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ToujoursVoyager Apr 15th, 2021 05:41 AM

Itinerary check for Peru (family trip)
Good morning,

We are going to Peru either this July 2021 or July 2022 for 2-3 weeks (flexible). One my favorite activities is planning trips, I find is so relaxing after a day of work, while the children are sleeping, with a glass of sauvignon blanc.

I read some of the trip reports and questions about Peru and once I am done posting, I will probable read more since today is my day off. About us: we are a family of four, two adults and two children 5 and 8 years old. Children are competitive figure skaters. I mention it because they have no problem hiking for several hours at a time and will outpace my husband. For this Peru trip we will be joined (part of the way) by my younger sister and my sister in law with her boyfriend. All adults are vaccinated against Covid. I am an Emergency Physician and I have been on the frontline since the pandemic began in the US in March 2020.

I like to do my itinerary in terms of nights:

July 13th night: either in Lima or Ollantaytambo depending on flights (coming from Florida). Probably Lima.

July 14th-July 17th: 4 nights in Ollantaytambo, Sacred Valley to acclimate. Staying at El Albergue. Hiring a guide? (Percy comes highly recommended on this site). Moray, Maras salt pool, Pisac market, horseback ride, bicycle ride, cooking class? Anything else?

July 18th-21rst: 5D/4N Inca trail hike with Alpaca Expedition. Currently only the 2D/1N is open but I am praying the Inca Gods that it opens up in July. We hired an extra dedicated porter just for the 5 years old. Originally she was going to take the train up with my husband and skip the hike. But after corresponding with Raul from Alpaca, we made the decision to bring her along. Pick up will be in Ollantaytambo on the morning of the 18th so there is no backtracking.

July 22nd: extra night in Aguas Calientes at the Inkaterra Machu Picchu Pueblo Hotel.

July 23rs-24th: Cuzco at the Ninos Meloc Hotel.

July 25th: Inka Express Cuzco-Puno (not currently running) or Peru Rail (resuming operation in July 2021 -remains to be seen-). If trip this year, will need a second PCR antigen test in Cuzco to be able to board either the train or bus.

July 25th: Night in Puno. Thinking Mirador del Titicaca.

July 26th-27th: All Ways Travel Cultural tour with homestay on Amantanti Island. Second night in Puno.

July 28th: This is the part I am most unsure about: fly to Lima (from Juliaca). I would love to see the Nazca lines (most important) and secondarily the Ballesta islands. I thought about spending the night in Paracas or Ica (Huacachina Oasis). But I am having a hard time deciding if either Paracas or the oasis are "pretty" enough to deserve a night there. When I travel, visually stunning landscape, cities or villages are very important to me. Would the children enjoy the oasis, or is it mostly a party place with sand dunes? Is Nazca town itself a better choice? I "walked" Paracas on google map and I am not getting excited about that location either. Have you been there? Did you enjoy it? My other alternative is to take a tour with Nazca lines from Lima who takes you back to Lima late that day after seeing the lines and touring Ballesta. My other thoughts were to continue from Puno to the Colca canyon instead, see the condors soaring, spend the night and then go on to Arequipa. But I am having a very hard time letting go of seeing the Nazca lines. I even though of seeing the Nazca line first at the beginning of the trip before going to Ollantaytambo.

July 31rst: fly back to US

Closing thoughts: the uncertainty of the epidemic makes it hard to plan but it is nice to dream isn't ?

Seamus Apr 16th, 2021 08:44 PM

I am so thankful I did my trip to Peru prior to the emergence of the COVID pandemic. Based on what I hear from contacts in Peru, I would absolutely scrap plans for a trip in July 2021, look at 2022. I was limited in the time I had, but was able to get to my priority spots thanks to the work of a local planner, Aaron. He comes highly recommended, does a lot of planning for gay tourists but by no means is limited to that. His network of guides and drivers across Peru and his knowledge of the available options made everything easy. I highly recommend contacting him to see what he can arrange for you.

A couple notes - Four nights in Ollantaytambo is likely to become quite boring - not much there after you've seen the ruins (which are worth seeing) and stopped by the local market. I spent a couple nights in Lima before setting off and found it quite enjoyable. Some of the other things of interest - like the Maras salt mines,or Sacsayhuaman - are conveniently reached as daytrips from Cusco, which is worth a couple nights itself. Plus, some time in Cusco helps equilabrate to the altitude before continuing your ascent.

BTW, absolutely take acetazolamide (Diamox) to counteract the respiratory alkalosis that develops at altitude. All the hotels at altitude will also have an urn in the lobby dispensing coca tea - drink it, liberally! It is not cocaine and absolutely helps with symptoms. There is also a local OTC that is essentially a combo of aspirin, NSAID and caffeine that you can get at any pharmacy by asking for <<soroche>> pills. But if you start the Diamox prior to ascent you should be fine.

I did not do the trek approach to Machu Picchu, took the bus from Aguas Calientes which I reached by train from Cusco. All was arranged by Aaron and everything went off without a hitch.

I hope you have a great trip and happy planning!

ToujoursVoyager Apr 17th, 2021 09:18 AM

Someone is still reading posts on the Fodor forum!! I though I was the last survivor...dark humor I know...

Thanks for your insight. We can postpone things with Alpaca Expeditions to 2022. But the urgency of doing it in 2021 is that not everyone in our party has the luxury of time (health). So I am still hoping for this summer even if the odds are not in my favor.

The four nights in Ollantaytambo was to acclimate before hiking MP and the fact that I am traveling with young children. It could get boring. I will keep that in mind and plan more activities.

did you do the Nazca lines?

baldone Apr 17th, 2021 04:11 PM

To acclimate, 2 nights would probably be fine. And Ollantaytambo is actually at a higher altitude than Machu Picchu. We enjoyed Arequipa & Caņon de Colca more so than Lima. If you can fit it/them in, highly recommend. I think that road gets up to around 14,000 feet at it's highest. Our driver stopped for coca candies before heading up. Didn't do Nazca, but everything else on your itinerary. The tourist trail.
We used Nina Fogleman/Ancient Summit to arrange our 3 week trip. About half of the time we had a private driver and guide, mostly in and around the Sacred Valley. We took the train to Aguascalientes, and likewise stayed at Inkaterra. Our guide met us there and got us started at Machu Picchu. We hiked Huayna Picchu, where wife slipped on the trail and almost fell to her death. I went back the next day while she had a spa day. Some sites like the Islas Flotantes didn't make sense to hire a private boat. We're fluent in Spanish, but our guide spoke passable English. Her itinerary was flawless, as were her lodging recs. Highly recommend.

crellston Apr 17th, 2021 10:35 PM

Absolutely no harm in planning though I do feel that given the rising infections and deaths in Brazil which seem to be spilling over to neighbouring countries like Peru, restrictions are likely to get worse, not better this year.

INCA TRAIL - whilst there is no government imposed minimum age on hiking the trail, most responsible operators will insist on a minimum age of 12 years. If an operator were prepared to accept a five year old, I would seriously question how good they really are. There are other, shorter easier hikes like say from Tambo Machay to Sacsayhuaman near Cusco which are more suitable for children.

INKA EXPRESS v TRAIN TO PUNO - there is a LOT to see on the road between the two cities which you would miss on the train. The bus roughly follows the train line and there are maybe six tops along the way. The trip is very worthwhile and about 10% of the cost of the train.

ACCLIMATISATION - Unless you have been at altitude befor there is no way of telling how you may, or may not, be affected. Two or three nights at the lower altitude of Ollantaytambo will help with the process BUT most responsible trek operators will insist on 2 nights in Cusco pre trek. I was pretty badly affected on my first visit to Cusco flying in from Lima and needed oxygen. My wife was unaffected. Since then I have been at altitude many times and it has got better (possibly because I am getting older and acclimatisation does tend to improve with age - one of the few advantages !!) the best way is to gradually increase altitude so a couple of nights in Ollantaytambo followed by a couple on cusco would be excellent. NB whilst a few days acclimatisation will help with avoiding AMS it take a lot longer to be able to hike comfortably at altitude.

ITINERARY - we have spent a lot of time in Peru over the years and have tried many variations of itineraries to cover the sights you mention. It is difficult to be too specific without knowing whether you will be able to do the Inca Trail (personally I wouldn’t ). Nor would I bother with Nazca or Huanchachina. Arequipa and Colca Canyon would be high on my list so perhaps something like this:

1. Arrive Lima
2. Overnight (VIP) bus to Arequipa
3. Arequipa
4. Arequipa
5. Colca Canyon
6. Colca Canyon
7. 4M day tour bus to Puno
8. Puno/Amantani
9. Puno/Amantani
10. Inka Express to Cusco, O/N Cusco
11. Cusco
12. Cusco (side trip to Pisac, Tambo Machay, Sacsayhuaman etc)
13. Sacred Valley taxi tour to Ollantaytambo (Chinchero, Moray, Maras) O/N Ollantaytambo
14. Ollantaytambo
15. Ollantaytambo (unless you want to climb one of the MP mountains, assuming they are open, then I would be inclined to visit MO as Day trip from Ollantaytambo
16. Fly Cusco to Lima
17. Lima
18. Lima

If the Inca Trail is open then you could slot it in between Cusco and Ollantaytambo and do the SV tour on the way back. Either way once you get to Cusco you should be pretty well used to the altitude.

Some of these places I covered in our blog in more detail with lots of photos @

As I said at outset there are lots of ways you could structure an itinerary. Alternative options in southern Peru could include a jungle fix in Puerto Maldonado or even some time in the north at Trujillo or Huaraz.

ToujoursVoyager Apr 21st, 2021 02:29 PM

Thanks Baldone, for your input about the Colca Canyon. I was going off what a friend said who loved the Atacama desert but not the Colca Canyon. Where did you stay in Yanque or Chivay?

Thanks Crellston, I have consulted your blog many times for other countries as well. I love your blog. Is there a reason you prefer to do the overnight bus to Lima instead of flying? I saw where you stayed in Colca, and it looks like the Killawasi lodge is great. It was mentioned in another trip report I read and I made a note of it.

crellston Apr 22nd, 2021 12:02 AM

Glad upyomlike our blog TJ. No, there is no particular reason to recommend bus over flying between Lima and Arequipa except that we tend to trave for longer periods and try to do it as carbon friendly as we can - train , then bus then fly and, when we really need mobility, we rent a car. Another reactor is that the VIP buses in Peru (and Argentina) are great. Very comfortable, life flat seats a little like business class on a good airline. Clearly Lima Arequipa takes 15 hours compared with 1 hour flight time (plus transfers etc) but the cost 8s about the same and we save on a nights accomodation cost which makes a difference eon a six month trip (though , to be fair we do tend to blow that by staying or eating somewhere v expensive along the way :-)

Killawasi was exception , especially as they hosted us a couple of days after the earthquake which devastated the town. The building was virtually unscathed though the perimeter wall was levelled. Food was amazing and the tours they could run were seemless given the difficult circumstances. Not sure if they are still in operation though given the pandemic still raging in Peru.

we did look at staying in Chivay which has more options in terms of hotels but wasn’t such a pleasant town as Yanque IMO.

PS Atacama and Colca are very different and can’t really be easily compared. That said , if you did want to skip colca , you could maybe move things around alittle and include a jungle trip to Puerto Maldonado?

ToujoursVoyager Apr 24th, 2021 06:27 PM

Yes, I did read that the buses are confortable. 😀 I wanted to book the bus between Cuzco and Puno, the Inka Express, but it is not running now. The train is (not the Belmont). But with so much uncertainty, I will just wait before booking tickets.

The more I read about the colca canyon and Arequipa (you mentioned it being one of your favorite cities in S. America) makes me really take notice. It would be easy to add 4 days after Puno and continue on.

baldone Apr 25th, 2021 07:41 PM

We stayed at the Colca Lodge near Yanque.

crellston Apr 25th, 2021 11:25 PM

I do love Arequipa and it fits nicely into many itineraries for many reasons. Monasterio de Santa Catalina is one of my all time favourite sights in Peru.

I think you are wise to hold back in booking anything at present. The pandemic in Brazil is out of control and close neighbours like Bolivia, Chile and Argentina are either closing borders or implementing quarantine protocols. Peru seems to be changing their minds every few days and has an election looming so anything could happen there!

I have discounted any travel this year and am looking to next April for our 25th wedding anniversary. Perhaps South America but more likely somewhere in Central America where we haven’t yet been or a return to Mexico to follow up on some of your excellent suggestions Baldone! All dependent upon you know what.

baldone Apr 26th, 2021 10:02 AM

Indeed crellston, the monasterio was a highlight for us as well. I am a very unaccomplished casual photographer, but some of my favorite pics from our travels were from there.

mlgb Apr 29th, 2021 10:34 AM

Such a delight to see my old Peru poster friend crellston.

I probably would not recommend the bus between Lima and Arequipa for your children.

Depending on who will be flying (many bankruptcies and cutbacks in service) you may be able to get a connecting flight to Arequipa.

I also like Arequipa but staying in Arequipa does virtually nothing to prepare you for altitude, it is Colca Canyon (ie Chivay and or Yanque or one of the other towns). The rim is about as high as Cusco (and you do go over a very high pass to get there, I think it may even be higher than 14000 feet). It is a brief time at the pass but about half of all people feel sick (usuallly the younger ones). So I would continue with your plan to fly into Cusco and start your stay in the Sacred Valley. I also thought that at least two nights sleeping in Cusco would be advised, if you can in fact find someone who would allow children that young on the Inca Trail.

Another option is to walk other portions of the Inca Trail. For example, there is a good hike from Pisac town up to the top of the ruins (or down, if you are lazy like me) It passes through some of the terraces built during that same era as Machu Picchu. You can then take the train to MP and hike up to the Sun Gate, which is where the IT hikers enter.

In terms of order, I'd probablly go

Lima fly into Cusco, transfer to hotel in Sacred Valley (Pisac, Urubamba or Ollantaytambo). See the other ruins around the SV.

Move to Cusco after a few nights at lower elevations. You can also see Pisac from Cusco.

From Cusco, you can visit either Lake Titicaca and/or Colca Canyon/ Arequipa. There were various options for flights, tour buses and regular buses. I'd probably opt for a bus that makes tour stops. Assuming such a thing is allowed to operate whenever you go.

If you really really want to see the Nazca lines, I would do it as an out and back trip from Lima possibly stopping in Paracas along the way. (Travel by bus, do Ballestas, travel by bus, do Nazca, return by bus). Note that the flights are over very quickly.. Assuming of course that they are allowed to run due to COVID.

Lima to Paracas is only 3hours but the Ballestas boat rides left in the morning, so either an overnight there or getting up very early in the morning was the way to go. Cruz del Sur stopped in the actual town of Paracas as opposed to out on the highway.
Paracas to Nazca is about 4 hours.

Another option which might work well is to arrange a private trip by vehicle (car and driver) and then you'd pay for his lodging as well.

I also liked Killawasi and staying in Yanque, and in addtion spent one night on "the other side" of the canyon in Corporaque at La Casa de Mamayacchi since I used them for a tour/transfer into Colca. I clicked on the agency website just now and they are not operating due to COVID. You may find that going to the more remote parts of Peru just isn't possible or will just be too difficult right now for tourists.

mlgb Apr 29th, 2021 11:33 AM

Oh here's another thing. Your children won't be vaccinated, right?

Pediatric COVID-19 is a small but real risk

crellston Apr 30th, 2021 01:40 AM

"Such a delight to see my old Peru poster friend crellston” and you too mlgb, it has been quite a while!

I had forgotten that TV was travelling with children so my suggestion of going by bus from Lima to Arequipa is perhaps best ignored!

I have to disagree with Arequipa not helping with acclimatisation. The generally accepted medical advice is that 2-3 nights anywhere between 2100 and 2500 will be fine to avoid the worst of the effects of AMS, a little longer to avoid the breathless feeling walking uphill (at least for me). I have done it both ways and each worked fine.
An advantage of the Arequipa/ Yanque route when doing the Inca trail is that it adds a few extra nights at altitude which, apart from avoiding AMS, can also help overcome that breathless feeling walking up hills. A couple of days in Arequipa and then Yanque and then on to Cusco for a couple of nights would give some additional time before trekking excellent. Having said that Ollantaytambo or urumbamba then Cusco would also work well.

I will never forget first time I flew straight into Cusco and stayed there. I was quite ill and resorted to the hotels oxygen supply to help me get over it. That was quite a few years ago and since then I have had few problems at altitude. Last time was in Lesotho @ 3200m and I barely noticed it. Perhaps it is one of the few things that improves with age!

mlgb Apr 30th, 2021 05:11 AM

Hi crellston, for me Arequipa was just a bit too low (7600 feet) to help much. However if they've never been at altitiude then Arequipa is unlikely to trigger more severe AMS effects. That doesn't mean one won't feel the minor effects, and even more effects when they get to Chivay or Yanque . Even after a few in Arequipa and one night in Corporaque, with a light hike up to the ruins there, I had a hard time with that hike that Killawasi offered. I was too tired for dinner! But after two nights sleeping at the Colca Canyon rim, they should be well prepared for Cusco etc.

Anyways they are doctors and can read up about it.

Maybe 2022 for more overseas travel?

ToujoursVoyager Apr 30th, 2021 09:51 AM

@baldone: thank you for the recommendation

@crellston: thanks for the additional information; I discussed the Colca Canyon and Arequipa with the other travelers and they cannot extend the trip (this year or the next one) So maybe I will do an additional a solo trip. As far the children on the Inca trail, I reached out to Alpaca Expedition founded by Raul Ccolque, fully expecting him to agree with me that the children should go by train. But instead he wrote back that many children have completed the trail without any problems. Furthermore, several Peruvian physicians told me they had done the Inca trail with children as young as mine. That is why I decided to bring them along but with hiring additional porters because I am not as strong as the Peruvian women that can hike long distances with their children on their back.

@mlbg: thank you also for your post! I had printed out your trip reports in Peru! And to answer your question, yes the children will be vaccinated (enrolled in a clinical trial with Pfizer)

mlgb Apr 30th, 2021 01:00 PM

Very interesting TV! Good luck to you. Peru is wonderful and it wouldn't be a bad idea to just come back again. It is easy to get flights from Florida.

mlgb May 1st, 2021 08:01 PM

I propose next April that the crellstons, baldone and myself should arrange to meet in Mexico!!

baldone May 2nd, 2021 05:48 PM

Originally Posted by mlgb (Post 17237469)
I propose next April that the crellstons, baldone and myself should arrange to meet in Mexico!!

Haha maybe by then we'll get a vaccine, lol. Up until now, it's been a matter of waiting in line for hours in the hot sun. And only then to find out they ran out of doses. And repeat for the 2nd dose. And you only get like a 1 day notice that the vaccine brigade is coming to your town or municipio. I'd rather drive to Texas where half the population doesn't want a jab anyway.

mlgb May 4th, 2021 08:32 AM

I hope your vaccination situation improves there baldone.

I just visited some Trumper friends in Texas north of Austin, and all three had taken at least the first shot. The younger sister (75) has had both, her partner and older sister recently got their first. But then they aren't native Texans. I was worried a bit about mask compliance but it was littlle different than Southern California. Indoor masking required (eg grocery stores). Not much outdoors,

The thing that startled me was that hotel receptionists behind plexiglass didn't wear masks or sported the "chin mask". I would guess that they've got the vax.

I'm now 10 days past my flight home and no symptoms, so I guess whatever they/I have done was enough, or just lucky.

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