Peru Help! Machu Picchu hike and more!

Old Jul 10th, 2012, 11:12 AM
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Peru Help! Machu Picchu hike and more!

I am coming back to plea for help from my fellow Fodorites. My wife and I are in the beginning stages of planning our final jaunt abroad before settling down to grow our family. We figured what better time than now, while we are young and able bodied with no dependents, to conquer one of our major bucket list items - HIKE TO MACHU PICCHU!

So far in my research I have come across quite a few websites that lead the 4 day hikes to Machu Picchu but since I trust my fellow Fodorites more than a random googled website, I would love to hear from some travelers with personal experience on trustworthy and affordable expedition groups.

Here is my general idea of this trip - fly into Lima, spend a day or 2 there to see the city. From Lima I plan on us flying into Cuzco and spending a day getting acclimated to the altitude (should we plan for more than that?). After hiking to MP, do the tours include a train back to Cuzco?

Ideally I'd like to see some other cities in Lima - any suggestions on where we should go? The Nazca lines are really cool to me, but I'm not sure if my wife would be interested in spending $ for a 30 minute plane ride over the desert. I would love for other suggestions on where to go, what to see, and what to do.

I've even tossed the idea that we could fly to Brazil for a few days before heading home...Not sure what pitfalls lie there but any advice will be graciously received. This is our first time traveling to South America so we are unfamiliar with travel times, customs, airports, airlines - everything!

I should give some more information about us. My wife is 31, and I am 29. We are both fit and very active - hence the plan on hiking. We are both very adventurous - marathons, skydiving, hang-gliding, snorkeling, the works! so we find almost nothing too terrifying. I eat anything, regardless if its meat, vegetable, or any delicacy. My wife...not so much, her diet does not include red meat or pork (that includes duck and rodents).

I have NO clue as to what sort of budget we should be looking at but from the research I have done, as well as previous trips we have taken I don't plan on budgeting/spending more than $4000 for the two of us for 2 weeks. From what I know, South America's currency exchange rate is more in our favor than the Euro.

Thanks for any and all the help you can provide! Looking forward to some great information here.
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Old Jul 10th, 2012, 11:21 AM
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I just got back from Peru last week - you are going to have an amazing time! Seems Machu Pichu is the place to be!

Once you get into Cuzco there are many travel places to go to to compare prices on what kinda hike/trip you are looking for. We did the Sacred Valley 2 day trip which included a bus to many sacred sights, buffet lunch, hostel in Aguas Calientes (City right near Mahchu picchu) and the train then bus back to Cuzco for $140 US dollars. We did the hike from the bottom, about 2 hours and felt accomplished seeing that most people take the bus up. There are many more hikes even when you get there that can take you further up so you can look down on the site even further.

Since I just went to Cuzco I will let others fill you in on the rest. If you are in shape, you should be fine with the altitude, I was and so was my friend but they have Coca leaf tea everywhere. You will have a blast!! IT's an amazing city and Machu Picchu is even more amazing in person!!

All the best,
Rosie
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Old Jul 10th, 2012, 01:36 PM
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"If you are in shape, you should be fine with the altitude."

Unfortunately I don't think that is how it works with altitude. I would want to stay longer in Cuzco than one day before starting the hike. Our company insisted on two days, though I believe our two Irish friends showed up in Cuzco the night before we left.
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Old Jul 10th, 2012, 06:50 PM
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I'm a wee bit older, but have hiked the 4 day Inca Trail and returned with high school students to hike the 1-day trail several times.
Would allow 2 days in Cusco before hiking. I've sat next to fit 17 year olds and sucked on oxygen tanks together to help with altitude sickness on the first day. People do show up 1 day and hike the next, but it's risky to test your limits like that. (and oh so miserable to hike with AS)
You can spend 6-8 days in Cusco, Sacred Valley & Machu Picchu then continue by bus to Puno on the edge of Lake Titicaca or go to Arequipa and Chivay to see Colca Canyon. Bus rides are long, but I like the ride from Cusco to Puno. It's a nice ramble through the highlands with stops along the way.

Or from Puno, take a bus to CopaCabana, on Bolivian side and get boat over to Sun Island. Hike 1-2 hours to top & sleepover with incredible views and local hospitality. Continue to La Paz and take short flight to Uyuni to see the Salt Flats in Bolivia. Keep going on 3-day desert landrover trek. Awesome place to go if you like the feeling that you & a Bolivian guide are the only people left on the planet. And hopefully one of you is a car mechanic!
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Old Jul 10th, 2012, 11:58 PM
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Working to a budget in Peru is relatively easy for accommodation, food & transport it is the tours & flights which will hit your budget. That said $4000 should buy you a great time.

Two webites providing independent advice are www.saexplorers.org and www.andeantravelweb . They provide good, accurate info on tours, accomodation, restaurants etc. saexplorers members also get a discount on food and tours at many places so joining may make financial sense.

Inka trail treks (& trains) do get booked way in advance so you need to book asap. We decided ahainst the Inka trail, instead trekking from Lares to Ollantaytambo (where we styaed for weeks!). We got the train to MP from there to MP and this worked well for us. Olly is also a great place to acclimatise.

Altitude is no respector of age or fitness and these have no bearing on if, or how badly you might be affected. My wife and I are both fit (although older than you). My wife was fine, I was not. I had really severe headaches on arrival in Cusco accompanied by sleep difficulties. Oxygen provided a quick, temporary, fix as did coca tea but the only real remedy is time. Take it seriously as it can, on rare occasions be fatal if left untreated. Plus, it can ruin your vacation. If you can allow a couple of days before embarking on anything other than a gentle stroll. Taking it easy for a few days is the best way to acclimatise.

Highlight of Peru for me would be hard to choose. Olly and our trek certainly. Lake Titicaca - as much for the bus ride there on the Inka Express and Arequipa is a beautiful town. All of these could be combined in one trip of 2 weeks with lots of opportunities for adventure sports along the way.

We found www.hostelworld.com and www.hostelbookers.com to be excellent portals for booking inexpensive accommodation.

More details of the palces we visited and many photos can be found on our blog;
http://blog.travelpod.com/travel-blo...ai/1/tpod.html

Entries #55 - 65 cover Peru
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Old Jul 11th, 2012, 07:42 AM
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Inca Trail - Book ASAP like others have said. I believe they're sold out for this year. Book with your company now and then they purchase the actual tickets in January for the rest of the year. We went with Peru Treks. Very highly regarded on here and TripAdvisor. They treat their porters well. We had a fantastic time. Please ensure you go with a reputable company. It's expensive for a reason - there are actually more porters than hikers in each group and they need to be compensated. Most companies include the train back to Ollantaytambo in their prices. Then it's typically a bus ride back to Cusco.

Altitude - I think you need to consider adding more time in Cusco or the Sacred Valley in general before you start your hike. Just being in shape does not mean you'll be okay with the altitude. My husband and I are in our mid-twenties and in decent shape. He had no issues whatsoever and I had altitude sickness. I was also in Puno which is higher, but you won't know your threshold until you get there. It took me a full four days to feel better, and then I still wasn't at 100%. I ended up taking Diamox as treatment. Now I know I should take it preventatively. Talk to your doctor about taking it and getting a prescription.

Other places to visit:
Nasca - We really enjoyed Nasca. We did take a flight over the lines ($90 per person for a 35-minute flight) and felt it was well worth it. Again, you need to search for a reputable company. There have been issues in the past and they still don't regulate it very well. We were split on Aeroparacas or Aerodiana. Ended up going with Aeroparacas. I have a private pilot's license and felt they did a great job and didn't do anything to worry me. In Nasca you can also see the aqueducts and a few other archaeological sites. We also went sandboarding on the Usaca dunes. There are more popular dunes in Huacachina (near Ica - a few hours away by bus).

Lake Titicaca - One of the highlights of our trip was our Laka Titicaca island tour. We stayed overnight with a family on Amantani Island. Very eye-opening and just really enjoyable. Again, choose a reputable company because some do not pay your island hosts well. We went through Allways Tours and they had us pay the family ourselves so we knew what they were getting.

Also, if you add time in the Sacred Valley before your Inca Trail hike, there is plenty to see and do. We spent four days going around to the many sites.

We spent about $7000 total for two of us for 22 days, including airfare. $4000 should be do-able as long as you get a good price on plane tickets and stay in cheaper accommodations (which are plentiful).
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Old Jul 11th, 2012, 08:30 AM
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You can check IT availability here:

http://www.incatrailreservations.com...its_4days.html
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Old Jul 11th, 2012, 09:07 AM
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Wow I can't believe all the valuable information I've received so far!

!Rosebud - I am so jealous! Just curious, did the whole 2 day trip cost $140? that sounds like fun - especially at that price!

@Colduphere - I am fine with an extra day to acclimate. I know I've been affected by AS before - not severely, just discomfort a few years back in some parts of Colorado. Just light headedness basically. I actually read your trip report and it helped inspire this trip! Thanks for the IT website too!

@JWhitt - those 6-8 days, does that include the 4 day hike? The second part of your comment fascinates me - do you have more information on that? That sort of stuff is right up our alley! I would love to do a Bolivian trek like that. Just curious, how serious are you about the mechanic abilities?

@Crellston - I'd love to stay under the $4000 mark, but I always plan for more expenses than expected. I'm also more accustomed to traveling in Europe so I could be WAY over budget from what we actually spend...

I plan on reserving/booking the hike ASAP - I appreciate the heads up too. I really want to go with a reputable company (price is important but at the end of the day I know the risks of going "too cheap"). I'll definitely check out your blog! Thanks!

@Shutterbug85 - we're planning on hiking next spring/early summer. I'll check out Peru Treks too. I need to do more research I guess about Ollantaytambo. I don't know anything about it. That sounds like fun to stay on the island - I'll look into that too! You definitely had a much larger budget as well as time frame for your travels. I plan on this being a 2 week trip so that should match up pretty evenly with what I am figuring to budget.

Thanks for all the help! I am really excited to get this going!
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Old Jul 11th, 2012, 11:53 AM
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For the Inca Trail it is sold out already until the 24 Octobert and those spaces are going fast! You need to book well in advance and remember that it is closed every February (just the trail!). I agree with teh above for at least 2 days at altitude. I have done the Inca Trail several times and lived in Cusco for quite a long time so to enjoy it the most make sure you are prepared!

For 2 weeks and your budget, you can easily see a lot of amazing things in Peru as everyone else has said. Another option if you wanted to do 2 natural wonders is to fly to Foz do Iguacu in Brazil and see the Iguazu Falls and then out of Rio. LAN do cheap flights (around US$400) to Iguacu (IGU) a few days a week, 4 hour flight and you are in Brazil! Then you can easily fly to Rio from Foz with webjet or Gol. So in 2 weeks you could do Peru a a bit of Brazil or save your time and see a lot of Peru and visit Brazil another time!

Enjoy!
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Old Jul 11th, 2012, 01:35 PM
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In laying out your plan pay attention to those that mention that fitness and age do not correlate to whether you are badly affected by altitude. The fact that you had problems in Colorado DOES mean you are more likely to suffer. I would allow as much time as possible before your hike at elevations above 3000 meters, which could include going first to Arequipa and then to Colca Canyon (Chivay is about the same elevation Cusco), then to Puno /Lake Titicaca which is higher than Cusco.

Jwhitt neglected to mention that Bolivia requires a rather expensive visa if you are a US Citizen, it was $135 last year not sure if they raised it again.
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Old Jul 11th, 2012, 03:09 PM
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Not to overthink things but we had two marathoners with us, albeit much older. They both said they were glad they climbed a lot of hills before doing the IT. Most experienced hikers will tell you the best way to prepare for a hike is to hike, including at least one weekend of tough hiking both days.

Having said that I think you will be more than up to it.
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Old Jul 11th, 2012, 08:08 PM
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Agree with mlgb - Especially if you've had altitude issues before, you're more likely to have them again. We had 6 people in our Inca Trail group who had climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro in the past year and they said the IT wasn't as easy as they expected after Kili.
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Old Jul 12th, 2012, 05:25 AM
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We're thinking about Peru for next year too... May, perhaps. Machu Pichu is a must, of course, having been on our must-see list for decades. The Inca Trail seems do-able for folks our age (late 50s, early 60s) since we're in decent condition and don't seem to be particularly prone to altitude sickness. For the remainder of the trip we were thinking about a relatively short and easy guided trek into the "real" Andes - comparable in time and effort to the IT. I've been reading up on the Cordillera Blanca range to the north of the country, and it seems ideal - a number of very scenic peaks higher than 20,000 ft / 6,000 m and beautiful glacial lakes, with pack animals (donkeys or llamas) to carry the heavy stuff. We would probably settle in for a few days at one of the mountain lodges first. (The Llanganuco Lodge sounds excellent.) Alternately, or in addition, a stay at a few nights stay at a jungle lodge in the Peruvian Amazon - the Madre de Dios region, close to Machu Pichu.
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Old Jul 16th, 2012, 10:14 AM
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When you get to Cuzco and you are aclimating to the altitude walk around and shop for good travel deals. They are everywhere and my friend and I went to each one wrote down all the info then at the end of the day picked one with the best price. $140 included the bus, train, 2 sacred sites, hostel for a night in Aguas Calientes and the entrance fee for Machu Pichu. We didn't pay for the bus up because we decided to wake up at 5am and hike it which was sooooo worth it. The hike is amazing and once you get tot he top you feel so accomplished. Theres a sancuary lodge at the top and if you can afford it, I heard it's amazing. But if you are on a budget we stayed at the Kokopelli hostel which was 32 Soles a night- super cheap!

If you want to hike longer, more power to you the views in Peru are amazing!

We did see a few tourists keeled over from alt sickness in the main square. I wonder why it affects some people and others are not even phased. I think it has to do with the amount of oxygen in the blood and if thats a case there may be vitamins or food you can eat before you go that maybe can help?

When you go to Machu Pichu pack a lunch the food there is pricey even for American standards.

Safe travels!!
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Old Jul 16th, 2012, 01:15 PM
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"We did see a few tourists keeled over from alt sickness in the main square."

I have been here for five years. That is my favourite line to date. Great imagery.
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Old Jul 18th, 2012, 01:12 PM
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Haha it looked exactly how you're picturing it!
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Old Jul 18th, 2012, 03:45 PM
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Just returned from Peru after visiting Cusco and hiking Salkantay trek with Mountain lodges of Peru. A bit higher altitude than the IT--we climbed up to 15,200. We sent two nights in Cusco before the trek and took diomox prophelactically. No problems with altitude at all. Another couple did the same with no problems. However, three in our group (who did not take diamox) suffered from mild altitude sickness--including a 15 year old Swiss kid who was in better shape than ll of us. The Salkantay trek is truly amazing as you see more highland families than you do tourists. Mountain Lodges of Peru was amazing, but it is not for the budget minded.

By the way, many thanks to all the fodorites for their posts. They were very helpful. I hope to prepare a detailed trip report regarding Mountain Lodges of Oeru and our time in Cusco.
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Old May 29th, 2013, 09:26 AM
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Just touching base with everyone who gave me great insight for planning this trip. My wife and I are headed to Peru in July for a 11 day trip! We booked with Incatrailreservations.com for the 10 day tour - includes the 3 night/4 day hike to Machu Picchu. We are EXTREMELY excited for this trip and can't wait to write our trip report after we return.

Thanks again for all the great advice!
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Old May 29th, 2013, 11:13 AM
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Great news. Good luck.
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Old May 30th, 2013, 07:57 PM
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hey nice info above, leaves me with nothing more to say other then have a little read of this site before you visit MP there is a ton of stuff in here that could help u out, including you equipment.. goodluck on the rest of your trip!
http://www.machupicchuinfo.com/
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