Date of Trip: June 2016
Machu Picchu (MP) has always been on my “must” visit list, so the wife and I decided to celebrate our anniversary as “relics” by visiting Peru and climbing to Machu Picchu.
Day #1: arrived Lima @ midnight; no issues clearing customs, our transportation was arranged through our hotel, and our driver was waiting with a sign. Our hotel(Terra Viva MF) was in the lovely Miraflores district, just a few steps from the cliffs overlooking the ocean. Our first day, we had arranged to join a bike tour (www.biketoursoflima.com), no more than 1-2 minutes’ walk to our meeting spot. Lima is a very congested and crowded city – about 25% of the entire country population lives within the city, so traffic can be a challenge; however, the bike tour was awesome and we got to see numerous parks, the Pizza Alley, Cat Park, Bohemian Barranco district, strolled (not biked) the Puente de los Suspiros (the Bridge of Sighs), and wandered the neighborhood around the Larcomar – a shopping center built into the cliffs overlooking the ocean.
Day #2: made our way to the Huaca Pucllana ruins ……which is a pre-Incan temple complex used by both the Wari and Lima cultures from 200 AD – 700 AD. The ruins are located in the Miraflores district; the most challenging part of getting to the ruins was crossing the busy streets – very few traffic lights, and pedestrian crosswalks are just white paint on the street which mean nothing to drivers. Our ticket to the ruins included an English guided tour. Following the ruins, we made our way up and down streets and found a local eating establishment to have lunch. Our waiter spoke very little English, but we still had a nice meal. We then made our way back to the lovely cliffs of Miraflores, walked along the boardwalk, past the lighthouse, the iconic Parque del Amor (Park of Love), stopping at the paragliding vendor next to the cliffs, as we hoped to book a paragliding adventure. However, the winds would not cooperate, so there was no paragliding for us that day.
Day #3: back to the airport to catch our flight to Cusco, the main hub for the journey to MP. Cusco elevation is 11,000 ft+, so we had opted to head to Ollantaytambo as our base to allow our bodies to acclimatize to the altitude. Ollantaytambo elevation is 9,100 and is located in the Sacred Valley, surrounded by a number of archaeological/Inca ruins. We did not attempt to climb the ruins as we just got acquainted with the city and arrived at the entrance too late to be allowed to enter. Our hotel was ………, fair at best; on first glance, it appeared very nice, but the windows were very thin, door was not sealed well (noise from outside all night long!), water for shower and washing face ice cold, no heater in the room. In the evening as we walked around and per a recommend from the hotel, we discovered the Blue Magic restaurant (Av. Patacalle No. 115) might have been the best restaurant we encountered in our entire PERU journey; also very reasonable prices.
Day #4: Hopped on PeruRail Vistadome train for our hour and half journey to MP. The train journey is comfortable, with complimentary coffee/soft drinks and snacks. Arrive Aguas Calientes, the base for ALL MP visits; a very touristy, extremely overpriced town. We made way to a bus station for the trip to MP. You can either take the bus or hike – the bus ride was about 20-25 minutes up a winding steep dirt road; glad we did not hike the trail. At the entrance of MP we met our guide, as we were to be part of a group; however, there was no group and we had our guide to ourselves. Once inside MP you ‘hike’ a rather steep path of cobblestone steps until you get to the overview of MP (with our guide who was pretty pro-active, it took us about 20 minutes). Once at the vantage point, the view is simply awesome, much like the pictures you see. We hiked to the Inca Bridge (about 10-15 minutes from the vantage point) and to various other vantage points that our guide pointed out. The MP main area was extremely crowded; however, we did keep moving, thanks to our guide, and the weather was great. Getting back down was interesting as we waited about 40 minutes in line to get on the bus; the lines for the bus were long but moved fairly quickly and orderly.
Day #5-8: Instead of a cab back to Cusco we hung around the Ollantaytambo main square and got to share a van (luggage tied on top!) back to Cusco for $5 per person. Once in Cusco, made our way dragging our bags across cobblestone streets to our nice little hotel with a Superb location.
The rest of our trip was spent in Cusco; below is our itinerary/visits which were great:
Free Tours by Foot: (http://www.inkanmilkyway.com) – a must to begin the adventure/orientation – Elvis was our guide
City Centro Square/Plaza de Armas
Convento of Santo Domingo
Walking a local market (we did the San Pedro market)
Twelve angle stones
Make sure you stop at Organika, a possibly difficult to find restaurant for the BEST (quality, presentation, choices) meal in town plus very reasonable prices!: Calle Resbalosa Nre. 410; They grow their own organic produce in the Urubamba region.
Peru is a lovely country, tourist friendly, offers excellent dollar value and the food is terrific.
If you are a hiker, this is the place to try out your new but broken-in hiking boots, although you must be very mindful of the high altitude and acclimatize slowly, no matter how great physical condition you are in.