In a nutshell:
Percy Salas- BEST GUIDE EVER, book him and have him purchase your tickets—don’t purchase any tickets from U.S.!!! Let him do it. firstname.lastname@example.org
Tierra Viva Cusco Centro— Wonderful, affordable hotel in Cusco
Machu Picchu Sanctuary Lodge— Worth the expense and skip staying Aguas Calientes MUST BOOK UP TO A YR AND A HALF IN ADVANCE
My trip to Peru was one I will treasure forever! It is the most beautiful country and the Sacred Valley and Machu Picchu are things you really have to see to believe. I planned my trip way ahead of time (I’m talking 2 years) and decided from the get-go to be my own guide by reading everything I could about the region and its history. However, once my husband and I crunched numbers, we realized that hiring an affordable guide would not only make everything way easier (and safer) but it only cost a couple hundred dollars more. The prices to buy all the entrance tickets and traveling expenses throughout Cusco, the Sacred Valley and Machu Picchu are so much less for a local that by hiring a guide ahead of time and having that individual accumulate all the tickets, etc. that you need means that you don’t spend much more to actually employ their guiding services.
So I contacted several guide and asking for sample itineraries and pricing. After being in contact with around 10 or so. I chose Percy Salas. He was quick to respond, straight to the point and didn’t get me a lot of fluff about add-on’s and things like that. He asked what my main goal was for my trip, what I wanted to see most and worked out a wonderful itinerary for the trip. I was a little anxious when he requested that I send him money via Western Union to cover upfront expenses, such as our entrance tickets into Machu Picchu, the Vistadome train ride roundtrip to there from Cusco and bus tickets from Aguas Calientes to the ruins and back. However, I knew it was necessary and the way in which we exchanged information and his prompt responses to my emails made me feel fine with going through with the payment.
Everything worked out perfectly! We arrived at Cusco day one and Percy met us at our hotel (which provided a free shuttle from the airport) with a huge smile on his face!
Note: We stayed at the Tierra Viva Cusco Centro and it was perfect!—great staff, affordable, great location, and delicious breakfast.
I can’t praise Percy more! He’s a native of Cusco, got his archeology degree at the University and has worked closely with the ruins and the study of Incan history for decades. He speaks wonderful English and is a pleasure to be around. I felt like I was in the hands of an expert each day we were with him. His guiding spiels never felt rehearsed or like was droning on through an act he’s bored with (I see this a lot with guides). He loved to answer any questions we had and was very interested in the theories we developed about the Incan civilization. He was so accommodating and made sure that we were safely transported to and from our hotel each day and gave us great suggestions on where to dine in the evenings. Another thing I loved about Percy is that, although he is a native, he does not ever lead his clients into places where they are encouraged to spend money—on other trips I’ve had guides who were locals and make previous deals with business owners to get a cut when they bring their tourists to their shops—Percy did not do this at all and I was very impressed. He even encouraged me to barter with the local vendors because he was dismayed by how much they tried to rip off tourists.
Percy only does tours in Cusco and the Sacred Valley so he provided us with a different guide for Machu Picchu. Her name was Esmerelda and she was wonderful, as well. She was very sweet and polite and did a wonderful job of greeting us as soon as got off the train in Aguas Calientes and guiding through our first day at Machu Picchu. We stayed two days but only had Esmerelda as our guide for 4 hours the first day, but before she left us, she made sure to show us where to enter the Wayna Picchu hike (which we did the next day) and gave us an extensive tour of the site.
If you go with Percy as a guide (I sure hope you do!), be sure to invite him to lunch when you are on a tour with him, as he was very polite and would only join if we asked him. Meals with him are wonderful, as he is able to tell what the best meals are and also how they are made etc. He also helps if you don’t speak Spanish by ordering and translating for you. Also, be sure to know that a tip is not included when you receive pricing from guides. We tipped Percy the same as we would anything else in the service industry—20% the total amount of his services (excluding what we spent on tickets). We tipped Esmerelda 20% for her services, as well.
This was our itinerary:
June 1.- Transfer and Sacred Valley tour.- Visiting Awanacancha, alpaca farm, andean weavers, Pisaq historical site, native market after lunch return to your hotel in Cusco.
June 2.= City tour.- Visiting Cathedral, Qoricancha, Sacsayhuaman, Quenko , Pucapucara , Tambomachay.
June 3 .- Sacred Valley .- Visiting Ollantaytambo historical site, Maras salt pans, Moray experimental farming terraces +
Chincheros Inca town.
June 4.- Machupicchu. Include: Train tickets round trip, entrance ticket to Machupicchu , bus ticket to MP, and private guide service.
June 5.- MP + Huaynapicchu.
Where we stayed:
Tierra Viva Cusco Centro
Machu Picchu Sanctuary Lodge (worth the expense for 2 days at Machu Picchu and to sit in a hot tub and watch the sunset over the ruins!!!) FYI: I booked our room a year and 4 months in advance.
What I would’ve done differently: The only thing I wish I would’ve done is spend a night in Ollantaytambo. This was a beautiful preserved Incan town about an hour from Cusco and closer to Machu Picchu. I would recommend spending the night there before leaving the next morning for Aguas Calientes via train (to get to Machu Picchu). It shortens travel time and it is just a charming, historical city with a beautiful hotel and a ton of cool restaurants.
Everything else was perfect! We spent a couple hours exploring Aguas Calientes and it was pretty tourist trappy! Don’t spend too much time there if you can manage it. It is a charming city but not big at all and you can see all that you need to in the time it takes to wait for your train to arrive to take you back to Cusco.
Don’t skimp on Wayna Picchu—I am deathly afraid of heights and I managed it just fine and the view is sooo spectacular!!!! It makes the strenuous hike so worth it.
Email contact for Percy Salas: email@example.com
Tierra Viva Cusco Centro: http://tierravivahoteles.com/tierra-viva-cusco-centro/?gclid=CISwi5yGtr8CFWrl7AodwxMAAA
Machu Picchu Sanctuary Lodge: http://www.belmond.com/sanctuary-lodge-machu-picchu/
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In a nutshell: