope you enjoy your upcoming adventure to Peru.
Until next time, Ciao!!