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Trip Report Oct. 2011 Trip Report: Awesome Sacred Valley and MP

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This was an incredible trip. I was blown away by the beautiful landscapes and awed by the feats accomplished by the Incas. Thanks to the many contributors to this site for their great advice and suggestions. My 28- year old daughter and I spent 9 days in the Sacred Valley in October 2011 (12 days total including Lima and travel). First I will discuss general information and tips and then our itinerary.
Flights: It appears that a lot of people have trouble booking the internal flights between Lima and Cusco directly on LAN or other airlines. I searched the flights from Los Angeles to Lima and then flights between Lima and Cusco to get an idea on price and times. I then called LAN and booked all of the flights with an overnight layover in Lima at each end. I got a better price for booking all the flights as one round trip (LA to Cusco), rather than rountrip LA to Lima and roundtrip Lima to Cusco. I decided to go with LAN because of their direct flights from LA to Lima, and because of their numerous flights between Lima and Cusco (to avoid problems with delays or cancellations). As other posters have noted, LAN changed our Lima/Cusco flights several times before we left LA, so you have to keep checking.
Health Issues: Based on all the advice regarding acclimatization, we decided to go directly to Pisac (9,000 feet) upon arrival in Cusco (10,000 feet). We both took Diamox and had no altitude sickness problems. We also had Cipro for digestive problems, which we both used (unfortunately, you may not be able to avoid this). Bottled water is cheap and plentiful, so keep hydrated. Sunblock is a must.
Tour Guide: We used was the services of Yure Chavez of Peru based on TripAdvisor recommendations I made up my own itinerary after reviewing numerous trip reports and travel agency websites, and Yure made some suggestions and refinements. Yure booked all of the hotels, the two-day Inca Trail trek (including the trains and MP tickets), bought the Boleto Turistco, provided private car transfer from place to place, and provided us with a private guide, Daniel, as noted below. After seeing so many travelers have trouble getting their train/MP tickets on-line, I was very happy to have Yure handling all of these matters. His price was very reasonable (half of the quote from Kuoda). Daniel was knowledgeable, flexible, supportive on the day trek and charming. Tour guides have a degree in tourism from the local university and have 4 years of courses in history, archeology, art, geography, etc. etc. I was very happy with the Yure’s prompt responses to my e-mails and Daniel as our guide.
Walking Sticks: All of the ruins have many steps of varying heights so you are constantly ascending and descending. I strongly recommend a walking stick for anyone who is older, not fit, or who has knee problems. We were able to get telescoping aluminum sticks with comfortable handles for 30 soles on the way to the Pisac ruins. For comfort, I recommend these instead of the 3 sole wooden sticks sold in many places.
Hotels: In the Sacred Valley, we stayed at a range of hotels from 2 star (Pisac Inn) to 5 star (Inkaterra Pueblo). All of them were good value for the price, nicely appointed and in great locations. I recommend all of them. All of the hotels had good breakfasts and provided free internet (at least two computers) and headphones for Skype. None of the hotels had heat except the Inkaterra which had an electric space heater, so be prepared to be cold in your room unless you are in bed! All the beds had great blankets or comforters. The Pisac Inn did not have hot water in the bathroom sink (only the shower). Some provided free bottled water. The Rumi Punku (Cusco) had a small refrigerator with mini-bar and sold water. It is cheaper to buy 2 liter bottles on the street (to fill your own smaller bottles) than the smaller bottles sold in the hotels.
Restaurants/Food: All of the restaurants we went to were very good. I wanted to try top ranked places because we enjoy having nice meals at the end of the day with a bottle of wine! Daughter tried Cuy (OK) and really liked Alpaca. We both really enjoyed Chica Morada, a refreshing drink made from purple corn, spices and lime juice - definitely recommend it.
Here is a summary of our trip:
Day 1 – We arrived in Lima late in the evening and spent the night at Ramada del Sol at the airport. This is very convenient but pricey for a basic hotel room in an industrial setting.
Day 2 – We flew to Cusco in the late morning and were picked up by Yure (owner of Peru Trek4Good). He took us for lunch at La Casona del Inka on the highway to Pisac on a hill overlooking the city. On the way to Pisac we visited Awanacancha, a llama and alpaca farm with a shop with very nice textiles (45 minutes visit). The ride to Pisac was only an hour. We stayed at the Pisac Inn, right on the central plaza for two 2 nights.
Day 3 – We planned to be here on Sunday to attend the well known Pisac market. The entire plaza and side streets were crammed with vendor stalls. Note that many of the “handicraft” items are actually made in factories and purchased by the locals to re-sell. The morning was sunny and warm. We had lunch at Orno Colonial Café (around the corner from Pisac Inn), a small place where empanadas are baked in an old open wood fired oven (like a pizza oven). After lunch, Daniel met us at the hotel for our tour of the Pisac ruins. I had asked that we walk back down from the ruins and although it was sunny, Daniel suggested I bring my rain coat. A good thing, since on the two hour walk down from the ruins it got very windy, then hailed and rained for about 20 minutes!
Day 4 – Daniel and his driver picked us up in the morning for the transfer to Ollantaytambo. En route we stopped at the Ceramica Seminario in Urubamba and were able to meet the artist Pablo Seminario. Our visit included a short video on Pablo, a tour of his ceramics factory and the opportunity to buy (which we did!). Lunch was at Alhambra, a lovely restaurant with garden and large buffet. After lunch we visited a private home where the lady showed us how to make chicha (the local corn beer) and gave us samples. We arrived in Ollanta in the early afternoon and had a tour of the ruins. These are spectacular; we climbed to the top and had great views of the valley and mountains. These ruins also have lovely water fountains. We stayed at the Pakaritampu Hotel, my favorite hotel for the price. It has beautiful gardens and tastefully appointed rooms. Dinner was at El Albergue, a five minute walk from the hotel.
Day 5 – Took the Vista Dome 7:05 a.m. train to KM 104 to begin the Inca Trail trek with Daniel. We started the trek at 8:30 and made it to the Sun Gate of MP around 3:30; then it’s another 45 minute downhill walk to the Guard House at MP. This was about a 9 mile hike with over 2,300 foot ascent. It consisted of uphill trails and many stone stairs (both up and down). We had a great cool, cloudy day for hiking and when we arrived at the Sun Gate the sun came out and we got iconic pictures of the site. This was an incredible day and the highlight of the trip. The bus down to Aguas Caliente is an attraction in itself, with 13 hairpin turns. We stayed at the Inkaterra Pueblo Hotel for two nights. A well deserved treat!
Day 6 – We were back up at MP this morning at 8:00 and had a tour of MP with Daniel. This morning it was drizzling and very foggy, so we got some “mystical” pictures of MP to compare to our sunny ones. Since daughter was not feeling well (stomach issues) we returned to the Inkaterra so she could rest. I took the nature/orchid walk offered by the hotel which was very informative about the history and flora of their extensive grounds. We then had foot and body massages at their spa.
Day 7 – Took the 10:55 Vista Dome back to Ollanta and stayed again at the Pakaritampu. Had lunch at Blue Puppy, where we met a young man from Texas who was managing the restaurant. We wandered around the town in the afternoon and had dinner at the hotel (OK).
Day 8 – Daniel picked us up at 9:00 for the drive to Cusco. On the way we visited the concentric Inca terraces at Moray (and saw locals lying at the bottom to soak up the special Inca “energy field”), the salt mines at Maras and the village of Chinchero where we had a weaving demonstration and toured the ruins. The weaving demo was very interesting and we bought items there since we were assured that they were handmade. We arrived at the Rumi Punku Hotel for 3 nights at around 3:30 and went for a late lunch at Pachapapa in San Blas and walked around the square. We took in the Centro Qosqo de Arte Native Dance Show at 7:00 (somewhat ordinary, but free with the Boleto Turistico) and then had dinner at Fallen Angel (very unique décor). Rumi Punku Hotel is lovely and in a great location just a few blocks from San Blas and the Plaza de Armas.
Day 9 – Daniel met us at 10:00 for a 3 hour city walk that included the Plaza de Armas, Cathedral, the Central Mercado, Coricancha and Santo Domingo, and artist studios in San Blas. After lunch at Ciccolina, we shopped in the afternoon around the Plaza de Armas. Dinner was at Limo.
Day 10 – Daniel took us up to Sacsayhuaman by taxi and then we toured and walked back to town (1/2 hour walk). All of the ruins we saw were different, so I recommend seeing them all, but we chose not to see Qenqo and Tambomachay. In the afternoon we had planned to see the Inca Museum but it was closed (Sunday) so we visited the Cusco Regional Museum, then returned to the hotel to pack. Dinner was at MAP, our most expensive dinner as they only offer a fixed price three course dinner for 156 soles (there are choices for appetizer, main, and dessert).
Day 11 – Yure took us to the airport for our late morning flight to Lima where we had a two hour city tour. Dinner was at Senior de Sulco at Miraflores overlooking the ocean and we stayed at the Ramada del Sol. Returned to LA the next day anxious to tell everyone about our fabulous trip!

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