Trip Report: Cusco, Sacred Valley & Machu Picchu

Old Mar 16th, 2008, 08:03 AM
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Trip Report: Cusco, Sacred Valley & Machu Picchu

Just thought I'd make a very brief report with the facts to help anyone else planning a self-guided tour of this area (we didn't use a tour and did everything ourselves).


1. Flew Toronto->Lima direct on Air Canada, $850 before tax.
2. Arrived 1am at Jorge Chavez, and after exiting the baggage area, went to Ramada Costa Del Sol, across the street to the right (20 feet from Airport exit). For $250 US, slept until 10:30am wake up call and was back in the airport by 11:30am for our 1pm LAN flight to Cuzco.
3. LAN flight out on time, was around $450 total round trip + taxes for 2 to cusco.
4. Landed Cusco airport. Just outside is a fenced in area with white cabs ("official cabs&quot, and just outside the fence are the 'rest'. Either are ok, just make sure you get a price set before stepping in. Took a white cab to our hotel just off plaza des armas for 10 soles (I think you can do better).
5. Stayed at Hotel Ninos. Unbelievably nice hotel for 40 bucks a night. No heat, but they give you a small room heater and lots of blankets. Staff is very friendly and helpful, breakfast (not included, 20 soles for two) is phenomenal bread, jams, eggs, etc.
6. Took altitude sickness pills, but stopped after 2 days as pregnant wife who wasn't taking them didn't have issues. I just made sure I drank at least 3L of water per day, and took it easy.
7. Jack's Bar (just past 12 angles stone in san blas) is a great restaurant.
8. Picked up Ollanta->Aguas Calientes train tickets at Peru Rail station on Pachutec south of Plaza Des Armas (10 min walk). Had to pay in cash (just barely had enough soles on me, but they will take US as well). When you show up ask for a 'number' (like a deli) and then the tv shows who they are serving next. The ticket agents speak english well.
9. From just outside the train station, stopped a cab on the street and negotiated 120 soles for a whole day tour of Pisac: 2 hours at the market, and 2 hours at the ruins. Driver was really nice and informative - even though he spoke no english whatsoever, we spoke enough spanish / did enough miming to communicate and learn a lot from him. He stopped the car often and took us into forests/local towns to experience interesting stuff (eucalyptus trees, local barbeque, etc). It was really nice having a private cab to drive through the valley from cusco instead of a tour group as we could stop where we wanted. We left cusco 9am and got back mid/late afternoon.
10. Pisac market was great. Make sure you go to one of the upper floor cafe's (good one on the west side of the market) and have a beer overlooking the action below.
11. Pisac ruins also good. Lots of walking. Wear good boots (I wore my hiking boots all trip anyways).
12. After Cusco/Hotel Ninos, our next stay was in Ollantaytambo. We took a private cab again from Hotel Ninos to Ollanta for 80 soles. Drive took about 1.5 hrs.
13. In Ollanta, stayed in Hotel Munay tika for $30 bucks. Rustic, but very clean. No heat, but was warm enough under the blankets. I was very sick in Ollanta (bound to happen eventually), and missed a whole day puking in our room, while the wife toured the ruins. Oh well, it was just one day and I was all better once I stared the CiproXL antibiotic I had brought with me (take some!). My suspected cause is brushing my teeth with tap water - don't do this, use a bottle and glass.
14. Took Vistadome Valley from Ollanta to Machu Picchu. Train station in Ollanta is at the end of the long street Munay Tika is on. Wait inside the train station, as just outside the gates is a little grubby. There is overpriced food/drink inside the station, as well as moderately clean bathrooms.
15. Vistadome train was 1.5 to aguas calientes. We did it from ollanta to save total travel to Cusco (see note on that below).
16. Hotel Inkaterra Machu Picchu had staff waiting for as at Aguas Calientes station, who offerred to take our luggage and walked us with an umbrella to the hotel. When we got there they put us down on couches in front of a fire and checked us in. They assigned a service representative to us for our stay who took care of absolutely everything - they went into town and bought our bus/mp tickets and bring them to our room, they set up our cab back to cusco from ollanta, etc. Just awesome. We tipped her 30 US when we left because she was so helpful.
17. We got a 50% second night discount for a 2 night off-season stay at Inkaterra, so we had a Junior Deluxe Suite with wood burning fireplace, huge bathroom, all meals included (beautiful restaurant and food), etc for $800 US total. Check their website for details of promotions:
18. We chose 2 nights in aguas calientes on purpose as we went during rainy season, and boy was I happy, because the 1st morning it poured torrential rains until 3pm, so we didn't go to MP. The next morning it was glorious and sunny, as can be seen from the pictures, and we had a great morning at MP before heading back to Cusco.
19. We took a 5:25pm train out of Aguas Calientes and arrived in Ollantaytambo at 7pm, and the cab driver Inkaterra setup for us was waiting for us with a sign just outside the station. He drove us at about 120 km/hr in one of the scariest but fun cab rides of my life and got us to Cusco in 1:15. All told, it took less than 3 hrs to get from Aguas Calientes to Cusco, which is much, much faster than any train. Also, given the cab back to cusco from ollanta was only 80 soles, our total trip cost round trip was 80 soles x 2 cab rides = 160 soles (55 bucks) + two train tickets, return from Ollanta (240 bucks) = ~$300 US total, and <3 hours. By comparison, even if we didn't spend time in Ollanta I would have done this, as taking the vistadome the whole way from Cusco would be ~4 hrs and ~$300 US total.
20. Our flight out of Cusco the next day on LAN was a 1pm, and we almost didn't make it. They pulled us off the tarmac after bad weather reports came. Given the airport closes at 5pm (yup, small town), it was looking likely we would miss our flight back to Lima (and our flight home to canada from there). However, we luckily were re-boarded and got off the ground, but all the LAN flights after us were cancelled for the day: recommendation: get the earliest flight out of cusco possible to make sure you get out, particularly if you have a connection in Lima same day. Don't worry about having a long layover, because:
21. Lima is great. Immediately after you get out of the baggage area to the right is the luggage storage. Rent a locker (so you know no one has accessed your bag and made a mule out of you) for 30 soles for the day. It was big enough for our two backpacks. Get a 40 soles 'green taxi' for the 45 min ride from Jorge Chavez to Lancomar, a large mall/area overlooking the ocean on the cliffs of the classy miraflores area. Awesome place to spend the day relaxing on patios, seeing a movie or even bowling.

Had a great time, and would highly recommend doing this trip on your own rather than a package (gap adventures, etc), unless you are doing the inka trail. It's really easy to get around, and even if you only have remidial spanish you should be fine.

TorontoJeff is offline  
Old Mar 16th, 2008, 09:39 AM
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Thanks for you report, Jeff!

Was this a week-long trip for you? I'm looking into Peru as a possible destination for this coming October. We would probably have around a week for our trip and would be interested in many of the same things you did.

Enjoyed your photos!
cmerrell is offline  
Old Mar 16th, 2008, 09:50 AM
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Yup, one week (wife is a teacher so had to squeeze it into march break) - left Friday at 4pm from Toronto, back the following Saturday at 11am. Great, compact trip for South America - direct flight to Lima helped make it quick. Some other advice:
1. Book everything very early/as soon as possible - train trips, hotels, etc are limited and book up quickly.
2. Splurge on a hotel in Aguas Calientes - I found it to be a rough (dirty) town as compared to the quaint sacred valley towns or cuzco. Was also nice to have a luxurious room in the middle of the trip, and the cost was offset but the relative thrift of hotels in Ollanta/Cusco ($30/40 a night).
TorontoJeff is offline  
Old Mar 16th, 2008, 10:43 AM
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Gorgeous pictures, great advice-thanks for sharing!

blamona is offline  
Old Mar 16th, 2008, 02:49 PM
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Hey Jeff, thanks for the informative report. I'll be sure to get some Cipro. I'm doing the Inca Trail so I'll be with a group, but it's good to know Peru is doable indepenently too.
P_M is offline  
Old Mar 17th, 2008, 10:04 AM
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Thanks for taking the time Jeff. Good information .... we're heading there in 2 weeks, doing it ourselves as well.
DUBinNYC is offline  
Old Apr 6th, 2008, 12:35 PM
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Awesome photos, Jeff. I leave April 24. Thanks for helping to get me psyched for the trip.
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Old Apr 11th, 2008, 06:43 AM
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Old Sep 28th, 2008, 02:43 PM
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