i’ve been lucky with the means and the family to travel all over the world. we try to go on a trip every year. after my protests against another beach trip (first world problems, i know), we settled on peru. we didn’t have a lot of time to plan and being my first travel recap, i realize i need to write things down more often. this post is also about 6 months after the trip, so there’s that. regardless, here are a few things i wanted to share about my trip.
we flew LAN airlines having known nothing about them beforehand. in the era of mediocre airlines, we were pleasantly surprised: nice, clean planes and lovely staff who were very attentive in refilling my wine glass. we decided to break up the flights by flying into lima for a night since we were traveling with children. of all the cities we travel, lima was the lowest in elevation. a day/night here will also help your body get ready for the high altitude. there is a hotel steps away from the airport so a really easy place to lay your head for a quick night.
to and from machu picchu, we took peru rail. such a great experience to ride the train. i highly recommend the vistadome train. it’s a little more expensive, but the train offers panoramic windows so you can really take in the views. it’s about 4 hours from cusco to machu picchu. a meal was included as well as a little fashion/dance show to help liven up the trip.
we flew into cusco, only to get right into a van to 0llantaytambo in the sacred valley. it’s about an hour and a half drive from the airport but the scenery makes it more than bearable. we stayed at the cutest hotel, picaflore tambo. imagine you were staying at a family members house. the space felt very authentic and yet like home at the same time. 0llantaytambo is a quaint city and the hotel was a short walk from the square where you can take in the little shops and restaurants. a little further beyond the square, you can visit the temple of 0llantaytambo. there is an entrance fee to get in but i recommend it. it’s a good physical and mental preparation for machu picchu with gorgeous views. sadly, i can’t recall where we ate. but they honestly weren’t anything to write home (or blog) about.
from 0llantaytambo, we hopped on the train to machu picchu. when planning the trip, we decided to spend 2 days/1 night here. with two kids under 10 and two parents over 70, we weren’t really planning to hike for days on end. additionally, only a limited number of tickets are available for any given day to conserve the historic site. so the more popular hikes do tend to sell out early. since we were only there a night and my sister got a deal through work, we ended up staying at the inkaterra. now let me say this, you can spend A LOT less for a hotel. however, it is a fantastic hotel if you can afford to splurge for a night or two. unsurprisingly, this is also where i had my favorite meal. we had a nice, multi course dinner. and if i was going to try guinea pig anywhere, it would be at this hotel (it was delicious btw).
we weren’t originally going to get a guide but the hotel offered one for cheaper on site than we originally saw online. it was about a half day tour and included the bus ticket to get there as well. our guide did a great job of getting us through the site, recalling interesting facts and stories about the ruins, and really just looked after the entire family. the walking proved to be a bit much for our parents but the kids did well. anything else i say about this place, just won’t do it justice. a real spiritual experience being in the presence of all that nature and to learn about how the inca’s lived and worked.
i don’t think i would have minded staying longer. at the same time, i don’t particularly feel like i was cheated either. i would advise that you consider who you’re going with, how much time you actually want to spend hiking, and make sure you plan in advance for some of the more popular trails.
we stayed in cusco for a few days as well. it’s a pretty walkable area. our hotel was a 15 minute or so walk to the plaza del armas. a lovely part of town with beautiful churches, quaint stores, and restaurants. lots of alleyways to get lost in. this area reminded me most of europe. we went to ruins outside of town here as well. sadly, i can’t remember the name (i tried to warn you about the memory recall) but chances are your hotel will know it. it’s on the outskirts of a market area where you can shop for souvenirs. the hike up actually felt a little steeper/more treacherous than machu picchu.
we ended our trip with a day and a half in lima, staying at the hilton in milaflores. we didn’t have a whole lot of time but you better believe i wouldn’t miss a chance to check out parque kennedy—a park overrun by cats. they are literally everywhere: otherwise known as my dream. we enjoyed a great dinner on our last night at a nearby italian restaurant los bachiche.
all in all
i’m glad we went and machu picchu was certainly a once-in-a-lifetime experience. i was little underwhelmed with the rest of the trip though. everything was rather expensive. the food was just ok. this latter point is one of the things i love most about traveling, so kinda a big deal for me. i will preface this with a reminder that we didn’t really plan a lot outside of machu picchu so that could have definitely been a factor.
some quick tips:
- have the passport information of all your travelers handy when booking, because everything required that information up front.
- the altitude wasn’t really an issue for most of us on the trip. a variety of products containing the coca leaf are readily accessible to help with altitude sickness. when we landed in cusco, we bought candies and had a few as a precaution. my nephew did come down with a wicked headache in 0llantaytambo and was out of commission for a day. but he recovered quickly.
- we went at the end of june/early july. the weather was great overall with no rain in sight. the temperature shifts a good bit, particularly in cusco. the sun bears down on you during the day, but it gets pretty chilly at night. so layer up.
- as with many other countries: don’t pay full price for goods. vendors are willing to bargain although they definitely have a line.